14 August 2016

Post 428: 'OLD AGE BLUES'

As at 31 August 2016, according to the survey released by the NWG Institute, the average age of active traditional jazz musicians in the United Kingdom was 76 years and 10 months. I think the situation in many other countries must be similar.

So it's high time we revived a fine tune from 1921 - Old Age Blues. The music was composed by Jess Williams and the words were written by Pete Curtis. Not much is known about Jess (Jesse?) Williams, except that he was born in 1892 and died in 1977. He was a fine piano player and composer of ragtime music and he ran an automotive parts business in Nebraska. We can see from the cover of Old Age Blues that Williams and Curtis were partners in publishing music, too, apparently.
It's a good tune, merry and well worth playing. But I have been unable to find any example on YouTube of a jazz band playing it. (There is an Old Age Blues on YouTube but it's a different tune from the one of which I am speaking.) So I have produced on my computer a Band-in-a-Box version of it. This is far from an ideal way of hearing it, but it gives some idea of the nature of the tune. You can listen to my attempt by clicking here.

Take a look at the structure of Old Age Blues. It has a 16-bar Verse and then a 16-bar Chorus. Players could use the Chorus as the basis for improvisations. The Verse is virtually A-A-B-A in structure, whereas the Chorus is A1 (8 bars) + A2 (8 bars)  
And here it is in F (for Bb instruments).

The words are worth using too:

Folks, there's a man that's made me sad.
That ain't all. He's made me mad.
Since I was born, we've been good friends
But this very day our friendship ends. I'll
Tell you what he's done and
Give you his name for
If you live long he'll
Treat you the same.
We all call him 'Father'
Father Time and he
Gave me some blues I
Wish wasn't mine! (Those)

Old age Blues, those Dotage Blues:
They haunt you night and day. They
Come to you seems all at once
And never go away. They're
In your dreams and in your wake and
Do just what they choose. There's
No way beating them
No way cheating them - Those
Old Age Blues.

If you care to study the original piano sheet music, here it is.