21 January 2015


Sometimes you come across a standard 32-bar tune in which the 'Middle Eight' follows a slightly uncommon pattern. I have noticed this can easily flummox jazz musicians - even very good ones  occasionally.

My Blue Heaven is a case in point. If you take it in the Key of Eb, then the Middle Eight - in simple terms - is:

one bar of Ab
one bar of C7th
two bars of F minor
two bars of Bb7th
one bar of Eb/Edim
one bar of Fm7/Bb7

The progression from the Ab chord to the C7th (it's the Georgia Progression) defies the usual 'circle of fifths' and that is what presents the challenge. So you have to be careful when improvising on this kind of tune and give it some thought while practising. This is the kind of improvisation that might result.
The music for My Blue Heaven was composed by the great Walter Donaldson in 1927.

He also wrote the music for - among others - My Little Bimbo, Oh Baby, Oh Sister Ain't That Hot, 'Taint No Sin To Take Off Your Skin, That Certain Party, Yes Sir That's My Baby, At Sundown, You're Driving Me Crazy, Carolina in the Morning, I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight, Love Me Or Leave Me, Making Whoopee, and My Baby Just Cares for Me.

What a massive contribution to our music! Maybe one of these days I shall be able to persuade a band to give a concert entirely of Donaldson compositions.

Walter Donaldson was a New Yorker. He died in 1947 at the age of only 54.