21 February 2017

Post 479: 'MOOSE MARCH'

My introduction to 'Moose March' was hearing the Ken Colyer band play it about 50 years ago. Probably Ken had picked up the tune during his time with the musicians in New Orleans. You can hear the Colyer recording by clicking here.

In order to learn tunes to play on my cornet and keyboard, I like first to try to establish the dots and chords for storage in my mini-filofaxes. Here's what I came up with for 'Moose March'.

You will note that it has two themes - the main 32-bar melody and the 'fanfare' interlude. This is how jazz bands can still occasionally be heard playing it.

What I did not discover until very recently is that this traditional jazz 'standard' is in fact taken from a quite long and complex good old-fashioned brass band march, called The Moose. It was composed in 1909 by Mr. P. Hans Flath (about whom I know nothing). It has a 4-Bar Introduction, followed by a first Theme of 32 bars. Then comes another Theme, also of 32 bars. Next there is a four-bar link (the start of 'The Trio' - see below) leading to a change of key from Eb to Ab and ONLY THEN comes the 32-bar Theme and 16-bar Fanfare Interlude as played by the jazz bandsSo the truth is that when we play Moose March we are really using only 48 bars of a much longer composition. That's the kind of thing that happened in the early days of jazz repertoire creation.

18 February 2017


It has been some time since I heard a band play The Miner's Dream of Home - one of the oldest tunes in our repertoire: it was composed in 1891.

It used to be a favourite of the late English trumpet-player and bandleader Sonny Morris. His playing was always tasteful and he enjoyed sentimental and gentle melodies such as this.

It is easy to play, since it has a simple 32-bar melody, to be taken only at a moderate pace; and the chord sequence is basic - pretty well intuitive.

So may I recommend it to you, especially if you are a 'learning' band wishing to increase your repertoire? Here's how I have it in my mini-filofax collection.

If you would like to hear the tune performed very pleasantly and with appropriate unpretentiousness by an English jazz quartet, click here. Should you wish to offer a vocal, the words are:

I saw the old homestead, and the faces I love.
I saw England's valleys and dells.
And I listened with joy, as I did when a boy,
To the sound of the old village bells.

The log was burning brightly.
'Twas a night that should banish all sin,
For the bells were ringing the old year out
And the new year in.

15 February 2017


Let us have a look at Chlo-e (Song of the Swamp) which is a lovely and unusual tune from the 1920s. Some of our jazz bands still play it and I am very pleased that this is so.
Chloe was composed in 1927 by Charles N. Daniels, under his pseudonym of Neil Moret; and the lyrics were by the great Gus Kahn, who was very important in the history of our music. Working with various composers, Kahn wrote the words for such songs as these:

My Baby Just Cares For Me
That Certain Party
Making Whoopee
Carolina in the Morning
Love Me or Leave Me
I Never Knew That Roses Grew
Yes, Sir, That's My Baby
I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight
I'll See You in My Dreams
It Had to be You
Pretty Baby
On the Road to Home Sweet Home
It Looks Like a Big Time Tonight
Crazy Rhythm
Toot Toot Tootsie
Ukulele Lady
Ain't We Got Fun
Side by Side
On the Alamo
Nobody's Sweetheart Now
You Stepped Out of a Dream

Dream a Little Dream of Me
Chloe may have been used first in the 1927 musical called 'Africana' but there is no definite evidence for this, even though, on the original sheet music, a picture of the singer Ethel Waters apparently connects it to that show.

Whatever the truth, it must have soon become popular because it was recorded during the late 1920s and during the 1930s by several famous orchestras and singers.

Chloe begins with an interesting but somewhat spooky 16-bar Verse in a minor key (usually A minor). The words of this verse are:

'Chlo-e! Chlo-e!'
Someone calling, no reply.
Night shade's falling, hear him sigh.
'Chlo-e! Chlo-e!'
Empty spaces meet his eyes.
Empty Arms outstretched, he's crying.....

(and so we are led into the 32-bar Chorus in the related major key [C]).

'Through the black of night, I got to go where you are.
If it's wrong or right, I got to go where you are.
I'll roam through the dismal swamp land searching for you,
'Cause if you are lost there, let me be there too.
Through the smoke and flames, I got to go where you are,
For no place could be too far, where you are.
Ain't no chains can bind you,
If If you live, I'll find you,
Love is calling me.
I got to go where you are.'

Searching for a girl at night, through swamp lands, and going through smoke and flames? How on earth did this situation arise? Weird, isn't it? 

The important thing is that the Chorus, which is the only part that most bands play these days (and the only part that is played on many of the classic recordings), has a memorable melody, almost as strange as the words. The way it achieves its effect, I think, is by giving itself a sort of minor flavour while it is actually written in the major key. It does this partly by beginning each 16 with four bars on the dominant seventh rather than the tonic and then following these with some bars on the tonic seventh and, what is more, beginning these bars by using the flattened seventh as the melody note.

I am sorry if I make it sound complicated but it is an easy tune to learn and to improvise upon, so I think bands would be well advised to have it in their repertoire, if only to provide something to contrast with other tunes in their programme.

It is not easy on YouTube to find a simple, straightforward version (featuring both Verse and Chorus). Here's a highly arranged recording by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, but you have to wait till 1 minute 22 seconds to hear the Verse:

There was of course a famous irreverent version by Spike Jones, which you may also find on YouTube if you wish. It includes the Verse.

Very fortunately, the lead-sheet for this tune is readily available: it has been provided in The Firehouse Jazz Band Fake Book, with which all jazz musicians are familiar. 

It is also available on the famous site run by Lasse Collin, though he does not include the Verse and his suggestions for chords are slightly different from those of the Firehouse Jazz Band. Here's the Firehouse version:

12 February 2017


Having been told I would be asked to play Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula in a band that had been put together for a particular occasion, I remembered that I have always been puzzled by the number of bars (measures) in the VERSE of this song.

Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula was written in 1916 by E.R. Goetz, Joe Young and Pete Wendling. It was one of those 'Hawaiian' songs fashionable at the time. Its CHORUS is no problem: eight bars on a very familiar and easy chord progression (IV  -  IV  -  I  -  I  -  II7  -  V7   -  I  -  I ) - repeated to make sixteen bars in total.

But the VERSE is unusual in that it contains 25 bars. This is weird because:

(a) virtually all musical phrasing in traditional jazz comes in multiples of 4 (or 8) bars, so we would expect the verse to consist of 24 bars; and

(b) standard chord books I have consulted present the verse as 24 bars.

Listen to any of the 'big name' recordings (Kid Ory, George Lewis, Bunk Johnson) and they all play 25-bar verses. If you play the tune, I expect you play 25 bars too.

So how is this explained?

In the early days, the tune was for singing rather than for playing by jazz bands. It was written with a Verse that ran to 38 bars: 

Within those 38 bars, note the repeat of the first 13 bars. Repeated sections of THIRTEEN bars in trad jazz are so unusual as to be almost non-existent. But that 13th bar is the apparently 'extra' bar that will make up the jazz band's 25.

Jazz bands OMIT the REPEAT that should occur after Bar 13 above. This means they play the 38 bars MINUS the repeated first 13. Result: 25 bars.

Regular readers will known I'm obsessed by that great band Tuba Skinny and you may be wondering how they play this tune. Well, they haven't put it on a CD yet and I haven't caught them playing it in any YouTube video; but, in their 'overlap' band - Loose Marbles, you can see Barnabus on trombone playing Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula (with Shaye on piano) and sure enough they go for the 25 bars:
(What a super video, by the way!)

For an earlier classic sample (the Bunk Johnson version),