12 January 2016

Post 354: 'FAR AWAY BLUES'

If you run a beginners' jazz band and you are looking for a simple, straightforward but effective tune to add to your repertoire, may I recommend Far Away Blues? The tune is sometimes called Faraway Blues.

It was written (under a pseudonym) by Fletcher Henderson in about 1923. I worked out my own leadsheet of 'Far Away Blues'.

I have arranged it at its most simple - a mere sixteen bars, to be played gently, but preferably sustained by a rock-steady and emphatic rhythm section.

One of the secrets of its appeal lies in the twelfth bar, where the diminished chord introduces a welcome surprise.

If you would like to hear the tune, you can find several versions on You Tube.

Here it is again, in C:
Note that this version includes a decorative addition in the first eight bars (shown here in the narrower print). A well-drilled band could have the trumpet playing the main melody, for example, and the clarinet playing those decorations.

In the version recorded in 1946 by George Lewis and the Eclipse Alley Five, George himself takes the melody in the opening choruses and the great Jim Robinson on trombone adds the decorations. It's a lovely recording, available on You Tube:

You can even go right back to 1923 and hear the great blues singers Bessie Smith and Clara Smith singing the song as a duet (including the decorative echoes). Click on here: they are accompanied on the piano by the composer.

If you would like a straightforward modern performance by a full traditional jazz band (the Grand Dominion), try clicking on this one from YouTube. They perform it simply, in the key of Bb. Try playing along with them.