24 July 2017

Post 530: LOTS OF SUGAR

Maceo Pinkard
He also composed 'Sweet Georgia Brown'
and 'Them There Eyes'
Robert Duis, who frequently emails me and is a band-leader in Holland, discovered that there is more than one song called Sugar that traditional jazz bands play.

I suppose it's not surprising that composers used this word as a title at a time when it was very fashionable to call your sweetheart 'Sugar'.

And, if you think about it, you recall that 'sugar' appears frequently in titles and lyrics, for example, Sugar Blues, Sugar BabeWhen I Take My Sugar To Tea, When My Sugar Walks Down The Street and 'You're My Sugar' (in Honeysuckle Rose).

With my interest aroused by Robert's email, I explored this topic.

The tune I have always thought of as Sugar was composed by Maceo Pinkard, Sidney D. Mitchell, and Edna Alexander and was recorded by Ethel Waters in 1926. It has a pleasant story-telling Verse and then a 32-bar Chorus beginning with the words The name is 'Sugar'. I call my baby my 'Sugar'. It is a song with a Middle Eight and an aaba structure. You can hear Ethel singing it BY CLICKING HERE.

But, as Robert discovered, there is a different Sugar recorded by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra the following year (1927). It seems that this one was composed by Jack Yellen and Milton Ager. Its bouncy Chorus begins with the words Don't you know who she is? Looking right at me is 'Sugar'.  You can hear this song BY CLICKING HERE. It is another 32-bar (but this time 16 + 16), very pleasant and easy to improvise on. In the recording it has no Verse and I do not know whether it ever had one. You can also hear the Red Nichols' Stompers playing it in 1927 BY CLICKING HERE.

And - would you believe it? - there was yet another Sugar. This was composed by George W. Meyer and Joe Young. It was recorded by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra in 1931. It is a bright up-tempo tune and includes a Verse. The distinguishing first words of the Chorus are Sugar, that's what I'll name you, Sugar. I'll come and claim you, Sugar. This is probably the easiest of the three to play. It has a very simple chord sequence. Enjoy this one BY CLICKING HERE.
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Finally, wow! Almost as soon as this post appeared, I received this email from friend and frequent correspondent David Withers in New Zealand:-

Hi Ivan,
The Temperance Seven recorded all of these versions of Sugar and called it 'The Tate & Lyle Suite.' A very English title no doubt. I have it somewhere in my CD collection, but since the earthquakes when we had to move out of our house for repairs I don't know which box it is in. I do know however, that it was a Lake Records CD (i.e. a British CD label).
Regards,
David Withers
Christchurch, NZ

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Footnote: I have found it in the Lake Records catalogue. The CD is called:

THE TEMPERANCE SEVEN – PASADENA & THE LOST CYLINDERS

21 July 2017

Post 529: THE GOLD STANDARD - A RECENT CORRESPONDENCE

E-MAIL 1
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Hi I,
Just to set on record how much Barry, Bruce and I thoroughly enjoyed this lunchtime's jazz session at the D&G. What a splendid group of musicians, and all of you 'gelling' in the tunes you played. We agreed that it was the most enjoyable musical event we'd been to for a very long time. I hope the same group can be gathered again for another performance - it really was outstandingly good.
Goes to prove a theory I developed decades ago that the functions one thinks could be a bit 'dodgy' - you had warned me! - often turn out to be excellent.
C.
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E-MAIL 2
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Hi C,
Thanks very much for the kind compliments. I am glad you enjoyed the performance.
I thought we did well but that so much could have been better. I have been spoilt by frequent exposure to the playing of Tuba Skinny and The Shotgun Jazz Band. They are the Gold Standard. So, whenever I play in any band, I am all too aware of how our performance compares with theirs.
Always, I find us defective in many respects. I think we could improve our playing just a little if we had rehearsals and if we discussed and analysed our playing intelligently and critically.
But the truth is: we old guys are simply not good enough. We do our best and can be reasonably entertaining but we are many miles short of the top-quality stuff.
Best wishes,
I.
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E-MAIL 3
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Hi I,
I think we can all appreciate the Gold Standard whenever we come across it, whether it be in the arts, sport or any other field of human endeavour. That it's given to so few people to reach is what makes it special and admirable.
But if we all tried to reach that sort of standard in our chosen fields of activity, there would be much disappointment and the suicide rate would rocket!
We live in the English East Midlands, not in New Orleans, and I think we should treasure the talent that the region has to offer us - not least musically. OK, not Shotgun or Tuba Skinny, but I really don't think that matters at all - Thursday's outing to the D&G had three of us singing the band's praises on the way home.
Incidentally, the ride to and from the D&G in Bruce's new, automatic, 4-seater sports Mercedes was a treat in itself: the technology in that car is quite remarkable. It can do just about everything short of making a dry martini!
C.
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E-MAIL 4
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Dear C,
Thanks as ever for talking good sense to me.
I think if you want a Mercedes that serves dry martini, you need the 2017 E Class Coupé.
I don't feel 'suicidal' about my inability to play like the youngsters in New Orleans, though I am envious and frustrated.
Your comparison with sport is spot on. When, long ago (in 1988) I took part in The London Marathon, even though I finished 10956th, two hours behind the winner, I was on a high for days afterwards. It's the same with playing jazz: I feel exhilarated by the attempt, despite the frustrations.
Best wishes,
I.

18 July 2017

Post 528: EH LA BAS - LET'S TALK CREOLE PATOIS

There are a few good old songs in our repertoire that date from the days when Creole patois was still widely spoken in Louisiana. I believe it probably is still spoken. I well remember, on my first visit to America about 30 years ago, somewhere near Lafayette meeting a couple of elderly gentlemen who were sheltering from the heat in the shade of a moss-covered oak. One of them was playing an accordion. They were speaking in 'Creole' and I struggled to converse in my almost-forgotten schoolboy French, but we managed to understand each other enough to exchange plenty of thoughts.

If you know a bit of French, you can get some of the meaning; but you notice that most of the rules of French grammar and spelling have gone to the wall, and familiar words are compressed.

The great Humphrey Lyttelton used to play an exciting tune called Ce Mossieu Qui Parle. This was taken to mean 'This man who is speaking'. But, as Humphrey himself said, it might originally have been C'est moi seule qui parle ('It's only me who's speaking.')

The most famous of the tunes our bands still play is Eh La Bas. Potentially, it has plenty of verses. But here is quite enough of the song for most people (with French and English translations):

Eh la bas! Eh la bas! Eh la bas, chèri! Komon sa va?
(Eh la bas! Eh la bas! Eh la bas, chéri. Comment  ça va?)

(Hey there! Hey there! Hey there, m'love! How's things?)

Mo chè kouzen, mo chè kouzin, mo lenme la kizin!

(Mon cher cousin, ma chère cousine, j'aime la cuisine)
(My dear cousin, my dear cousin(ess), I love cooking)

Mo manje plen, mo bwa diven, e sa pa kout ariyen.
(Je mange beaucoup, je bois du vin et ça ne coûte rien.)
(I eat plenty, I drink wine and that costs nothing.)

Ye tchwe kochon, ye tchwe lapen, e mo manje plen.
(On tue cochon, on tue lapin, et je mange beaucoup.)
(They kill a  pig, they kill a rabbit, and I eat till I'm full.)

Ye fe gonmbo, mo manje tro, e sa fe mon malad.
(On fait gumbo, je mange trop et ça me rend malade.)
(They make gumbo, I eat too much and that makes me sick.)

The reason why I am thinking of this topic today is that I enjoyed the performance of this song by the all-ladies Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band at the Abita Springs Buskers Festival in April 2017. Marla Dixon had a really good shot at singing the words (all the above and more, I think!). You can watch the performance again by going to

https://livestream.com/accounts/21714146/events/7258879

Click on the second from the top of the four available videos. You will then need to slide the control button along to 1 hour 40 minutes 30 seconds, which is where the song begins.

You can also enjoy the late great Danny Barker performing the song clearly and with many verses BY CLICKING HERE.

15 July 2017

Post 527: SCRAMBLED TITLES PUZZLE: THE ANSWERS

In Post 526, I invited you to unscramble five titles of well-known tunes from the traditional jazz repertoire. Here are the answers.
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1.  MOEC CBKA ESETW AAPP

2. EDKRASSN NO HET LDEAT

3. EILWLI EHT PREWEE

4. SELONOEM DROA

5. NDHCIMIREGA SEUBL


ANSWERS
1. COME BACK SWEET PAPA
2. DARKNESS ON THE DELTA
3. WILLIE THE WEEPER
4. LONESOME ROAD
5. MICHIGANDER BLUES

Congratulations to the many of you who sent in the correct answers. All correct in the very first mail-box were Cleber Guimarães from Brazil, Marinus-Jan van Langevelde from Terneuzen in Holland, David Withers from a wintery Christchurch in New Zealand, Henry Kiel of Germany and John Whitehorn of England. And a very close second, a few minutes later, was Robert Duis in Holland.