18 July 2016

Post 414: 'PANAMA RAG'

Panama Rag (originally entitled Panama, A Characteristic Novelty) became a 'standard' in the repertoire of traditional jazz bands. It dates back over 100 years, having been written by William H. Tyers in 1911. Tyers, born in Virginia, the son of former slaves, lived from 1870 to 1924. The piece of music (despite the cover shown above) possibly has nothing to do with the country Panama or the Panama Canal which was under construction at the time: it is said by at least one source to have been named in honour of Aida Overton Walker and Her Panama Girls - a music hall act.
Whatever the truth, it is a great number and can sound good no matter at what tempo you take it. I have heard it performed gently and sedately (for example by The Ophelia Ragtime Orchestra) and also in a driving, pulsating way by some jazz bands at festivals.

It can be strenuous to play, especially for the trumpeter, as there are five themes - all of which are usually repeated. I tried writing it out. It is normally played in Eb, modulating into Ab, so I have transposed it into F modulating into Bb to suit my Bb trumpet.

As usual, I have fitted it into my mini-filofax collection of tunes arranged alphabetically (between, as it happens, Painting The Clouds With Sunshine and Papa De Da Da).