Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Pi Song [posted on 3/14/15, natch]

Back when I was in the Lehmann Engel Workshop, I worked on a proposed musical adaptation of Douglas Coupland’s book Microserfs. Out of that came the following lyric — think of it as an Andrews Sisters number.


Way down yonder in Ancient Greece,
There once was a fellow who gained fame.
A mathematical sage from the Golden Age,
Archimedes was his name.
He once drew a circle in the sand,
And what he saw there made his eyes pop.
He discovered a number
That disrupted his slumber,
‘Cause once he got it going then it wouldn’t stop.
And since Roman num’rals weren’t invented yet,
He named it for a letter in the Greek alphabet.

He called it Pi.
Not beta, not theta, not chi.
And what was first discovered by those ancient Greeks
Is now a source of fascination to us modern geeks.
I like Pi.
Although I can’t explain why.
It’s beyond all computin’.
It even puzzled Newton,
So just keep salutin as the numbers march by
Some fellas try to tell us that they can solve Fermat’s Theorem.
But if they don’t know  Pi, I’d never go near ‘em.
I’d even fear ‘em.
Give me Pi.
Don’t be coy or shy.
If you know a thousand digits,
You’ll give me the fidgits.
No mental midgets need apply.

There’s always room for Pi.
If I don’t get it, I’ll surely die.
It may seem irrational; it don’t make sense.
But without it I can’t figure out my circumference.
If a man knows Pi,
He’ll make me swoon and sigh.
If he knows my conic sections,
He’ll conquer my affections,
‘Cause I like to make selections from IQ’s that are high.
I’m not a gal who mixes Pascal into her amours.
But if you know your Pi then the only number I’ll ever want is yours.
Maybe someday I
Will meet a man just like Pi.
If I met such a man, it would be so sweet.
He would completely knock me off my feet,
‘Cause he could go on forever and never repeat.
That’s my kind of guy.
He’d be neat as, sweet as,
Gimme a P, gimme an I, that’s all you need to spell it.
Neat as, sweet as,
This is the finish, so come on, ladies, sell it!
Neat as, sweet as,
Come on, baby, gimme that Pi!

R.I.P., Lew Soloff

I was saddened to hear of the death of the great Lew Soloff. If you hadn’t heard of him, start with the original Blood, Sweat and Tears albums — that’s him on trumpet on “Spinning Wheel.” He went on to be one of NYC’s top session men, playing for everyone there was.

When I was in high school in NJ, our jazz band would go every year to a clinic at Indian Hills HS. Soloff was there as a clinician. In between, he and fellow trumpeter Jon Faddis wandered into the auditorium and started to play “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” in thirds with as corny and rinkitink a style as you could imagine. Then, right at the point where we were all laughing, they took it up about two octaves and blew us away.

In the 80’s, I once went into the city with my dad. We went to hear a concert of avant-garde music at the MOMA Summergarden, then down to the Village Gate to catch the George Russell big band. Soloff was at both gigs. We chatted with him about the coincidence, and he was gracious, modest and grateful.

When Wynton Marsalis started with Jazz at Lincoln Center, he did an Ellington concert from the original charts. He had Soloff on the Cat Anderson chair, which meant that he took the high notes. At one solo, he hit a note so outrageously out in the stratosphere that all of the other trumpeters, the best in the business, turned and stared at him. He just shrugged and kept playing on.

He will be missed.
Give him a listen here.