Saturday, August 24, 2013

Remembering Frankie Trumbauer, Bix, and Some Jazz Age Songs

I’m confessin’ that I got real deep into music of the ‘20's this summer. I was preparing for a musical of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1920's Style, playing tenor sax. It occurred to me that I should be playing a C Melody sax, like they did in the period. So now I’m overhauling one of those 90 year old things. The Buescher is sort of a baby tenor; the Conn is a long neck alto. But I digress. I started listening to C Melodies.

What won my heart was this recording from the ‘90's of Scott Robinson bringing to life a tune, Singin' the Blues, that Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer made in ‘27.

 Turns out Frankie made a lot of platters, and a lot of them with Bix. So I started listening to their stuff on YouTube. One that caught my ear and stuck there was No One Can Take Your Place, dated 1928. It seemed to epitomize the era.

It bounced around my brain for a week and I had to find out more about it. But nothin’. No sheet music. Not on any list of pop songs of any year. It was lost. Where’d it go? Prolly (a word I learned from Sinclair Lewis) lotsa songs got written and recorded, but never were published cause they didn’t catch on. First I found several newer songs with the same title, even one by Lynnerd Skynnerd, not so good. This must mean that even the title had disappeared over the decades.

Then I went back to the video where I had seen the Odeon record label. (BTW, Odeon, a German company seems to have turned out the best fidelity on those 78's. They recorded in London and New York, as well as Berlin and Paris.) The label identified the composers: lyrics by Gilbert and Melbeck and melody by Frank Signorelli. Turns out they wrote lots of tunes together, and scored with Stairway to the Stars and A Blues Serenade, later recorded by Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. What really lit me up was a different version of a 1945 song I grew up with about my home town: Sioux City Sue (1924). Can’t find the lyrics to Signorelli’s version, but it’s not much to write home about.

No One Can Take Your Place was Bix’ last recording session with Frankie in the spring of ‘29. Bix was probably sick, and the tune lacks much that would make it “jazz.” Bix does have a couple of short breaks, and the ending. Otherwise, just another pop song. And the story it tells is a little “off.” This guy is telling this doll how he still loves her even though he’s got a new gal. I don’t think anyone wanted to be singing about that scenario. But I like the melody, so I picked it out and guessed at the chords. This feels like a real contribution to the world's accumulated knowledge! It will be in the next post.

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