Invention No. 1 in C Major, BWV 772 (page 1)

“Have a Happy Day”

There is a kind of innocent optimism in the first bar of my accompaniment that reminds me somehow of that iconic 1950s TV ad “See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet.”  At the end, an opportunity is given for a codetta that then takes us south of the border.  This could lead smoothly into Invention No. 2.

Invention No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 773 (page 4)

“Con Salsa”

On December 18, 2014, the day I finished this accompaniment, I heard a report on National Public Radio about Cuba’s musical heritage which featured Celia Cruz’s famous song “Por Si Acaso No Regresso,” a spiritual cousin to my accompaniment.  The bass tropes in my accompaniment could very well have been lifted from her equally famous song “Lagrimas Negras” (also in C minor).

Invention No. 3 in D Major, BWV 774 (page 7)

“Come Waltz With Me”

While probably not what Johann Strauss II had in mind for the ballroom, the present jazz-waltz arrangement does highlight Bach’s rhythmic liveliness and may even inspire a few geezers to nod their heads and tap their toes.

Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775 (page 10)

“This Time in Minor”

I can envision a performance of Invention No. 4 immediately following Invention No. 3.  With perhaps only a measure of rest between them, they could be played at the same tempo.  Back to back, the two titles make a mandate:  “Come waltz with me, this time in minor.”  The quotations of Bill Evan’s “Waltz for Debby” (ms. 20-28) and measures 75-76 from the first movement of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106 (ms. 39-40) are purely accidental, with no hidden meaning!

Invention No. 5 in Eb Major, BWV 776 (page 13)

“Just Hanging Out”

The happy-go-lucky character of this piece reminds us that the hardworking Bach, normally pictured with a scowl on his face, knew carefree moments or at least how to depict them musically. The accompaniment exemplifies procedures used throughout this volume: sometimes there is pure comping (as in measure 1) as a pianist would do in a jazz combo but sometimes melodies emerge (as in ms. 9–12) to compete with or add to the melodies in the actual Invention.

Invention No. 6 in E Major, BWV 777 (page 16)

“There’s a Banjo in the House”

Appalachian bluegrass melodies (as in measures 1–8 of the repeated first section) share the page with classic bebop licks (ms. 13–14 of the repeated first section), blues motives (m. 15 of the repeated first section), and Shearing-inspired block voicings (m. 33). As mentioned earlier, jazz is a comprehensive musical jambalaya, with many ingredients in the same pot.

Invention No. 7 in E Minor, BWV 778 (page 20)

“Bach da Bossa”

The title comes from the fact that the accompaniment features the typical bossa nova rhythm (ms. 3–4 of the intro).  It may also suggest that Bach came from New Jersey (yet to be proven by his biographers). I would have named it “Bossa Bachiana” but I’ve already got another piece with that title, on my Salmon Is A Jumpin’ CD.

Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779 (page 23)

“Great Bach’s Afire”

The accompaniment here is inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis, whose 1957 “Great Balls of Fire” became a pop-culture sensation. Admittedly, the kinetic and texturally thick accompaniment of “Great Bach’s Afire” may very well drown out Invention No. 8, for which there are two possible solutions: (1) allow the accompaniment to drown out the Invention, or (2) close the lid on the piano used for the accompaniment and moderate the volume, allowing the Invention to be in the spotlight. I prefer solution number (1).

Invention No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 780 (page 26)

“Cöthen Blues, 1723”

It is astounding to me that the blues licks in this accompaniment, which have been played throughout jazz history (for example, on Cannonball Adderley’s 1960 album Them Dirty Blues), sound so natural on top of Bach’s F Minor Invention, composed in Cöthen, Germany in the early 1720s. The two worlds co-exist so naturally!

Invention No. 10 in G Major, BWV 781 (page 29)

“G, you’re sweetly joyful and brilliant!”

Musicians have always characterized keys, as in Beethoven’s famous description of B minor as “the black key.” The subtitle for Invention No. 10 refers to descriptions of the key G major by Marc-Antoine Charpentier in 1692 (“sweetly joyful”) and Charles Masson in 1697 (“brilliant”), as recounted in Rita Steblin’s book A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries. Bach’s original G Major Invention reflects these traits, as does the bouncy jazz-waltz accompaniment.

Invention No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 782 (page 32)

“Guitaristic Bach”

(one-staff accompaniment)

This version was inspired by my Finale transcriber Brian Koenig who, after finishing the two-stave accompaniment to Invention No. 11, mused: “I wonder if you could write any of these for guitar?” Brian, himself a very talented composer and guitarist, inspired me to come up with this single-line version. Then he played it back for me with guitar on the added line and electronic piano on Bach’s original Invention No. 11. It sounded pretty good! The single line reminds me of some blues licks that guitarists Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass played. Both, as all guitarists, have played a lot of blues in G (for example, Montgomery’s “Missile Blues” and Pass’s “Joe’s Blues”). I think it also sounds OK as a piano duet.

Invention No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 782 (page 34)

“Havana Good Time”

(two-stave accompaniment)

We return to Cuba with this setting of Invention No. 11. The opening figure in the accompaniment, a typical guajeo, sets the mood – mysterious and alluring.  Perhaps another musician could join in with claves or maracas?

Invention No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 782 (page 38)

“Al Di Meola and J.S. Bach Havana Good Time in Cöthen”

(two-stave plus one-staff accompaniment)

It is possible to combine the previous two arrangements of Invention No. 11 into an extravaganza for three pianists at three keyboards. By combining Bach’s original language with both the guitar line and Cuban accompaniment, we end up with an interesting mix of cultures and idioms. The result reminds me of Al Di Meola’s “Fugatta,” which also combines styles and countries. What if one pianist played Bach’s original invention on a traditional grand piano, one played the two-stave accompaniment (“Havana Good Time”) on a Yamaha Clavinova, and one pianist played the one-staff accompaniment (“Guitaristic Bach”) on a digital instrument set to a guitar sound?

Invention No. 12 in A Major, BWV 783 (page 42)

“A Major Groove”

This is the fourth and last jazz waltz in the set. Like No. 10, the compound meter actually allows for several bars of a waltz “under one roof.” The tapping toes and nodding heads described in Invention No. 3, whether enacted by geezers or youngsters, may also come to pass in Invention No. 12. A lively, carefree spirit is in the air and some body part has to move!

Invention No. 13 in A Minor, BWV 784 (page 45)

“No Turkey in the Straw”

I learned Invention No. 13 when I was twelve years old, about the same time I started playing pieces from Dave Brubeck’s iconic Time Further Out album, including his classic piece in 7/4 meter, “Unsquare Dance.” The key of both Bach’s Invention No. 13 and Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance” is A minor, which automatically linked them in my pre- adolescent brain. Some 48 years later, I found a way to actually combine them. Granted, I had to modify the quotation of Brubeck’s 7/4 melody to fit in into Bach’s 4/4 context, and I had to leave out Brubeck’s witty close, where he quotes “Turkey in the Straw,” but this natural consolidation follows a long tradition of Bach/Brubeck mergers (also illustrated by my recording of Brubeck’s “Two-Part Contention” which I joined with Bach’s F Major Fugue, WTC I, on the Albany CD John Salmon Plays Brubeck).

Invention No. 14 in Bb Major, BWV 785 (page 48)

“Bachy Boogie”

This arrangement first appeared in my Add On Bach book (addonbach.com) and there, surrounded by additions in the Baroque style, it was a loner. But it fits perfectly in the present volume. We normally don’t think of boogie-woogie and Bach in the same sentence but the two musical styles seem to get along here. This bass figure resembles the one in Jack Fina’s “Bumble Boogie” and, unlike most of the boogies played by Meade Lux Lewis, isn’t swung but played straight.

Invention No. 15 in Bb Minor, BWV 786 (page 51)

“B Mine or Bop! (B Minor Bop?)”

Some of the strange descriptions of B minor in Rita Steblin’s book — “bizarre” (Mattheson, 1713), “biting, dry” (Castil- Blaze, 1821), “submission to one’s fate” (Gräffer, 1830), “quiet expectation and resignation” (Hand, 1837) — reflect the complex character of this Invention. It’s too dancey to be sad, too sophisticated to be carefree. In my accompaniment, two-note slurs, known in the Baroque era as “Seufzer,” sit next to a Charlie Parker lick from the bebop era (ms. 10–11). Which world is deeper? Can high art co-exist with popular idioms?  How appropriate for the set to end with such a quizzical, affectively obscure but philosophically probing piece.