12 January 2016


Who composed Elephant Stomp? This has long been one of those intriguing mysteries in the history of traditional jazz.
The composer's name is sometimes given as St. Gery Alferay. More often it appears as St. Gery and Alferay. These names were long assumed to be pseudonyms.

The tune (two themes of 16 bars each) became popular after Humphrey Lyttelton began featuring it in 1954. At one time, some suspected that Lyttelton himself had composed it.

Adding to the confusion, there seems to have been at least one other Elephant Stomp (in three themes, and from the 1930s) but this was not the tune Lyttelton played.

Dick Baker (I have written before about his great website), with the help of his colleague Erwin Elvers, not long ago published a solution to the mystery. Elvers says that 'Alferay' was a French tenor sax player called Albert Ferreri and that 'St. Gery' was his French colleague, a pianist called Yannick Singery. Apparently, Singery was on piano when Albert Nicholas recorded the tune in Paris in 1953. Maybe that's how Lyttelton picked it up.

Well, all that makes sense; and it's good enough for me.

I think it's a useful tune in the repertoire because it's bouncy, simple to learn and easy to improvise on. My ear tells me it goes as below. There are two sets of 16 bars, both repetitively made up of 8 + 8. And the chord progressions are simple. A band can play it through a couple of times and then stick on B for solos.