28 February 2015


Here's something surprising - a tune comprising ELEVEN bars (measures).

I am acquainted with perhaps a thousand tunes played by traditional jazz bands, but virtually all the tunes contain multiples of four bars. Most common are the 12-bar blues and 32-bar standards.

In all those hundreds of tunes, the only one made up of eleven bars is Jackson Stomp
Yes. Jackson Stomp really has eleven bars. When I first noticed this, I could not believe my ears. Had I miscounted? I checked and re-checked.

It felt like a 12-bar blues but sure enough it really was complete after 11 bars.

I found out that it originated with Cow Cow Blues, written and recorded in 1928 by Cow Cow Davenport. You can hear this on You Tube. In this form, it was a standard 12-bar, played in boogie woogie style.

But the tune was taken up by Charles McCoy ('Papa Charlie'), who lived from 1909 to 1950. He slightly adapted it into Jackson Stomp and recorded it with his colleague Bo Carter in The Mississippi Mud Steppers. It was at this point that it became the tune of eleven bars.
They also recorded it again (this time eleven bars with lyrics) as  The Lonesome Train That Carried My Girl Away.

Now how is it possible for an 11-bar tune to sound right? What is the trick?

I'm not sure that I have the answer, but let me try.

Taking the chords of a 12-bar as (at their most basic):

I   I   I   I   IV   IV   I   I   V   V   I   I

we find that Jackson Stomp IS essentially a 12-bar, but with the clever twist of omitting Bar 9. 

I   I   I   I   IV   IV   I   I   V   I   I

To hear Jackson Stomp pleasantly played by a modern Jug Band, try this video:


or watch the great Tuba Skinny play it:


Tuba Skinny play it in Bb. (That means C for the Bb trumpet.) I worked it out for inclusion in my mini-filofax for my trumpet and now I have a go at playing it from time to time.

The book Playing Traditional Jazz by Pops Coffee is available from Amazon.