27 May 2016

Post 400: 'FINGERING WITH YOUR FINGERS' - FROM THE MISSISSIPPI SHEIKS TO TUBA SKINNY

The tune Fingering With Your Fingers was created in 1935 by The Mississippi Sheiks.
The Mississippi Sheiks
This string band was very active in the early 1930s, when they recorded about 70 tunes. The musicians were mostly members of the Chatmon family (living about 200 miles north of New Orleans and descended from slaves). The best-known member of the family was Armenter Chatmon, who used the stage name 'Bo Carter': he also had a solo career. In performance, there would be between three and five men in the group and the principal instruments were guitars and violin. Many of their recordings (though not this one) had vocals. You can hear their original recording of Fingering With Your Fingers BY CLICKING ON HERE. It is very simple and repetitive (with a 32-bar AABA structure). It also uses a basic, straightforward chord sequence. The melody is reminiscent of the 1930 song Exactly Like You (composed by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields), though it has a quite different Middle Eight.

I picked it up for playing with my friends in the English Midlands. Here's the lead-sheet I prepared.
Practically nobody today would have been aware of this lively tune had it not been for the revival of it, in about 2012, by Tuba Skinny - and their frequent playing of it in public.

For example, to watch an exhilarating performance of Fingering With Your Fingers in 2013, CLICK HERE. That was filmed for us by digitalalexa; and Tuba Skinny comprised nine players on that day. It shows what really great jazz musicians can make out of even the simplest material. I hope you enjoyed the way those two outstanding reed players - Jonathan and Ewan - traded bars in the early part of the video.

And when I visited New Orleans three years later, I found Tuba Skinny still merrily beginning a set with the tune. Here's the video I made at the time: CLICK HERE. On this occasion, Tuba Skinny had a line-up of eight musicians - only four of whom had also appeared in the 2013 video.