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Take Two

Honeysuckle Rose

Eva Cassidy.jpg

Take a good tune and see what jazz can do with it.


We all know Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose, we have heard it many times, and you can see and hear him singing it in this video (apparently with Gene Sedric, saxophone, and Al Casey, guitar), but our two versions of the tune this month might be new to you.


We start with a version with lyrics sung by the late Eva Cassidy. Eva Cassidy was brought to the attention of the UK public some years ago on Terry Wogan's morning radio show, but the focus then was on her recordings of Sting's Fields of Gold and the standard Over The Rainbow rather than her jazz vocals. Her version of Honeysuckle Rose is here.


Our second version has a story attached. David Perry tells it in his book Jazz Greats:

"Although he liked the feel of New York and sensed it was the place to be, Charlie (Parker) could only pick up the most demeaning of musical jobs on this trip. Anyway, family called. He received a telegram from his mother telling him to return to Kansas City for the funeral of his father. Charles Parker senior had been knifed in a street fight and had bled to death."


"The funeral was a dismal occasion, but in a musical sense, Charlie's return was well timed. At the very moment when the Reno and the Sunset clubs were being boarded up, the last of the great Kansas City bands was being put together. The moving force was Jay McShann, a boogie-woogie pianist. He and Charlie Parker had met previously, and discovering Bird was in town, McShann offered him a job as lead alto-saxophonist ..."

"... During a tour of the south-west in 1940, McShann was invited by Radio KFBI to make a series of transcriptions. Charlie Parker's first recorded notes date from this session and show just how well developed a musician he had become. On Honeysuckle Rose he combines Lester Young's flow with Art Tatum's attack, and throws in some of the odd tricks with scales that fascinated him. His breathing was already outstandingly well controlled and he stood out as the most promising instrumentalist in McShann's talented band. He was twenty years old."


Jay McShann's recording of Honeysuckle Rose is not of the best quality, but thankfully Charlie Parker's solo stands out clearly. Listen here.

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