25 May 2017

Post 510: 'BALTIMORE'

The song Baltimore first came to my attention when I watched a YouTube video (filmed by the excellent RaoulDuke504) of Madeleine Reidy (Maddy and Her Jazz Friends) singing it in Royal Street, New Orleans, in 2016.
You may find the performance:
BY CLICKING HERE.
I discovered it was a song composed in 1927 by the great Jimmy McHugh. The lyrics were by Danny Healy and Irving Kahal.

I also soon realized it was not specifically about Baltimore the great seaport city in Maryland. It's about a dance craze called 'The Baltimore' that originated there. It was maybe something like the Black Bottom or the Charleston, though I guess far less popular.

The song has a 16-bar Verse and a 32-bar (aaba) Chorus and, in the sheet music, is in the key of Eb. Maddy plays and sings it in F, starting with an instrumental Chorus  and saving the Verse until the start of her vocal.

According to the lyrics, 'The Baltimore' seemed to involve 'swayin' like an old see-saw'. Apparently you 'count the beat, you double it, then repeat and then you slide your feet right over the floor...' (instructions I would find impossible to follow!). There is plenty of good rhythmic punctuation of the melody, especially in the Middle Eight. 

I thought it would be a good tune to learn and that it would be very helpful to see the sheet music.

My friend Mikko Vaisala, who runs the Doctor Jazz band in Finland, also took a fancy to this tune. He pointed out to me that there are many performances of it available on YouTube. Try THIS ONE (click on), for example, where again it is played in F.

Good news it that, thanks to the kindness of the Sheet Music Archivist at The University of Missouri, Mikko was able to obtain a copy of the original sheet music. So there's no excuse now for us not to play it. Many thanks, Mikko.

22 May 2017

Post 509: 'SQUEEZE ME'

Squeeze Me was composed and published in 1926. The composers were given as Fats Waller and Clarence Williams. Clarence was, of course, also the publisher. (Don't confuse this song with Just Squeeze Me - another good jazz tune. Just Squeeze Me was composed in 1941 by Ellington and Gaines.)


In the early days of Tuba Skinny, this great young band recorded and often performed Squeeze Me. The song really cried out for a lady singer (even though Fats Waller himself provided the vocal on one of his recordings); and Erika Lewis showed just how brilliant she is. Take her performance and compare it with the original sheet music. You find she keeps the words virtually to the letter, but her timing and varying of pitch illustrate well what a great instinct she has for jazz. She decorates the melody exquisitely; and her little touches of rubato are spine-tingling.

The Band plays the tune in Eb, to suit Erika's voice; and it sounds very good in that key, even though the original sheet music has it in G. Unlike some other bands, Tuba Skinny perform the whole piece - the 12-bar Verse as well as the 16-bar Chorus. They easily build some 2-bar breaks into the Chorus and they also make the most of the chromatic runs at the end of the Chorus.

You can watch Tuba Skinny perform the song BY CLICKING HERE. As so often we have to thank the generous video-maker codenamed RaoulDuke504 for making it available to us.

Here - for comparative purposes - is the sheet music from 1926:


19 May 2017

Post 508: AMAR PELOS DOIS

I haven't watched television for decades; and it was many years ago that I last witnessed a 'Eurovision Song Contest'. So I missed the 2017 Finals on Saturday 13 May.

However, I heard later that the Portuguese entry had won and it received high praise as a song of real musical quality, unlike so much of the rap, pop and disco offerings of today. The song is called AMAR PELOS DOIS.

So I found it on YouTube and had an agreeable surprise. Introduced by some lush sounds from the orchestral strings, it proves to have two themes, each of 16 bars (8 + 8).

It is a gentle tune in 3/4 tempo. It is in the key of F, though richly endowed with G minor and D minor chords. Its simple, appealing, swooping phrases - much repeated - quickly imprint themselves on the listener's mind.
The beginning of Theme A, as it sounded to me.
And Theme B.
But what specially interested me was that it had so much in common with the songs composed in the Golden Era of the 1920s and 1930s. It was the kind of song Gershwin, Vernon Duke, Hoagy Carmichael, Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter or Oscar Hammerstein might have written. It has a good melody; and the deceptively-simple music is comfortably served up in the eight-bar phrases so beloved by all jazzmen.

The structure is identical to that of most of the 'spirituals' in the traditional jazz repertoire. Like Lily of the Valley, Down By The Riverside, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, and In The Sweet By and By it has a 16-bar Theme A (equivalent to a VERSE) and then a 16-bar Theme B (equivalent to a Chorus).

So I think it's a tune of considerable interest to traditional jazz fans and musicians. And I'm glad it won.

16 May 2017

Post 507: PUZZLE - THE ANSWERS


The answers to the puzzle set in Post 506 are:-

=============================

1. MUSKRAT RAMBLE
2. BIG CHIEF BATTLEAXE
3. ALLIGATOR CRAWL
4. BOUNCING AROUND
5. RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE
Congratulations to all who sent in correct answers, especially Henry Kiel (Germany), John Whitehorn (England) and Robert Duis (The Netherlands), who were the first three.