16 January 2014


Alligator Hop is a good tune to have in your armoury. It sounds clever and complicated. And yet it could hardly be simpler. By the way, it was also originally called Alligator Flop (a title I prefer).

It is one of those tunes composed by King Oliver and Alphonse Picou with a helping hand from Lil Hardin (I suspect) in 1923 for use by their band.
Although it is usually played quite fast (and can therefore sound tricky) it uses very simple melodic, harmonic and rhythmic patterns, with built-in two-bar 'breaks'. It is even normally played in the easiest keys.

The tune begins with a standard four-bar Introduction and then goes into THEME A. This is 32 bars in Bb (16 + 16) using the Sweet Sue Chord Progression and  ending each 16 on II7:V7  |  1.

A 'break' is taken on the tonic chord in bars 13 and 14 (and therefore again on bars 29 and 30). So far so good, and you have needed only the chords of:

I   and  II7    and  V7.

After a couple of times through Theme A, you burst into THEME B, which is 16 bars (8 + 8), but you have now switched to the key of Eb. A 'break' is taken on Bars 7 and 8, based on the chords II7  |  V7.

Again the chord pattern could hardly be simpler: the tonic is the chord for 13 of the 16 bars!

Next: go back and play Theme A once.

Finally play THEME C until you're ready to stop. Theme C is in Eb and it is identical in chord and general structure to Theme B. The only difference is that you may care - like King Oliver - to play a slightly different melody.

So the entire romping tune can be seen as very simple; and the chord players can get away with using only three chords - though in both Bb and Eb.

Incidentally, this is best regarded as an ensemble party piece. Everybody plays throughout: there's no call for for 'solos', apart from those little 'breaks'.