31 January 2017


A few years ago, a new tune appeared on the streets of New Orleans.

I heard that it had been used in the TV series Tremé, where it had been played by the most important band in the 21st-Century Revival of traditional jazz - Loose Marbles.

It is a tune I like and recommend, for several reasons. It is short (essentially a 12-bar theme), lively  and very catchy. It is in a minor key (D minor) and it's good to have a minor-key tune in our programmes occasionally. As it seems to use a very small number of chords (possibly only D minor, G minor and and A7th), it is also easy to improvise on.

It was called Crumpled Papers and I could find no reference to it in earlier jazz literature. So where had it come from? Who was the composer?

For a long time, that was an unsolved mystery. However, John Dixon has let me know it is a Michael Magro tune. John told me: Michael ‘wrote’ this, as in just came up with a nice simple melody for a basic 12-bar minor blues. We actually recorded this a couple years ago with him on clarinet, Marla on trumpet, Tyler on bass, Justin on snare drum, and Ben Polcer on piano. Not sure if the recording will ever see daylight though.

So the mystery is solved. Michael, as you probably know, founded Loose Marbles way back in September 2000 and he still runs that band in New Orleans today.
Michael Magro

Modest though its beginnings may have been, Crumpled Papers is a great little tune, given the way it lends itself to improvisations. Have a listen to it, as played by Tuba Skinny. There's a choice of videos:

For a slightly more pedestrian performance, but less affected by audience noise:

Thanks as ever to those two great video-makers digitalalexa and RaoulDuke504.