Remember songs pairings? Like, how one popular song will answer the call of a previous song? For instance, Mary Wells’ “My Guy” is a response to the Temptations’ “My Girl,” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” was franchised the following year with Chubby Checker’s “The Twist 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Well, what if The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” was a response to McHugh & Fields’ “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”?
It’s an unlikely stretch, I admit, but the tune also served as a muse for the bebop generation who reinvented it with a profound level of dexterity. But as wonderful as each offering is in its own right, the sum of the musical couplings is always greater than its parts. The brilliance of Haruka Kikuchi’s traditionalist approach to this solo is that she embraces a bebop approach of linear, stepwise motion within the melodic ideas.
Over the long ii-V7 progressions, Kikuchi descends from a high F to middle C and eventually down to the middle F. The “Sweet Georgia Brown” arpeggio then works its way back up to the middle D of the IV chord and resolves all the way down to the low C to set up the second phrase. She goes back to the high F, this time with a gospel feel, and again comes back down to middle C. The middle D then becomes the moving resolution for the long turnaround. And rather than using chromaticism to construct complex intervals and melodies, Kikuchi’s passing tones emphasize the simplicity of her melodic direction.
Here is a YouTube video of Haruka Kikuchi playing at the Louisiana Music Factory from this past year.
Recommended reading: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown. Published by Lee & Low Books.