The Notables

Spirituals, Blues, and Jazz

May 22 & 23, 2009

El Segundo United Methodist Church

Program Order


Spiritual is short for spiritual song, as in Ephesians 5.19: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Specifically, black spirituals, African-American spirituals, or Negro spirituals, are religious songs that originated among the black slaves of the American South. They became known to a wider audience after the Civil War, when the Fisk University Jubilee Singers performed some of them at a religious conference in 1871. Such songs continued to be sung in black churches, and also by trained choirs. By the 1880s some who remembered the songs from slavery days criticized the choirs as having lost the original style.

Blues originated in the rural South among African Americans, based on spirituals and work songs, although blues songs are not religious. In fact, one might characterize blues as the secular counterpart of spirituals. The blues style has remained basically the same since the 1880s, with three-chord progressions and both lyrical and melodic improvisations. The style has been influenced by the folk songs of the Appalachians, especially since the 1880s. The most common form of blues is the 12 measure song, usually called 12-bar blues, although other forms exist. Often the first and second four bars would contain the same words, and the last four a conclusion. Originally blues were performed with acoustic guitars and pianos, but since World War II some musicians, led by Muddy Waters, have incorporated jazzier elements, including electric instruments.

Jazz is an American musical form that developed in the South from a confluence of European and African American traditions. The beginnings of jazz are probably in New Orleans around 1890-1910, from the brass bands that played at Negro funerals, and from the bands that performed at various venues around the city, including the brothels in the New Orleans district of Storyville. Many visitors to New Orleans became acquainted with jazz upon hearing it on their visit to Storyville. By 1910 jazz was recognized as a distinct style, also called Dixieland, and was popular in New Orleans, and elsewhere because of recordings and returned visitors. In 1917 the Navy closed Storyville, over the city's objection. After 1918 and the end of the First World War, many musicians moved north to Chicago, to create a new style, now called Chicago Dixieland.

From around 1920 to 1945, jazz and popular music converged in a style known as swing, usually played by big (17-piece) bands, and was primarily dance music. After World War II, jazz began to move in new directions, such as highly improvised and speedy be-bop and mellow cool jazz.

Although jazz is hard to define, certain characteristics are common to jazz: Improvisation, on the melody, countermelody, and rhythm; swinging, that is, alteration of rhythm (typically, eighth notes are not played evenly, but the first of two eighth notes usually has twice the time value of the second); harmonies that are not common to European music.

In European music, although improvisation is allowed, and often composers would indicate the performer was to improvise a cadenza, normally the performer was expected to perform the work pretty much as the composer had written. But in jazz, the composer and performers are more nearly equal, so that the performer can play a tune according to his own mood or his interaction with his fellow performers and the audience, so that no two performances are the same.


Songs by Classification


Jazz Standards

(Blackface) Minstrel song


Notes on the Jazz Standards

In 1926 Florenz Ziegfeld opened a show on Broadway called Betsy.  Even though the songs were by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, just about everyone sensed that this was a real turkey, and the night before opening, the female lead, Belle Baker, who played Betsy, was in despair because she had no song to show off her big voice.  That night Irving Berlin was called to write an appropriate song. He worked half the night, and then turned it over to an arranger.  The song was interpolated into the show, and received 27 encores.  The rest of the show was a flop, and closed after 39 performances.  But Berlin's song, Blue Skies, lives on. Our version is arranged by Steve Zegree.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (1940: w. Lorenz Hart; m. Richard Rodgers; from Pal Joey) The story of Pal Joey is based on a series of short stories that John O'Hara wrote for the New Yorker, who also wrote the book for the show. The original lyric to the song is such a blatant, unabashed celebration of feminine sexuality that most recorded and performed versions use a bowdlerized version of the original lyric.

Bye Bye Blues is a popular and jazz standard written by Fred Hamm, Dave Bennett, Bert Lown, and Chauncey Gray and published in 1930. It has been recorded by many artists, but the best-known recording is one made in 1952 by Les Paul and Mary Ford

Harlem Nocturne is a jazz standard was written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939 as a deliberate attempt by Hagen to capture and imitate the sound of Duke Ellington's compositions.

I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So is a 1945 jazz standard composed by Duke Ellington, with lyric by Mack David.

Stormy Weather is a 1933 jazz standard written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Ethel Waters first sang it at The Cotton Club in Harlem. It has since been covered by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Clodagh Rodgers. Leo Reisman's orchestra had the biggest hit on records, although Ethel Waters recorded version also performed well.

The Nearness of You is a popular song written in 1937 with words by Ned Washington and music by Hoagy Carmichael. It has been recorded at least 75 times, by such artists as Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Diana Krall. It was used in the 1938 film Romance in the Dark. This arrangement is by Mac Huff.

The Notables





The Band