Sunday, April 24, 2016

Jam Session Song of the Week (10): Ja-Da

Here's a song that has everything.  It's short (more or less an A A B A form in 16 bars instead of 32), it's simple, and it's got really stupid lyrics and melody.  That's the recipe for a hit.

This song was written in 1918 by Bob Carleton, and achieved quite a lot of popularity, probably for the reasons above.  That also makes it a perfect jam session song.  The A parts are basically I-VI-II-V-I turnarounds, so that should make it easy to get through... if not, here's your chance to practice those turnarounds.

So here's the song, courtesy of the New Orleans Jambook site:
The Firehouse book has slightly different chords, and suggests making it 18 bars.  That's a fine idea, but we'll keep it simple, like above.

That's about all there is to say about it.  So here are some examples:

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 habaƱero 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:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jam Session Song of the Week (8): China Boy

This week, I had a special request to write about the song Egyptian Fantasy.  But it's been a difficult week and now it's the last minute...  And I need to think a bit more about that song.  So, next week.

Instead, I'm going to feature a widely-recorded standard of pre-bop jazz:  China Boy.

This song has the character of a lullabye, but it's often played blazingly fast instead.  It has an odd, irregular form.  This makes it a bit of a challenge to solo, until you know the song.  Most importantly, there is an implied key change in measures 17-24.  If you miss that, it's going to be quite obvious!

This is a good one to pick your favorite recording and see if you can keep up.  Or challenge yourself against the metronome.  It's well worth learning because (unlike some other songs we play) this is really a standard.

Here is the lead sheet:

And here are a few of the many recorded versions, for inspiration.

Bud Freeman, my favorite:

Benny Goodman:

Django Reinhardt:

Red Nichols in a great Soundie:

Sidney Bechet:

Joe Venuti, late in life:

Paul Whiteman: