10 January 2014

Post 111: 'MAMA INEZ'

(The first version of this article was published in 'Playing Traditional Jazz' in 2014. It had hundreds of readers, so it seems to have met a need. I have now updated it.)
I don’t know how many New Orleans traditional jazz bands these days include Mama Inez in their repertoire. I believe the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans about 45 years ago was the first to show how effective it could be as a contrast to the usual run of tunes. For a time it became popular with European bands too.

There are four great things about Mama Inez, making it attractive for musicians of any standard - even beginners. First, it is remarkably simple in structure and chord pattern. Second, it is not difficult to play. Thirdly – because it can be played with a Latin-American rhythm – it provides variety to any band’s programme. Fourthly (always important) it has a catchy basic melody that appeals to the audience.

Mama Inez was written in 1932 by the prolific Cuban pianist and composer Eliseo Grenet who lived from 1893 to 1950. He had an amazingly busy career in music, leading bands and writing many popular songs as well as film music. (Words for Mama Inez were added by L. W. Gilbert).

For a performance of Mama InezCLICK HERE.

This really is a three-chord trick tune. Assuming you play it in the key of G, you will need only the chords of G major, C major and D7th. In my examples below, I am using the key of G.

Some bands used to play Mama Inez only as a 32-bar tune. But there is also a 16-bar verse or introduction. It uses this rhythmic phrase.
The first sixteen bars and final eight bars of the chorus are based on a repetition of this.
But there’s a distinctive rhythmic middle eight, in which the entire band must be silent throughout the final three and a half beats of bars 2 and 4. It’s effective and great fun for dancers.