25 December 2015


Percolatin' Blues was written in about 1925 by Lemuel Fowler.

He was a composer of 57 tunes and an important pianist. He featured in many early jazz recordings. Percolatin' Blues was recorded by the great blues singer Clara Smith in 1926, with Fowler himself at the piano.

To my ear, Percolatin' Blues has this structure:
(1) a 4-bar Introduction
(2) a verse of 16 bars (played twice, with different words the second time)
(3) a 32 bar Chorus (16 + 16 - with no Middle Eight). Bars 25 - 28 inclusive are treated as 'breaks'. The words of the Chorus give the 'instructions' for the  'Percolation' dance ('You hop to the left; then you hop to the right; then perrrrrcolate...'). If you would like to add it to your repertoire, it's a simple, catchy, riffy little tune to pick up and I would suggest Eb as a comfortable key.

It was a fine modern video on YouTube that brought me to this song. I chanced upon The Smoking Time Jazz Club with their radiant singer Sarah Peterson giving a performance of Percolatin' Blues in a New Orleans street. Compared with the original, they simplify the Verse down to one set of 16 bars only.

The film (in HD) was made by Beau Patrick Coulon and his team. The video is of the highest professional quality: it uses more than one camera; and a splendid range of shots takes us all round the band and the street dancers with great attention to detail. You watch this video and immediately want to get on the next plane to New Orleans. The joyful atmosphere is so infectious. These are people who know how to have a good time.

I have been four times to New Orleans - three of them long before Katrina. I'm hoping I shall be able to make it there one more time before heading to the Gloryland.
It will be such joy to see and hear the wonderful new generation of street performers.