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Oscar Peterson – C Jam Blues LIVE (1964)

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Oscar Peterson C Jam Blues LIVE (1964)

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C Jam Blues

C Jam Blues” is a jazz standard composed in 1942 by Duke Ellington and performed by countless other musicians, such as Dave Grusin, Django Reinhardt, Oscar Peterson, and Charles Mingus.

The song was introduced in a Soundie short film. These three-minute features, produced to be shown on a jukebox-type player, illustrated the band miming to a pre-recorded performance. Entitled “Jam Session” the Soundie was filmed late in 1941 along with four other Ellington numbers. Duke introduces various band members, who then solo: Ray Nance (violin), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Rex Stewart (cornet), Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton (trombone), and Sonny Greer (drums). The complete ensemble carries the tune to its finish with composer Bigard (clarinet) providing some improvised upper register piping.

“C Jam Blues” was formally recorded under that title in January, 1942, for RCA Victor Records. It continued be a staple of the Ellington repertoire, generally featuring a handful of the soloists in the band.

Background

As the title suggests, the piece follows a twelve-bar blues form in the key of C major. The tune is well known for being extremely easy to play, with the entire melody featuring only two notes: G and C.

A performance typically features several improvised solos. The melody likely originated from the clarinetist Barney Bigard in 1941, but its origin is not perfectly clear.

It was also known as “Duke’s Place“, with lyrics added by Bill Katts, Bob Thiele and Ruth Roberts.

Recordings

Ellington’s black and white film was produced in 1942. The video depicts a jam session where Ellington begins playing with a double bass before gradually being joined by other members of his band, among them drummer Sonny Greer and trumpeter Rex Stewart. The film title is Jam Session.

Western Swing band leader Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded the song sometime between 1945 and 1947 as part of the Tiffany Transcriptions.Bill Doggett recorded a version on his 1958 tribute album Salute to Duke Ellington (King). “C Jam Blues” was used by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band as the basis of their song “The Intro and the Outro“.Mulgrew Miller and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen included the song in their 1999 album The Duets. The Dave Brubeck Quartet performed this live at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival; the recording appears in their album Newport 1958.

“Basically a vehicle for jazz instrumentalists to display their improvisational skills, it is one of those pieces that is far more enjoyable for the player than the listener.”
– K. J. McElrath

Oscar Peterson

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist, virtuoso and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, simply “O.P.” by his friends, and informally in the jazz community as “the King of inside swing”. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, as well as a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, and received numerous other awards and honors. Oscar Peterson is considered one of history’s great jazz pianists, and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.