29 June 2016


Thomas S. Allen (1876 - 1919) of Massachusetts - a prolific composer and violinist - wrote Big Chief Battle-Axe in 1907. It's a good romping number in three parts (four if you count the Bridge). I'm pleased to say it is still played by some bands.

The first time I heard this tune was in 1993, on a recording made that year by Chris Tyle's Silver Leaf Jazz Band; and it made an impression on me. I entered it into my mini-filofax storage system. It is usually played in Ab, but I put it in the key of Bb, to suit my cornet - a transposing instrument.
C is the section on which to 'stick' for the purpose of solos. Improvising on it is easy because the chord sequence follows the Four-Leaf Clover chord progression.

It is interesting that when I went to New Orleans for The French Quarter Festival in April 2016, among the performers I heard were Tom Saunders, Lars Edegran, Steve Pistorius and Tom Fischer - all of whom played on that Silver Leaf Jazz Band CD 23 years earlier.

I like to play along with Tuba Skinny performing this tune on YouTube, though in this performance they use only the Bridge and Section C. They also play it in Bb, not Ab. Click here to watch and hear them.