American Fingerstyle Guitarist

0014 – Buddy Bolden’s Blues

Swing Tunes

0014 – Buddy Bolden’s Blues

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 1 1/2 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Cornetist Buddy Bolden is remembered as the first real jazzman, and though we have no recordings of him, we know that his influence on the development of New Orleans Jazz was enormous. This tune was in his band’s repertoire, and was supposedly written by his trombonist, Willy Cornish. It was somehow picked up by a young ragtime composer from Missouri named Theron C. Bennet, who used the tune as the opening strain of a rag called “St. Louis Tickle,” which was one of the hits of the 1904 world’s fair. Nearly 50 years after it was published, Dave Van Ronk arranged it for guitar, the first arrangement of a classic rag for solo guitar, so far as I know. And it was Dave’s version that I heard a local musician named Rick Richardson cover in a coffeehouse in Richmond, Virginia when I was a teenager, in around 1964. It made a huge impression on me because I had never seen anyone play a real fingerpicking solo before, and I figured out a simple way to play it shortly after that. But at some point I went back to the versions of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” that Jelly Roll Morton recorded in the 1930’s (though of course he learned it when it was current in New Orleans), and modelled my version much more closely on how Morton harmonised it (especially in bar 7).

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0015 – Doing the New Lowdown

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 2 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Doing the New Lowdown

I learned to play swing after I moved to San Francisco in 1973. In fact I remember that, one the way across country, I stopped off in Boulder, Colorado to stay with my friend Dan McCorison, who was living there and playing in a great western swing band, Dusty Drapes and his Dusters, and that Dan and I visited the other guitarist in that band, Don DeBacker, and we tried to jam on Django’s “Swing 42” from the progression in a book. Not long after landing in SF, I met Thom Keats, who was looking for someone to play swing with. Thom showed me the basics of swing chording and we formed a duo, eventually working up something like a hundred tunes while playing in little places around town for tips, most memorably The Green Earth on Market Street. At some point horn players started sitting it with us, then taking us around to hear and sit in with other Bay Area trad and swing jazz players. Eventually the two of us would get hired by some of these guys when there was no piano at a gig. I first heard “Doing the New Lowdown” when we drove out and sat in with a ad hoc group lead by pianist Ray Shelbred and the wonderful cornetist Jim Goodwin, and this tune was called, so I just followed along. They were calling themselves the Port Costa Yetti Chasers, as I recall. Around this time, these older musicians got Thom and I interested in the great Argentinian guitarist, Oscar Alemen, and I probably learned the melody off of his recording of it.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0039 – When I Grew Too Old To Dream

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 2 1/2 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

I learned this from guitarist Pat Donohue in Denver in 1977, and do not remember having heard it before then. Later that year I toured Australia for the first and only time, and spent a memorable afternoon jamming with a young guitarist name of Tommy Emmanuel. Like me, he was very impressed with the harmonic progression that first occurs in bars 9-12, where the chords descend while the melody goes up. It was a long time after that before anyone outside of Aus know of Tommy, but of course he has made up for that in recent years. He started showing up at the annual convention of the Chet Atkins Apreciation Society in Nashville in the late 1990’s, when I was attending on an annual basis. So, the first year we were both there, I sought him out and tapped him on the shoulder as he was waiting in the wings to go onstage. He turned, saw me, grinned, and starting playing this tune just as we had done that afternoon in Sydney, just about 20 years earlier. I should mention that the version here is a little more involved than the way I played it back then; the ascending chords at the beginning, for example, were a later modification.

Funnily enough, Pat Donohue dropped it from his repertoire not very long after he showed it to me. But I’ve had fun with it ever since, playing it solo, and sometimes with the very fine west coast guitarist Bob Wilson, who worked out a second part.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0038 – Way Down Yonder in New Orleans

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 2 1/4 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans  

This is one of those songs that is so well known that I knew it long before I started playing the guitar. It was a hit for Freddy Cannon in 1960 but everybody already knew it from the previous generation of pop singers. Interestingly, it was written by a fellow Richmond, Virginia native, the great African American songwriter Henry Creamer, and was featured in a Broadway musical called Spice of 1922. Notable swing-era hits were scored with it by Al Jolson and the Andrews Sisters.

I worked it up sometime in the 1970’s after I had been playing swing with Thom Keats and other San Francisco area musicians, and playing it with them in groups.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0023 – Idaho

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 1 1/2 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This tune was written by the great Jesse Stone, whose career began in the 1920’s, and continued through the swing era and the birth of the R&B jump style. But he found his biggest success when early rock-and-rollers like Bill Haley started covering R&B songs like “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Stone was in his mid-50’s when Haley waxed that one, and the list of songs he wrote or co-wrote that became rock hits is fairly long. “Idaho” was a pretty big hit in its day, too, with both Benny Goodman and Guy Lombardo getting big sales from it during the war years.

The first version I remember hearing was on a great Bud Powell record called “Bud in Paris,” on which the pianist played it with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Bud had recorded it with a quintet for Blue Note as well, but I didn’t hear that until later. In fact it has been covered only sporadically by modern jazz musicians, which is strange because it is an excellent vehicle. I had fun doing this one in a trio I played in with Tony Marcus and Bob Wilson in the 1990’s, and we even worked out a vocal trio, of which no recording is known to exist, fortunately. I’m not sure if Tony has ever forgiven me, to be honest.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0026 – Limehouse Blues

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 1 3/4 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This old pop song seemed familiar to me the first time I ever heard a jazz version (by either Django Reinhardt or Sonny Rollins, as I recall). But maybe I heard swing versions on the radio as a kid, back before there was supposed to be any good music on the radio (ha!). It was written by Douglas Furber and Philip Braham for the London musical stage star, Gertrude Lawrence, in 1922, and has been popular ever since. Jazz musicians picked up on it early and have never tired of it. I started playing in when I was working in swing groups in San Francisco in the 1970’s, and had a solo version of it by the end of that decade, though it has evolved over the years.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0025 – It Don’t Mean A Thing

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 1 3/4 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This Duke Ellington anthem is familiar to one and all, or should be, and I have no idea where I first heard it, though I started playing it in bands in the 1970’s. But I learned this version, which is very much based on Thelonious Monk’s version, from the great trombonist Roswell Rudd, with whom I have had the good fortune to work on an occasional basis since the late 1990’s. Ros showed my his chart for this when we were working on Monk tunes. He pointed out that it was the first tune Monk recorded for the Riverside label after he signed with them in 1955. Monk’s arrangement hinges on that Db chord at the beginning of the 4th measure, which sets up the wild harmonic substitutions of the next four bars. Wow!

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0027 – Makin’ Whoopie

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 2 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

Once again, I heard this song growing up, long before I started playing guitar, and started playing it in swing bands in San Francisco in the 1970’s. But I don’t remember working out a fingerstyle version until I worked it up as part of a trio arrangement when I played with Tony Marcus and Bob Wilson in the 1990’s. My solo version came after that. This one was written by one of the great songwriting teams of the golden era of American pop songs, Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. It was popularised by Eddie Cantor in the 1928 musical Whoopee! and has been with us ever since. Bing Crosby recorded it in the year it was written, to be followed by Nat Cole, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and a host of others. Its silliness and charm are what made it a popular song, but that whimsical melody is carried along by a strong progression, and modern jazz musicians still like to play it.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0037 – Walking My Baby Back Home

Sheet Music – PDF Download, 2 1/4 pages, intermediate advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This familiar standard has always been associated in my mind with Maurice Chevalier’s corny but charming recording of it, and I worked this version up some time in about 1977. I remember a funny story about it, from those days. I was living in the States but coming to England regularly to tour both the UK and Europe, and to make records for Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule label, and would start the trip by staying with him at his house in Fulham. Very often there would be other musicians staying there, too, who were in London for the same reasons as I was, or just to visit. On one such occasion the great jazz/blues/R&B guitarist Mickey Baker was there when I arrived, and that night when the guitars came out and Stefan asked what I was working on, I played this arrangement. When I got to the coda, with that 9th chord shape that just moves chromatically from Eb down to Ab, Mickey said “What is THAT – your hand looks like a damn spider crawling down the neck!” and I had to laugh. “Hell, Mickey, I got it out of one of your books!” He looked closer and then said “Oh, THAT chord!” I teased him about that every time I saw him after that, which was nothing like often enough, unfortunately.

Duck Baker

Price: £3.00

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0022 – I’ll See You In My Dreams

Sheet Music – PDF Download 3 pages, advanced level

MP3 is included with download

This tune was given a very different treatment by the immortal Merle Travis, and his arrangement is among his best-loved by guitarists who play in the thumbpicking style Travis’s music epitomized. But I had yet to hear that version when I encountered a recording of the tune by Fletcher Henderson’s band, which featured the young Louis Armstrong, in 1925. I think this arrangement dates from the late 1970s, and may have marked the first time I had ever used the Drop-D tuning to play in any key apart from D and D minor. It is an unusual swing arrangement for me in that it is basically played straight, with no improvisation. But in fact, there isn’t very much improv on the Henderson recording, either.

Price: £3.00

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0016 – For Dancers Only

Sheet Music – PDF Download + MP3

This great swing anthem was written by Sy Oliver for Jimmie Lunceford, who used it as the theme for his highly successful big band in the late 1930s and 1940s. Duck based his version on that of the great soul jazz pianist Junior Mance, who has recorded it many times over the years. Duck’s version is due to appear on an upcoming CD release in 2015, and there are a couple of videos of him playing it, on Youtube.

Price: £3.00

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