8 Duos on Early American Jazz Classics for 2 Saxophones
These well-loved tunes have been around for a long time. Perhaps the oldest is Nobody Knows the Trouble I´ve Seen, a Negro spiritual that may have been written by slaves. Others come from the latter half of the 19th century and from the turn-of-the-century era that produced the precursors of jazz. The unifying factor in selecting these particular tunes, apart from the fact that every American seems to know them, is that they have been constantly recreated by jazz performers, from the birth of jazz to the present day.There is an immediate link from the improvisor to the mood, structure, or chord structure (sometimes all three!) of these tunes that allows for a free-flowing personal variation on these timeless themes.
Down By the Riverside was written in 1865. It´s hard to imagine how this tune went back then, because it´s had an unassailable swing ever since the jazz players discovered it. In this collection, the fourth chorus takes us back to the roots of jazz (à la Burlesca), with a suitable quotation of "There´s a Place in France."
Little Brown Jug was written by J. Winner in 1869. The composer was well-named, as Glenn Miller had a mega-hit with this number in the 40s. Its jaunty syncopation sets up a lot of ready rhythmic interplay.
Bill Bailey was a hit for Hughie Cannon in 1902. It has been one of the most recorded Dixie numbers of all time. The treatment in this book makes it a jazz march, with a Roaring 20s ending.
Peg O´ My Heart is the youngest of the lot, written by Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher in 1913. Although it predates the establishment of jazz per se, its elegant foxtrot beat and famous break have given it a permanent, popular place in the repertoires of countless lounge bands.
A Tisket, A Tasket is a children´s song from 1879. It likely would have remained so, but for Ella Fitzgerald’s unforgettable 1938 recording. In this version, the saxes encounter a transposition to seven sharps, but for a sax player any number of sharps beats flats every time!
Take Me Out to the Ballgame, from 1905, is the signature tune of baseball, "America´s pasttime". It gives an opportunity for an unorthodox little jazz waltz, with the development coming before the theme, and a use of hocket (hiccups) along the way (maybe from too many peanuts and crackerjack...).
Nobody Knows the Trouble I´ve Seen is the aforementioned Negro spiritual. Nobody knows how old it is. Call and response and a shout chorus seem appropriate in this arrangement.
Frankie and Johnny, from 1840, is perhaps an unlikely candidate for a jazz treatment. The lyrics, however, give us a clue, moving dramatically from "Oh Lordy, how they could love" to "but he done her wrong." This old tune gets the newest treatment in the book, with angular, modern lines in the fourth chorus.