Dec 19, 2011

Paul De Ville: His Saxophone and Banjo Methods

I came across this copy of Paul de Ville's "The Eclipse Self-Instructor for Banjo" (1905) at a sheet music give-away. Sax players will recognize Paul de Ville (or deVille) as the author of the "Universal Method for Saxophone" (1908), a very good instruction book that is still in wide use today. I wondered for a moment if this could be the same person - but of course it is. How many Paul de Villes, writing music instruction books in 1905-1908, could there have been?

On the first page of the banjo book is a "Dictionary of the Principal Words Used in Modern Music." An identical list, under the title "A List of the Principal Words Used in Modern Music," appears on page 13 of the saxophone book. The next page of the banjo book starts a section called "Rudiments of Music." I thought that looked familiar as well. In fact, there is a "Rudiments of Music" section in the saxophone book too. The subjects, layout, and wording are similar but not identical, as though de Ville had revised his 1905 banjo version for the 1908 saxophone book.

Banjo book

But wait! My edition of H. Klosé's "Celebrated Method for the Clarinet" also has a similar "Rudiments of Music" section at the beginning of the book. And "A List of the Principal Words Used in Modern Music," the same list exactly, appears in Klosé, on page 120. 

All three books were (or are) published by Carl Fischer. It looks as though it was company policy to include a standardized "Rudiments" section. Incidentally, on the Petrucci site I found a free download of an 1879 English language edition of the Klosé (pub. Jean White). Comparing it to my 1946 "Revised and Enlarged by Simeon Bellison" edition, it's possible to make some guesses as to which parts of the Klosé were simply lifted by Carl Fischer from the earlier Jean White edition (e.g., most of the wording in the translation from French to English), which parts may have been added in early Carl Fischer editions, (e.g., the "Rudiments" section) and which parts may have been added or rewritten by Simeon Bellison (substitution of less antiquated wording, much extra musical content).

So, back to the banjo book - after the 8-page Rudiments section, de Ville has 3 pages on how to play the instrument, followed by 8 pages of short exercises. Then he gets right down to business, with 139 "Standard, National, and Operatic Melodies." This would have been a pretty cool song collection for most Americans in 1905: Irish, civil war, minstrel show, Gilbert and Sullivan, Verdi, Stephen Foster, jigs, polkas. By comparison, the saxophone book is rather dry - no popular songs at all. I imagine that de Ville modelled the sax book after "serious" classical method books, like Klosé, or the Arban trumpet method.

According to an article on, de Ville published "Eclipse Self-Instructor" books for accordion, concertina, banjo, flute, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, trombone, piano, saxophone, and violin, between 1893 and 1906. The concertina book is still in print (as are the later 1908 "Universal Method" and the Klosé clarinet method, of course).

De Ville seems to have taken his saxophone "Universal Method" seriously, more so anyway than the banjo book. It's aimed at students with patience and discipline, rather than at those just interested in playing popular songs. The "Eclipse" and "Universal" series were aimed at different sorts of customers.

It's interesting that de Ville, and the Carl Fischer company, thought that the saxophone was worthy of a method with a "serious" approach (and that it would sell). As to why that might be, I'm thinking about the social status of the saxophone in 1908. The popularity of the instrument at that time would have been based on its use in the very popular Patrick Gilmore (active 1848-1892) and John Philip Sousa (active 1880-1932) bands, and in thousands of town bands playing similar music at the time. The saxophone's ascendency in pop culture via vaudeville (e.g., the Six Brown Brothers, 1910s) and early commercial recordings (Rudy Wiedoeft, late 1910s and early 1920s) was still in the future. Jazz saxophone came even later.

De Ville is listed as having revised the Lazarus clarinet method c.1900 (Eastman library). In his Author's Note at the beginning of the "Universal Method for Saxophone," he calls the saxophone "my favorite instrument." Maybe he was a single-reed guy.

More about De Ville in my next post.

Dec 9, 2011

Charlie Parker's Musical Quotes

Lawrence Koch's book "Yardbird Suite," reviewed in my last post, offers quite a bit of analytical detail about most of Charlie Parker's recordings, including the musical quotations in Bird's solos. Below is a list I extracted from the book as I re-read it. (Thanks to the author for his kind permission.)

Update 12/21/15 - I've added a few more at the end of the list, from Thomas Owens' dissertation "Charlie Parker: Techniques of Improvisation" (1974).

Parker was more likely to employ musical quotes in live performances than in the studio; it was his way of telling a little joke to his audience. Sometimes his choice of quote was intended as a message to a fellow musician or to a particular listener, sometimes it was just being silly.

This list is more or less chronological, 1941-1955. I haven't included examples of Parker quoting his own previous recordings, or quoting other musicians' solos (e.g., Lester Young's), and I have only listed the first instance of each song quote that Koch cites. When a jazz standard like "Star Eyes" or "I'll Remember April" appears on the list, it's because it was quoted in a solo over a different tune.

There's no independent research on my part here, just a collation of the melodies cited throughout the book. I'm sure that the list is incomplete. It's posted for your amusement, and as bit of musical history.

Isle of Capri
We're in the Money
Bye Bye Blackbird
London Bridge
Happy Am I With My Religion
Drum Boogie
Mean to Me
Woody Woodpecker
Cocktails for Two
In the Gloaming
Happy Birthday
Canadian Capers
Country Gardens
D'Ye Ken John Peel
Le Secret
When The Red, Red Robin...
Why Was I Born?
Buttons and Bows
Then I'll Be Happy
I'll Remember April
The Kerry Dancers
Jingle Bells
The Man On the Flying Trapeze
Pop Goes the Weasel
My Kind of Love
On the Trail
Blues in the Night
West End Blues
High Society
Barnacle Bill the Sailor
The Prisoner's Song
That's A-Plenty
Johnny One-Note
My Man
Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?
In and Out the Window
Memories of You
A-Hunting We Will Go
Claire de Lune
National Emblem March
Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair
Cross My Heart 

Star Eyes
The Song is You
Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee
Mozart Symphony #40
Let's Fall in Love
Three Blind Mice
I Love You Truly
Why Do I Love You
William Tell Overture
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
I Can't Get Started
I Cover the Waterfront
Minuet in G
Moon Over Miami

Addenda: from the Owens dissertation mentioned above:

Over There
Put Your Little Foot
Oh Come, all Ye Faithful
Minute Waltz (Chopin)
"Introduction" from "The Rite of Spring" (Stravinsky)
"Dance of the Ballerina" from "Petrouchka" (Stravinsky)
"Anitra's Dance" (Grieg)
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (Grieg)
"Menuet Celebre" (Paderewski)
"Star of Eve" from "Tanhauser" (Wagner)

Addendum 9/26/17 - I just ran across this page with more great Bird quote info: Quotes in Bird's Performance.

Addendum 6/13/19 - A few more from the new "Charlie Parker Omnibook Vol. 2":

Tickle Toe
It Don't Mean a Thing
Volga Boat Song

Dec 5, 2011

Review: "Yardbird Suite," by Lawrence O. Koch

Lawrence Koch’s “Yardbird Suite: A Compendium of the Music and Life of Charlie Parker” combines several aspects: biography, annotated discography, psychological speculation, and musical analysis; these aspects are integrated into a chronological narrative of Parker’s life. This book is invaluable to any musician who wants to understand the man who, more than any other individual, was responsible for modern jazz. Following are some comments about each of these facets of “Yardbird Suite.”


It’s a tricky thing, writing a biography of Charlie Parker. As an artist, Parker created an enduring musical language that was optimistic and joyful, as well as intellectually brilliant. In this respect, he was an exemplary human being. But at the same time, his substance abuse problems made him an awful role model, damaged the lives of others, and degraded the public image of jazz. How can a biographer convey the beauty and brilliance of Parker’s contribution, while acknowledging the realities of his personal life? Clint Eastwood’s film, “Bird,” attempted to do this. I remember leaving the theater with a feeling of depression. To me, that meant that the film had failed.

Koch manages to negotiate this problem well. He does not avoid the factual details of Bird’s life, but attempts to place them in proper perspective by making some psychological speculations, and more importantly, by simply focusing far more on the music.

The personal details of Parker’s life are generally drawn from other biographies, but are selected and presented in a way that Koch intends to be as accurate and succinct as possible. Occasionally, he discusses “Bird stories” that he finds factually dubious.


Virtually every Parker recording that had been documented at the time the book was written is discussed, both in the frame of historical narrative and in musical terms. Koch offers his opinions on each recording's relative artistic merit, and suggests which recordings he considers to be more (or less) essential. He lists Bird’s musical quotes in detail; I rather enjoyed that.

In the descriptions of the recording sessions, you will find information and perspective on just about any Parker recording that you may own.

Psychological speculation

I’m not qualified in any way to evaluate Bird’s mental state or motivations, or to evaluate Koch’s comments in this regard. But he offers his opinions, and to me they do not seem particularly out of line. Koch speculates that a lack of discipline in Parker’s early life led to his pattern of self-indulgence as an adult, and that his self-destructive tendencies were due to a conflict between the self-indulgent side of his personality and the higher, artistic side. You’ll have to read this book for yourself to see if I’m paraphrasing it properly.

Musical analysis

This, to me, is the book’s greatest strength. Besides the musical comments throughout the book, there is a 32-page appendix that presents an excellent study of the elements of Parker’s compositional/improvisational style. Topics include: Use of the b6, Use of the Major Scale, Treatment of the Dominant, Substitute Chords, Shifting Harmonic Accents, Superimposition, Blues, and so forth - 17 subjects in all. The appendix concludes with a transcription and bar-by-bar analysis of Bird’s solo on “Embraceable You.”

Personally, and as an ornithologist myself, I agree with most (not all) of Koch’s analytical comments. My disagreements are on the level of minor quibbling. (One quibble concerns his tendency to ascribe chordal thinking [substitutions, interpolations] to virtually every note, where I’d guess that Parker’s thinking might in some places be better explained as employing tension notes, neighboring tones, and passing tones.)

Koch’s writing style is personal and informal, rather than scholarly; this is appropriate, as the book includes a fair amount of personal opinion along with the biographical narrative and musical analysis.

The advertising blurb that you’ll find on Amazon and elsewhere doesn’t really do this book justice. It’s OK until it promises “stories of Parker’s eccentric behavior, sexual appetite, drug addiction, and compulsive drinking.” That sentence seems to have been intended to help sales, but aside from a few well-known incidents, this book doesn’t really deliver prurient details. It’s actually a well-researched book by a musician, directed primarily at other musicians, that delivers a respectful biography and quite a bit of musical insight. If you’re a jazz player, it’s a must-read.