Sunday, March 22, 2015

When The Organ Played at Twilight

When The Organ Played at Twilight

Lyrics by:
Raymond Wallace

Music By:
Jimmy Campbell
Reg Connolly

Key: G Major

I was attracted to this piece of sheet music because it would force me to do a little research on Guy Lombardo and his orchestra. But the melody and uniformity of this piece please me. The melody is not only in my G major wheelhouse of destruction but the leaps of an octave are where I can navigate them like a billy goat heading home.

I realized today that I can record all these songs and only write an essay about the details that interest me, instead of feeling compelled to write anything about all the songs I record. I only practice them once or twice and then decide that's as good as it will get. Sometimes I'll rehearse a really good version and hit record and mess up the easiest parts, but I'm not going to record it again simply to pretend I can do it right. Sometimes the rehearsal is the winning version but I wasn't recording. That's life. I can see how jazz artists only want one magical take of a song, and if it's no good then they aren't going to try again. The magic is only available to catch once and then it's gone and it's humiliating to get it back. Charlie Parker recorded some songs when he was so drunk he was turned in the opposite direction of the microphone when he started his solo, so when you listen to that recording he sounds far far off and as another musician physically turns him around his solo gets louder and louder. Did he record again? No. That's the real spirit of jazz to me, there's not this obsession to engineer the most perfect's more for the musicians who are not interested in the world hearing their music, but are on a quest for their own fulfillment of a standard that is beyond their grasp but within sight. I don't want to compare my playing to theirs, but my attitude is definitely along those lines; I try to give you the best performance, but sometimes it happened 5 minutes earlier. And there's no capturing that magic again so I blunder my way to the end. This is also an excuse not to make this a major demand on my abundant free time since I am, you know, trying to write other projects. So we aren't going to talk about the writers of this song. Not now, at least

Holy land of Big Band: Note the stained glass effect on the sides

1929 was the stock market crash, right? October 1929. That was also related to overextended debt margins and irresponsible promotion of doomed investments. This 1929 crash was what led to the regulations that Reagan had to demolish in order to enable the crash of 2008. Between 1921 and 1929 the Dow Jones had climbed 6 fold from 63 to 381, whatever those numbers mean. By 1932 it had lost 89% of its value. This is similar to $80,000 houses suddenly being worth 800,000...and people getting mortgages that suddenly covered a house only worth $200,000.

Let's talk about Guy Lombardo - He was Canadian and formed his Band in the mid '20s. The arrangement was big band, but he tended toward the lusher sounds and left the uptempo stuff to Gene Krupa and Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Lombardo was the Kenny G of the big band era but the key was that he was good at what he did. Benny Goodman had much to credit Lombardo's approach for because Goodman was a band leader about 10 years later.
Watching this film allegedly of Lombardo's band makes me think big band jazz is sort of like industrial construction. No one person has to do too much, but the little that you are responsible for must get done on time and with perfect execution. The trombonists, for example don't have a ton of notes to play, but they have play those notes in perfect volume and on time and the right pitch. These guys are pros.

I don't see Lombardo with an instrument so he's not like Duke Ellington (piano) and Benny Goodman (clarinet) or Tommy Dorsey (Trombone) or Glenn Miller (Trombone) or Gene Krupa (Drums) as far as playing an instrument while also leading the band. Lombardo played violin, which isn't really a band instrument. To be fair, I don't think Lombardo wrote any tunes himself. While Duke had the Cotton Club, Guy Lombardo set up shop at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York which is on the south side of Central Park and is basically in the Theater District, not too far from the Cotton Club in Hell's Kitchen. It's feasible that in December 1929 you could go see Guy Lombardo perform at the Roosevelt and then walk to Cotton Club and see Duke Ellington, provided you were black of course since these were Whites Only establishments. If seeing these two bands didn't make you forget your misery at having your bank fail with all your savings gone, then nothing would. Both Ellington and Lombardo began their respective roles as house band in 1929 so this is a seminal year in the history of big band.

Slowly, with expression = Oggy can probably play it

The song itself is a dreamy waltz and since "The Ukelele Lady" May Singhi Breen was kind enough to analyze the harmony of this piece back in 1929 I did not have to massacre the left hand. Simple G major family chords with one or two diminished chords thrown in for color. Easy.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.