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1 February 2018


An 18-bar vocal from Erika

I first heard Tangled Blues when Tuba Skinny performed it at The Louisiana Music Factory on 14 April 2015. It was a new composition by Shaye Cohn, with words by Erika Lewis.

Tangled Blues is a very pleasant tune, somewhat country-and-western in feel and played in the Key of F.

But something about it struck me as strange. You form the impression  that you are listening to one melody. But listen carefully and you find there are two separate tunes. Let's call them A and B. They have a lot in common. For example there are motifs such as this one that occur in both A and B (giving the piece that feeling of unity).
It occurs twice in A, played (I think) on the chord of F. It also occurs twice in B, but this time (I think) played on the Bb chord. So we begin to see what a clever 'tangle' Shaye has woven for us. Part A has a lyric and comprises 18 bars. How many tunes can you think of that consist of 18 bars (not counting tunes that are really 16 bars with a 2-bar tag, such as Sister Kate)? Can you think of any? Apart from Miss Otis Regrets by the wonderful Cole Porter, I can't. So Shaye has played a very clever trick here.

However, Part B is a conventional 32 bars but with no lyric.

Despite their similarity of 'feel', the two parts sound (to my ear, which may be misleading me) quite different in chord structure. It seems A starts with, and twice uses, the I - IV - V - I chord pattern whereas B starts on the V chord (dominant - C7th, followed of course by the tonic), of which it makes much use later.

The whole performance goes like this:

4-bar Introduction
18-bar A (Ensemble)
32-bar B (Cornet 16 + Ensemble 16)
18-bar A (Todd on Tuba playing the melody)
32-bar B (Clarinet 16 + ensemble 16 - trombone with melody)
18-bar A (the only occurrence of the vocal - sung by Erika)
32-bar B (Ensemble, cornet-led)

Total = 154 bars; performance time about 4 minutes 20 seconds.

What a clever, pretty and intricate tangle indeed! Well done, Shaye!
'Tangled Blues': Todd plays
the  18-bar melody.
You can watch a street performance filmed by RaoulDuke BY CLICKING HERE or digitalalexa's video (the performance at which I first heard the tune) BY CLICKING HERE.    

My friend Peter Petrovič, who lives in Maribor, Slovenia, enjoys the challenge of trying to work out tunes by ear. He sent me his attempt to decipher Tangled Blues; and I think he has done really well.

The Book 'Tuba Skinny and Shaye Cohn', by Pops Coffee, is available from Amazon.