Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jam Session Song of the Week (1): Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug

So, we've got this jam session going here in Zürich.  I'm happy to say it's starting to work out pretty well.

I've decided that each week I will write something about one of the songs we play at the jam session.  I hope that this will help people understand what we want to do, why we pick these songs, and where we find them.

For this first post, I have chosen one of the newest songs in our list: Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug.  We've only played it twice, rather badly.  So, that's the first thing you can learn from the jam session-  you've got to be willing to sound bad in order to eventually sound good.

This is not a really famous song.  It is most well-known from the various versions that Stuff Smith recorded.  I can't find much information on it, only that it was written by Palmer and Stride.  That is Jack Palmer, who also wrote Everybody Loves My Baby, Here Comes the Man with the Jive, It All Begins and Ends with You, and I've Found a New Baby.  Apparently he liked titles that formed complete sentences.

Why do we play this song?  Basically, because it's fun and simple (but not that easy).  I would guess that I probably first heard it played on A Prairie Home Companion by Andy Stein, but the first time I really remember hearing it was from the Loose Marbles. I like how it sounds a bit aggressive, and I like the breaks.

Those breaks are the most important part of the song.  They're fun for the players and for dancers.  They have a Charleston rhythm that I like (like in the melody of the song The Charleston).  This rhythm is an important part of the vocabulary of 20's and 30's jazz, so it's good to feature it.

 The tricky part is that the song should be played fast, so you've got to be ready to fill those breaks with something quick and forceful when it's your turn.  And someone has to designate whose turn it is.  Other than that, there is not much to the song.  It is usually played in the key of F minor, but we have been playing it in D minor, because that seems to me to be easier for everyone.

Here is the chord chart in D minor.  You don't really need a written melody for this one.

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