Monday, April 18, 2016

Jam Session Song of the Week (9): Egyptian Fantasy

I would not have featured this song for the song of the week, but Christopher asked me to.  So, let's take a look.  The song was composed in 1941 by Sidney Bechet, as far as I can tell.  It's far from being a jazz standard, but it does get played a good deal in the "trad jazz" scene, especially by Bechet fans.

The song itself is very simple.  There is a section in G minor that is close to a vamp (staying on one chord).  Then there is the B flat section (the relative major key of G minor), which also has very little chordal structure.  The song is played with a habañero rhythm in the minor section, and a swing rhythm in the major section (like St. Louis Blues and Dear Old Southland often are).

I like the song quite a lot...  so, why didn't I consider it for song of the week?  I think because it is one of THOSE songs; there is not a lot to it, which means it depends on the performer to bring it to life and really make something out of it.  These are often songs that you want to play, because the famous versions are so good, but if you are not a Sidney Bechet, attempting it might only reveal your mediocrity.  Even so, we will attempt it!

Here is a lead sheet with chords written in concert pitch and melody for Bb instruments (from the "New Orleans Jam Book" site).  But remember, this is only a guideline and if you want to learn this you should learn it from the recording.

Here are a couple of recordings, with the essential one first. (My favorite clarinet player, Bruce Brackman, plays it, but I can't find that on YouTube.)

Sidney Bechet:

My friends, the Royal Roses:

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