Jul 4, 2022

"Chega de saudade" and "Saxofone, por que choras"

 A few days ago I was playing through the classic choro "Saxofone, por que choras," and had a sudden flash of realization: The harmonic structure of the A section of "Saxofone" is basically the same as the A section of Jobim's "Chega de saudade." I thought this might be worth a blog post.

There are a lot of great versions of "Saxofone" on Youtube. Here are just three of them. 

The 1944 original by the composer, Ratinho:

A modern version by Nailor Proveta:

A cool live version on accordion, by Dominguinhos:

Anyway, the harmonic structure of the "Saxofone" and "Chega" A sections are same in their broad outlines, though "Chega" does have some substitutions and additions. Here's the basic structure of "Saxofone." Compare it to the chords in "Chega" from any fakebook.

Did Jobim consciously lift the chords from the Ratinho tune? It's not unlikely. He certainly used pre-existing chord changes on a number of his other compositions. Does this same chord structure appear in other choros? If any reader spots one, please let me know.

In the book Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World, Ruy Castro describes how Jobim came to write "Chega de saudade" in 1956:

Jobim had written it almost on a whim - a short time before, at the home of Dona Nilza, his mother, he watched the maid sweeping the living room and softly singing a chorinho. He was impressed with the way the girl managed to sing such a complicated song, in 3 parts [note: Ruy Castro meant "3 sections"], when the large part of what one heard on the radio fit into a single musical phrase. He decided then and there that he would also write a chorinho like that.

Weeks later, at his family's place in Poco Fundo, near Petropolis, he got the idea for "Chega de saudade," and when he reviewed what he had written, he realized he had created a kind of samba-canção in three parts, but with a chorinho flavor...

Some comments: 

In referring to 3 "parts," or sections, Ruy Castro is referencing the fact that most choros are composed with a form AABBACCA, or something similar. Each section generally has a key change. "Chega" is in the form ABC, where the A section is 32 bars, the B section is 16 bars, and the C section is the last 22 bars. 

Although I am no expert, I don't hear this piece as a samba-canção. That genre is a slow or medium tempo samba with a sentimental theme. Even the earliest recordings of "Chega" don't have that tempo or feeling.

"Chega de saudade" is often regarded as the first bossa nova. I think of bossa as defined largely by a moderate samba rhythm, employing some North American jazz-style harmony, and played with the guitar style (and vocal style) developed by Joao Gilberto. "Chega" has the essential ingredients: 

•  It was composed by Jobim, using elements of American music such as melodic references to the old standard tune "Bye Bye Blues" in the A and C sections, and to "When You Wish Upon a Star" in the B section. Harmonically, the entirety of the B section of "Chega" is lifted from "When You Wish...". The C section has some bop-like turnaround material in mm. 51-52, and melodic material in mm. 53-57. The song uses a number of II V sequences (although, granted, II V's are not unique to jazz, and it's also true that jazz had influenced choro for decades previously).

•  The first recordings of "Chega" featured Joao Gilberto on guitar; his style was an essential component of bossa. The first recording, by Elizeth Cardoso (on an independent label), did not achieve great popularity. The second recording, by Joao Gilberto (on Odeon, a major label) became a hit. Gilberto's understated vocal style was another defining component of bossa.


Here are some versions of "Chega" that are worth checking out.

The first 1958 recording, by Elizeth Cardoso:

The subsequent 1958 hit recording by Joao Gilberto:

The 1963 recording by Jobim on his first U.S. album, The Composer of Desafinado Plays:

The 1995 recording by Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock, on Joe's album Double Rainbow:

About the title: Jon Hendricks wrote English-language lyrics in the 1960s, and gave it the title "No More Blues." It's a pretty good choice for the title. "No More Blues" is a rough translation of "Chega de saudade," and also reminds me of "Bye Bye Blues." Perhaps Hendricks noticed the melodic similarity. I don't so much care for the English lyrics, though.

Vinicius de Moraes wrote the original Portuguese lyrics shortly after Jobim finished writing the song. According to Ruy Castro,

Years later, Vinicius said that one of the most difficult set of lyrics he had written had been those of "Chega de saudade," due to the arduousness of trying to fit the words into a melodic structure with so many comings and goings.

This song would obviously be challenging to sing. Mar Vilaseca does a great job on this track, and the band is terrific:

Apr 23, 2022

John Coltrane's versions of "Body and Soul"

Recently I spent several lessons with a sax student analyzing transcriptions of John Coltrane’s version of the Johnny Green tune “Body and Soul,” as played on the “Coltrane’s Sound” album. We looked at the transcription in the John Coltrane Omnibook, as well as the transcription by Andrew White. This project led me to check out other extant recordings of Coltrane performing “Body and Soul.” (Thanks, Luke!)

There are at least five different recordings on Youtube of Coltrane playing “Body and Soul." The tracks were all recorded between 1960 and 1965. They reflect an evolution from his relatively conventional chords-based "Coltrane changes" period to his later free-jazz/abstract/spiritual approach. They are:

1)  The studio recording released on the album "Coltrane's Sound,” 10/24/60
2)  An alternate take from the same recording session
3)  Jazz Gallery, 6/10/60 (four months before the studio recordings)
4)  Live at Birdland, 6/2/62
5)  Live in Seattle, 9/30/65

Below are discussions of each recording. Be sure to listen to each track first - the music itself is what's important.

"Coltrane's Sound"


The first publicly-released version of Coltrane playing "Body and Soul" appeared on the Atlantic LP "Coltrane's Sound." The material for this album was recorded on October 24-25, 1960, but was not released until 1964. This track is the one I studied with my student, and the version that we will use as a basic reference in comparing other recordings. 

The musicians are Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; and Elvin Jones, drums. With the exception of Steve Davis, this is Coltrane's "classic quartet," with whom he recorded and performed for the next five years. McCoy had been a member of the group since May 1960; Elvin had joined the band just a month before the recording session, in September 1960.  

Coltrane had left Miles Davis' group in April 1960, and was just beginning to establish himself as a leader. His "Giant Steps" album, recorded in 1959, had already been released, in February 1960. The songs and arrangements on these two albums represented much of the repertoire for his new quartet. "Body and Soul" was one of several standard tunes that had been reharmonized with "Coltrane changes."

The arrangement on this album consists of:

  • An 8-bar, double-time-feel vamp introduction on a concert Ebm chord (reminiscent of the intro in the 1938 Chu Berry version). Piano starts, drums join after 4 bars.
  • Melody played by the saxophone, with some melodic alterations to fit the reharmonization, and fills
  • Piano solo over one chorus of the form
  • Return to the bridge and last A section of the melody by the sax, and 
  • An arranged rubato ending, including a "chromatic third relation" chord sequence Db - A - F, and a gospel-like final cadence for the piano.

The form is AABA, same as the original tune. It is played with a "double-time feel," so the original 32-bar form feels like 64 bars. (In describing bar counts, I will assume a 64-bar format.)

The key is concert Db, as is standard in jazz renditions of “Body and Soul.” The A section is over an Ab pedal until the resolution to the tonic Db chord, with some whole tone scale suggestions set up by augmented chords over the pedal. 

The bridge goes up a half step to the key of D, as in the original song. Starting in bar 5 of the bridge, the arrangement uses a “Coltrane changes” sequence for 4 measures, with 2 beats per chord, beginning and ending on Dmaj7. The progression then goes to Dm7 in bar 9, as in the original. Bars 11-15 of the bridge are another “Coltrane changes” sequence, starting and ending on Cmaj7. The first 2 chords here, Cmaj7 and Eb7, are 1 measure each, the rest of the sequence 2 beats per chord. 

Here's a fairly serviceable chord chart.

Here's another (Coltrane changes are halfway down the page; click to enlarge). 

This original version from the "Coltrane's Sound" LP is a polished exposition of the arrangement. The mood is dignified, and respectful to the beauty of the tune and its jazz heritage. I’ve already mentioned that the intro may reference the Chu Berry recording; I hear echoes of Billie Holiday also.

Everything seems carefully planned. Judging by Coltrane’s later recordings of the tune, even some of the tenor fills were part of the arrangement. 

From Lewis Porter’s Coltrane biography:
His lovely ballad performances drew upon a repertory of unique ornamental features. Coltrane’s paraphrasing of a ballad melody did not vary much from one performance to another of the same piece, even in the specific locations and types of ornaments added…The paraphrase version became a distinct gestalt, ornaments and all.
Another quote from Porter:
Tom Dowd, Coltrane's recording engineer at Atlantic Records, remembers Coltrane's warmup routine: "John usually showed up about an hour before the session...he would stand in a corner, face the wall, play, stop, change reeds, and start again. After a while he would settle on the mouthpiece and reeds that felt most comfortable to him, and then he would start to work on the 'runs' that he wanted to use during the session. I would watch him play the same passage over and over again, changing his breathing, his fingering, and experimenting with the most minute changes in his phrasing."

The transcription of the album version in the Coltrane Omnibook is nicely done, though I do have some minor disagreements about rhythm here and there, and a couple of notes are shown in the wrong octave. The transcriber is not credited. Coltrane played the tune with a double-time feel, so each measure of the original tune shows as two measures in this transcription. The transcription seems to get the reharmonized chord changes pretty much right. The link above is to the Bb edition; concert key and Eb editions are also available.

Andrew White’s transcription of Coltrane’s solo (unavailable since Andrew passed away, as far as I know) is meticulous, as were all his transcriptions. The solo is notated in tenor key (concert Db, Eb for tenor sax). Andrew did not change the song’s original measures to fit a double-time feel, so his note values appear twice as fast (e.g., where the Coltrane Omnibook shows eighth notes, Andrew shows sixteenths). I like his rhythmic representations a little better than those in the Omnibook. 

The New Real Book Vol. 3 (Sher Music) has a lead sheet for the Coltrane arrangement, with a somewhat different take on how to represent the chords. Double-time feel is represented the same way as in the Omnibook. 

Alternate take


This alternate take, also from the 11/24/60 recording session, was released on a 1999 CD reissue of the album. It was recorded first, before the take that was selected for the original LP. The take originally chosen for release is more polished, and more carefully played. This alternate (first) take has a 16-bar vamp intro, where the second take tightens it to 8 bars. Coltrane's presentation of the head in the second take is somewhat pared down as well. Some of the sax fills and embellishments are nearly identical in the two takes. The rubato coda is exactly the same, including the piano's gospel-like final cadence.

Jazz Gallery 6/10/1960

This live recording is the earliest Coltrane version I've seen; it preceded the Atlantic recording session by four months. Personnel are Coltrane, tenor; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Pete LaRoca, drums. In the Youtube track below, "Body and Soul" starts at 1:00:10.


McCoy Tyner had just joined the band, about two weeks earlier. Elvin Jones had not joined yet. The "Body and Soul" arrangement had already been in the band's book; according to Porter, McCoy's predecessor Steve Kuhn remembers playing it with the group.

Comparing this performance to the album version, we can hear that the arrangement had not quite jelled yet. There is no introduction, although McCoy plays a similar vamp figure for the A sections. Coltrane takes a solo chorus after playing the head. His playing is in general a lot busier, with more virtuosic display. Perhaps this was because of the energy that comes with a live club situation; perhaps it was because Coltrane was trying things out, exploring approaches to the tune.

Still, this was one of the mellower tunes played that night - compare this 7-minute “Body and Soul” to the 30-minute over-the-top version of “Liberia” (based on “A Night in Tunisia”) that is at the beginning of this recording. “Body and Soul” and "Every Time We Say Goodbye" were the ballads providing some variety in an otherwise up-tempo, high-energy set.

The coda as played here is pretty much the same as in the studio recordings. Even in this early version, it was already a composed, permanent feature of the arrangement.

Regarding McCoy's role in the band, here is a quote from an interview cited by Porter:
My playing, I believe, possessed also this metronomic rhythmic accuracy [McCoy is here comparing his playing to Monk's]...because I have a good strong left hand, John knew that he could count on this rhythmic foundation, on this carpet, and that even when he threw himself into his wildest improvisation, he would always have behind him, unshakeable, the regular tempo of his pianist.

Live at Birdland 6/2/62

The next recording we have is from two years after the studio recording - June 2, 1962. It was recorded from a radio program called "Live at Birdland." The full half-hour broadcast is here. (Note: This is not the Coltrane album called "Live at Birdland.")

The band is Coltrane’s classic quartet, with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones.

This version has the energy of a live club performance. The group follows the arrangement, but is freer with it. There is a 12-bar intro; the vamp is looser than in the previous recordings. Coltrane plays the head, including fills that are similar but not identical to the worked-out fills in the 1960 LP version, then takes an additional chorus. Tyner takes two choruses, and Coltrane plays the head from the bridge. 

In this sax solo, I hear Coltrane displaying virtuosity in the service of conveying emotion. He's mostly inside the harmony, with what I'd call some outside overlays. In a couple of spots he splits overtones to produce a chord, a technique not heard on the earlier versions. McCoy, as usual, lays down a solid rhythmic foundation. Elvin and McCoy constantly anticipate each other's rhythmic kicks. There is a terrific band rapport.

Live in Seattle 9/30/65

The last recording that we have of “Body and Soul” is from September 30, 1965. It was released on the 1994 CD reissue of the album "Live in Seattle" (the LP was originally released in 1971, four years after Coltrane's passing). It is the longest version we have, at 21:25 minutes. The personnel is the quartet (Pharoah Sanders and Donald Garrett also participated in this gig, but do not appear on this track).

This is a much more radical, abstract version. We can hear a conflict between structure and freedom. Coltrane is testing the traditional boundaries of music: rhythm, harmony, melody, arranged structure. He is asking a lot out of the band, himself, and the audience.

Compared to the 1960 studio version, here are some differences and similarities:

The piece is still in Db; the eighth-note pulse is still swing.

The introductory vamp no longer uses the arranged rhythm and voicing.

The chords in the A section are "understood" - alluded to by both Coltrane and Tyner, but not necessarily stated explicitly. The "Coltrane changes" are still present in the bridge.

Solos are much longer. They are about exploration. 

The underlying beat is "understood," and downbeats are not always stated explicitly. However, there is still an implicit feeling of 8-bar units.

The AABA structure of the arrangement is mostly followed, though not always marked off as clearly as in the previous recordings. At about 14:57, in the second A of the seventh chorus, the pedal note changes from Ab to F for 8 bars. In the eighth chorus, starting at about 16:42, the bridge is eliminated (unless it's stated too abstractly for my ears). At 18:55 we hear Coltrane cue the bridge, beginning the out-head BA.
The arranged coda is almost exactly as performed in the 1960 Atlantic version. That may be the most conventional, straight-ahead moment on the album. Coltrane plays some nice split-overtone "chords" near the end.

McCoy Tyner seems to be trying to do his job of providing a chordal mooring for Coltrane.

Coltrane avoids jazz clichés like II V patterns or blues licks. For most iterations of the bridge, he plays melodically over the "Coltrane changes." McCoy's solo is much more "inside” than Coltrane’s.

Coltrane is exploring extended techniques on the saxophone - overtones, multiphonics, textures - that don’t have much to do with outlining chords. 

This period of Coltrane's music is sometimes described as "transcendent." This "Body and Soul" track, though it is much more "out" as compared to the earlier versions, is actually one of his more traditional recorded performances from this period. For example, in Cosmos, at the beginning of the Seattle album, even the concept of "beat" is challenged. 

It would seem that even in late 1965, "Body and Soul" was still being placed in the set as the ballad that provides a texture that is relatively comfortable (if that's the right word) to the audience. 

Following the Seattle gig, the group changed dramatically. In November 1965, Coltrane hired Rashied Ali as a second drummer. Presumably he was looking for a more multidimensional rhythmic tapestry. Pharoah Sanders and Donald Garrett also became regular members.

McCoy Tyner left the band at the end of 1965. Here’s a quote cited by Porter: 

What John is doing now is constructive for him, but not as compatible to me as before…I didn’t see myself making any kind of contribution to that music.
Another McCoy quote:
I felt if I was going to go any further musically, I would have to leave the group, and when John hired a second drummer, it became a physical necessity. I couldn’t hear myself. John was understanding.
Elvin Jones left the band in January, 1966. Here is a quote from a "Downbeat" magazine article:
At times I couldn't hear what I was doing - Matter of fact, I couldn't hear what anybody was doing. All I could hear was a lot of noise.
Another Elvin quote, from a radio interview, regarding Coltrane's late music:
Well, of course it's far out, because this is a tremendous mind that's involved, you know. You wouldn't expect Einstein to be playing jacks, you know?

Further reading

Here’s a great writeup about Coltrane and his music in late 1965 by Keith Raether, with reminiscences from the engineer who recorded the “Live in Seattle” album (the article is reprinted on Steve Griggs'  website, Joe Brazil Project).

Here's my account of the only time I saw John Coltrane live, in January 1966, after McCoy Tyner had left, but while there were two drummers, Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali (actually three, counting percussionist Juno Lewis).

This post draws a fair amount of material from the biography John Coltrane: His Life and Music by Lewis Porter, and from The John Coltrane Reference by Chris DeVito, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler, and David Wild, ed. Lewis Porter. Both are excellent works of jazz scholarship. Click for the Amazon links:


Apr 3, 2022

"Body and Soul" - What was the original key?

Recently I spent several lessons with a student analyzing transcriptions of John Coltrane's version of "Body and Soul," as played on the "Coltrane's Sound" album.

As often happens, that effort brought up some questions. One was, why do we play it in Db? Was that really the original key? 

One of my college teachers, Eddy Flenner, who had been an arranger in the 1930s, told me that the tune was originally written in the key of C, but was often taken up a half step “to brighten it up.” This idea seemed questionable to me, as it would assume that most listeners can somehow perceive the difference in keys. I don't think that people generally have perfect pitch, even subliminally.

It turns out that the 1930 sheet music was indeed in the key of C (click to enlarge):

"Body and Soul" was originally written for the British singer Gertrude Lawrence, but she apparently never recorded it.

The website jazzhistoryonline.com lists 17 early versions of “Body and Soul,” all from the year 1930, with sound files of each recording. Five are in Db, 3 in C, 3 in Bb, 2 in Eb, 2 in F, and one each in G and Ab (I'm leaving out some modulations within the arrangement). 

True, different keys would have often been chosen to fit a vocalist’s range, or could be the result of inaccurate recording speed or playback speed. But with the sheet music in C, and with so many early recordings in Db, I have to consider that perhaps Eddy was right after all.

In one of these 1930 versions, Louis Armstrong begins in Eb with trumpet, modulates to C for his vocal, and finishes in F#. Louis uses a different set of lyrics, as explained in the article:

Some other early jazz versions:

Red Allen


solo in C, modulates to Ab

Benny Goodman



Django Reinhardt



Chu Berry and Roy Eldridge


C (Chu), to Db (Roy), back to C

Coleman Hawkins



Art Tatum

1938, 1940, 1941


Art Tatum

1937, 1943


Art Tatum



Billie Holiday



Charlie Parker



Charlie Parker



On the Chu Berry/Roy Eldridge recording, guitarist Danny Barker plays an intro that strongly resembles the piano vamp intro in the Coltrane’s Sound recording. I could believe that Coltrane’s intro referenced Chu Berry's. I should also mention that the modulation up a half step for Roy's trumpet solo (from C to Db) would definitely have a "brighten it up" effect within the arrangement:

Tatum’s key of B may seem to have been a glitch in recording speed or playback speed, but that's how it sounds on three different recordings. Tatum would have had no problem with that key, or any other. In 1937 he recorded it in Db, in 1953 he recorded it in C.

The key of Db for jazz versions was set in stone with Coleman Hawkins’ definitive 1939 recording, a jazz version that was also a best-seller:

In Lewis Porter’s John Coltrane: His Life and Music, there is an interesting quote from Jimmy Heath:

We were talking about the fact that the older tenor players like Hawkins and Webster played in the key of D-flat because it was the heaviest key for tenor - gets the best sound. “Body and Soul,” all those tunes were in D-flat…Trane said, “I’m going to practice in D-flat.” Being who he was, he would zoom in and practice in D-flat for the next six months.

It’s true that concert Db is a fat-sounding key on tenor, especially on the lower notes. However, though Hawkins played the head to “Body and Soul” in the lower register; Coltrane favored the higher register of the tenor, and played the head an octave higher than Hawkins did.

In the next post, I'll discuss John Coltrane's recordings of "Body and Soul" from 1960, 1962, and 1965.

To close, here's Billie Holiday in 1940. I'm including this just because it's so nice.

Dec 22, 2021

Tunes published in 1926 will be entering public domain in 2022

As of January 1, 2022, U.S. copyright will expire for works published in 1926, including the following songs: 

(What Can I Say) After I Say I'm Sorry (Walter Donaldson and Abe Lyman)
Baby Face (Harry Akst)
Birth of the Blues ((Ray Henderson)
Black Bottom (Ray Henderson) - See note below
Black Bottom Stomp (Jelly Roll Morton) - See note below
Blue Room (Rodgers and Hart)
Blue Skies (Irving Berlin) - Sheet music pub. 1927, but first performed 1926
Bye Bye Blackbird (Ray Henderson)
East St. Louis Toodle-Oo (Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley)
If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (James P. Johnson)
Mountain Greenery (Rodgers and Hart)
Muskrat Ramble (Kid Ory) - See note below
Someone to Watch Over Me (George and Ira Gershwin)
When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along) (Harry Woods) 

This year, the big ones would seem to be Birth of the Blues, Blue Room, Blue Skies, Bye Bye Blackbird, and Someone to Watch Over Me. 

In classical music, notable pieces entering public domain are Bartok's Piano Concerto #1, Copland's Piano Concerto, and Puccini's Turandot.

For more popular, jazz, and classical pieces entering the public domain, see the Wikipedia page 1926 in Music.

United States copyright law is quite restrictive as compared to many other countries. According to the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1988 (aka "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"), works published or registered before 1978 remain under copyright for 95 years.

With the passage of the 1988 law, the cutoff date for works entering the public domain became 1922, with any works published in 1923 or later remaining under copyright. Beginning in 2019, however, the clock began running again, with each new year bringing one more year of songs and other works into the public domain. Over the next 20 years or so, most "Golden Age" jazz standards will lose copyright protection.

Many other countries have shorter terms of copyright; one common formula is the life of the author plus fifty years (see this table). For example, in Canada you can record pieces written by Wes Montgomery (d. 1968) John Coltrane (d. 1967), Igor Stravinsky (d. 1971), or Louis Armstrong (d. 1971).

Looking ahead, Mickey Mouse will become fair game in the US in 2024, unless Congress is somehow persuaded to change the present copyright law. 


"Black Bottom" was actually a dance, not one particular song. There were several popular songs that included "Black Bottom" in the title. The first was "Original Black Bottom Dance," copyrighted in 1919 by Perry Bradford (it included instructions for the steps in the dance). Yet another song, recorded by Ma Rainey in 1927, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," provided the title for a recent stage play and film. The term "Black Bottom" referred to a neighborhood in Detroit. A short, informative history of the dance can be found here.

"Muskrat Ramble" has an interesting copyright history, detailed in its Wikipedia entry:

• Kid Ory received no royalties until 1947, when Barney Bigard took him to the offices of the company that held the copyright. At that point, the company paid him retroactive royalties, and quarterly royalties thereafter.

• In 1950, Ray Gilbert wrote lyrics to "Muskrat Ramble" without Ory's permission, and in 1951 demanded that ASCAP issue a decision entitling him to a share of royalties. In 1956 ASCAP decided in Gilbert's favor, and decreed that he was entitled to a one-third share, retroactive to 1950 - in my opinion, setting a very questionable precedent.

• In 2001 Babette Ory, Kid Ory's daughter, sued Country Joe McDonald for his use of a section of Muskrat Ramble in Country Joe's Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag (at 0:20 in the Ory link, 0:39 in the Country Joe link). The court ruled against Babette and in favor of McDonald. From Wikipedia:
This suit was dismissed due to the lateness of the filing. Since decades had already passed from the time McDonald composed his song in 1965, Ory based her suit on a new version of it recorded by McDonald in 1999. Judge Nora Manella, then of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, upheld McDonald's laches defense, noting that Ory and her father were aware of the original version of the song, with the same questionable section, for some three decades without bringing a suit. This ruling was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2005, and Ory was also ordered to pay McDonald's substantial attorneys' fees.


Nov 20, 2021

Eubie Blake's "Memories of You" and Edward MacDowell's "To a Wild Rose"

There is an interesting similarity between Eubie Blake's song "Memories of You" (1930) and Edward MacDowell's piano miniature "To a Wild Rose" (1896). It's not so much in the exact notes of the melody, as it is in the rhythms, the pattern of repeated notes, the melodic curve, and the mood. I'm thinking mostly of the first 8 measures. Below are the opening bars of the two songs:

"Memories of You" 

"To a Wild Rose"

Eubie would certainly have been familiar with the MacDowell composition. "To a Wild Rose" was a well-known, beloved piece of piano parlor music in the early 1900s. Eubie may or may not have been aware that he was paraphrasing, but I think the similarity is pretty clear.

Following are some versions of each tune. First, a straight reading of the "To a Wild Rose" sheet music, followed by a great Sonny Rollins interpretation:

Here are some versions of "Memories of You" from Eubie Blake (with a florid introduction), Benny Goodman, and Clifford Brown:

"Memories of You" has been recorded by many popular and jazz artists, but "To a Wild Rose" not so often. 

However, I should not neglect to mention Elvis Presley's appropriation of the melody of “To a Wild Rose” for his tune “Am I Ready” (lyrics by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett). It's one of several Elvis tunes that used borrowed melodies, with newer lyrics added. Here are some more: 

"It's Now or Never" (melody from the 1898 Italian song "O Sole Mio," new lyrics by Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder)
"Love Me Tender" (melody from the 1861 song "Aura Lea," new lyrics by Ken Darby)
"Can't Help Falling in Love" (melody from the 1784 French song "Plaisir d'amour," new lyrics by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, and George David Weiss).

For some historical background on the MacDowell and Blake pieces, see the Wikipedia entries for To a Wild Rose and Memories of You

"To a Wild Rose" was composed as the first of 10 pieces in a suite, Woodland Sketches (Op. 51). The Wikipedia entry for "Woodland Sketches," citing a 1922 MacDowell biography, states that the melody for "To a Wild Rose" was based on a song of the Brothertown Indians

The "Woodland Sketches" article seems to suggest that MacDowell had seen the melody in a book on Native American music by Theodore Baker (1882). Baker's book is accessible online. It's in German, but the musical examples are in standard notation. I took a look at it, and must say that I could not find any musical example in that book that reminded me of "To a Wild Rose." There was one melody collected from the "Brotherton Indians," but it bore no resemblance. 

Maybe MacDowell picked up the melody from another source - but it's worth noting that MacDowell was living in New Hampshire, while the Brotherton Indians were (and are) in Wisconsin. Regardless, I suppose one can hear that MacDowell could have been trying for a Native American sound in his melody.

Here's the complete sheet music for "To a Wild Rose" (public domain):


Jul 20, 2021

Aerosol dispersal in wind instruments

The pandemic has presented serious challenges for education. As a clarinet and saxophone teacher, I have become very much aware in the last year of the drawbacks and limitations of online music teaching. I have been trying to evaluate the relative safety of teaching in person again. I am fully vaccinated, and would expect that of any students I see in person, but that doesn't guarantee total safety.

Opinions of my fellow teachers span the full range. Although my community (Santa Clara County, California) has a high vaccination rate and relatively low incidence of infection, conditions are constantly changing.

One piece of the puzzle is to what degree we should be concerned about aerosol dispersal from wind instruments. Here are links to four studies available on the internet, with some takeaways. 

I am not implying any conclusion as to the safety of in-person lessons, as there are other important considerations besides just aerosol dispersal and safe distancing.

1)  https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2021/june/perform2-study.html - University of Bristol 

"Aerosol generated by playing woodwind and brass instruments is less than that produced when vocalising (speaking and singing) and is no different than a person breathing, new research has found."

2)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7492159/ - University of Minnesota 

"Specifically, tuba produces fewer aerosols than normal breathing, while the concentrations from bassoon, piccolo, flute, bass clarinet, French horn, and clarinet stay within the range of normal breathing and speaking. Trumpet, oboe, and bass trombone tend to generate more aerosols than speaking."

A second phase of this project is described in this article, with an interesting observation:

"In the second phase of the study, Hong’s team used probes to measure how far the aerosols travel from each instrument inside Orchestra Hall. They found that the flow was very confined, and the aerosols dispersed quickly. At only 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) away from the instrument outlet, the aerosol concentration was less than 10 percent of what it was at the source, and no instruments showed an appreciable influence of flow beyond 30 centimeters (about 1 foot).

Part of this, the researchers said, is due to the human thermal plume effect, which refers to the upward air flow created by a person’s temperature being higher than the air around them. The majority of the aerosols are carried upward by this draft.
“The second part of the study is to help understand where the aerosols go,” Hong explained. “They’re not necessarily spreading horizontally—they are rising vertically. So, this will help us to optimize the placement of filters and the social distancing between individuals.”
Because of the thermal plume effect, they found the most efficient placement of filters would likely be above the musicians—resulting in a 95 percent particle extraction rate. Another strategy could be to reduce the temperature inside Orchestra Hall, which would increase the temperature difference between the people and the environment, ultimately making the plume stronger and the filters more effective."

3)  https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.25.20248984v1.full - Bavarian Symphony Orchestra (measured extent of aerosol cloud) (preliminary paper, not peer-reviewed) 

"A distance of 2 m to the front and 1.5 m to the side should be recommended for trumpet and clarinet, 3 m to the front for the cross flutes in an orchestral formation. Our findings could be applied to other orchestral instruments, so other brass instruments such as tuba, trombone or horn may be similar to the trumpet. It could be expected that an oboe and a bassoon have the same or less dispersion than a clarinet. The largest distance occurred during playing the cross flutes. For the risk assessment, the individual playing style, different instrument-specific playing techniques as well as convectional flows in the specific rooms and at least the accumulation of aerosols during playing should also be taken into account."

4)https://www.makingmusic.org.uk/sites/makingmusic.org.uk/files/Measurement%20of%20aerosol%20from%20brass%20and%20woodwind%20instruments%20.pdf - University of Southern Denmark

"The emission of aerosol measured from brass and woodwind instruments was very low, and almost at the same level as background concentrations. Other experiments have shown very little airflow and very small aerosol concentrations at short distances from brass and woodwind instruments. Based on the actual measurements and the other studies mentioned 1 meter distance playing brass and woodwind instruments seems to be safe with respect to the risk of spreading aerosol from the instruments. This assumes that musicians blow towards the back of fellow musicians.

Please note: To be clear, I'm listing these studies for the benefit those who may be interested, but I am not trying to make a case for immediately resuming in-person instruction. Other factors would influence that decision, and teachers will weigh these factors as they see fit. The papers listed above have more detailed information than the short quotes I have provided. If you are interested, please follow the links and read the articles more carefully.