THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK & UKULELE JAZZ AND SWING.
May 31, 2013
Posted by Brian
I have created this web page for number of reasons.
Firstly because of my love for the music of the Great American Songbook.
This songbook does not exist as such but it is a generic name for the music mostly created in America from about the 1920s through to say, the mid 1950s. In fact I also include the music of Tin Pan Alley; again a period of time with no hard and fast boundaries, but say from 1880 to say 1920. This period takes in the songs from Vaudeville, Broadway, Hollywood, cylinders, 78 rpm records, V disks, not to mention radio and more modern technical developments in reproducing and storing audio and video.
Secondly because I love jazz and swing and I have found very few arrangements of this style of music that I can play on my tenor ukulele.
To rectify this I have made my own arrangements. Rarely are they completely my own as I often start with lead sheets or charts from various web sources, but I do take every advantage of making these sound jazzy on the ukulele. This involves a sparing use of the vanilla chords played in many ukestras, and taking advantage of playing up the fret board and using the jazzy “extended” and “altered” chords.
Thirdly, I love the stories and history behind the songs, their composers and the times in which they were written.
I need to explain that I am not a good ukulele player, but I play the music I love with passion. I have also found that needing to make the sounds I wanted to accompany myself or a kindly singer or uke player, I needed to often play -a lot of chords -of various difficulty -in various positions on the fret board, and there was no way I could remember them all. So I developed my own database of chord grids that I can drag into Word (or add to PDF).
I designed them so that I can read them quickly as my eyesight is less than brilliant, that is why you will mostly see large numbers that represent the fret on which the chord is played! Sorry, they do not look pretty but they work.
Whilst I have been “In and Out” of music all my life, my ukulele playing only started about 3 or 4 years ago. I need to record my thanks to a few people starting with a special friend, Andrew Burston, who thrust a uke in my hands, and to my surprise I found I still knew the “3 chord trick”; he then told me to keep it! (it’s all your fault Andrew). To him, I add the help and friendliness of my local ukestra people, who are still very supportive of my efforts even though I do not play with them very often. Then I need to mention the Dr.Uke web page, and Jim himself, whose choice of music is close to mine and whose arrangements are gently challenging and led me on to try more complex sounds. I need also to add the revelation of playing Glen Rose's songs in his Jazz Classics book. Hearing "myself" play those lovely songs with beautiful chords, inspired me to "work harder".
My ukulele arrangements are in PDF form for download. Technical article are really a reflection on my difficulty in learning ukulele things that I would like to know (often failed) and my articles are an attempt to bring together much of the complicated and intertwined events of music history in America.
I hope you will enjoy this site as I share my passion with you.