Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Papa Bue's Viking Jazz Band - My Bucket's Got a Hole In It

Available on Amazon, EMusic, and iTunes.

On several recent occasions, I've had dancers come up to me asking about this track, or giving me a thumbs up when it finished. It's from Arne "Papa Bue" Jensen and his Viking Jazz Band, a Danish trad. jazz group that has been active since the 1950's. I find it interesting that it works so well for dancing, because as music it's, dare I say, second rate. There's very little variation, the vocal chorus just keeps getting repeated over and over (why the vocalist doesn't sing one of the many verses that exist is beyond me!), and most of the playing is just imitation or caricature of Louis Armstrong. (Compare to this Louis Armstrong recording (EMusic, Amazon, iTunes), which sounds like it is the model for the Viking Jazz Band recording. Louis' vocal has more depth, nuance, and humor. Edmund Hall's clarinet solo is great. The group improv, the give-and-take, is much stronger. Of course, it IS unfair to compare somebody to one of the single greatest jazz musicians to ever live.)

Critical faults aside, the Viking Jazz Band track is basically perfect for dancing. It starts out with the piano in the lead, nice and chill, with a bass behind it walking a strong, steady rhythm. The trumpet comes in and the energy builds. Then the vocal cools things off. Following that, the trombone solo ratchets things up a little bit, before the trumpet comes back in with the whole group backing him up. The ending is energetic but not so wild or momentous that it's beyond a dancer's range to match it. The solid rhythm, the variation in voices, the way the energy goes up and down and then up, are all great qualities for dance music. Actually, I'd say that the Armstrong-sound-alike trumpet and vocal are also advantages--they make the track vaguely recognizable to someone who's never heard of Papa Bue Jensen. Try playing this one at your local dance, and I'm sure you'll get a good response from the crowd.

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