27 December 2017

Post 582: COMMUNICATE - BUT DON'T TELL FIBS!

I have often recommended someone in the band should SPEAK to the audience as much as possible. Fans enjoy receiving scraps of information about the band and the music being played, including the titles of tunes.

However, I wish some speakers would take more care to get their facts right.

I often hear band-leaders giving information that is neither credible nor amusing. There's plenty of fake news in the way tunes are introduced. My friend Bob Anderson of San Diego told me the same is true in the USA: he said: 'We have a few bandleaders here who are either misinformed or think the false myths are a good story'.

I can recall occasions when an announcer said something that members of the audience were too polite to tell him was untrue. One told us the New Orleans trumpet-player Jabbo Smith made records in the 1940s and then 'faded away and was heard of no more'. Yet some of us knew Jabbo was still playing in the 1980s: there are YouTube videos of him doing so.

Often I hear a tune introduced as 'written by the great Louis Armstrong' when in fact it was certainly not written by him.

I have heard Ice Cream announced as being by Chris Barber, the British band-leader (no doubt because his band recorded it), with no recognition that it was composed before Chris Barber was born and first made famous as a jazz tune by such musicians as George Lewis.

I have noticed that an introduction frequently used by one announcer is: We're now going to play the old Fats Waller number.... and he then names, for example, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans or You Always Hurt The One You Love - tunes that were written after Fats Waller died!

Algiers Strut is often introduced incorrectly as having been 'written by Kid Thomas Valentine' - an announcement that particularly irritates my friend Barrie Marshall. And I know of two band-leaders (one of them, sadly, no longer with us) who loved to play Doctor Jazz and always announced it as 'by Jelly Roll Morton'.

It's true Morton's band made a fine recording of this tune; but it was not 'by' him. The music was written by King Oliver, as you can see:
Doctor Jazz is one of the great classics of our repertoire. It is played so often that we tend to overlook what a fine piece it is. Unlike many, the song has a good and appropriate Verse; and the 32-bar Chorus is brilliantly constructed, with a beautiful chord progression, a vigorous, singable melody, and some built-in opportunities for 'breaks' - on Bars 15-16, 25-26 and 27-28. What a great man Joe 'King' Oliver was, in his own playing, in producing such seminal recordings with his bands and also in his composing! We are all deeply in his debt.

Moral of the story: get your facts right; and don't credit the hard work of a composer to someone else.