Jazz Is On Its Way

by Teresa Jennings/arr. Paul Jennings

There's a fanciful notion that during the great "jazz migration" of the early 1900s, most of the jazz musicians traveled north on the Mississippi River via riverboat (or paddleboat, steamboat, showboat, as you prefer). You could almost see them all on deck playing their instruments to a lilting Dixieland beat while chugging along up the river. While it's a charming idea, it's not exactly true. In fact, most of the migration was actually done on trains. Even so, it's a lot of fun to romanticize, and the trains did run alongside the river, so it's a harmless exaggeration. (The cover of our own big catalog this year featured just such a scene. It's so neat, we decided to make it available as a download that you can use in various ways. You could even use it for the program cover or posters for the revue instead of the one we provide with this issue. Or in addition to. It's up to you! (See page 78 for more details.)

The song "Jazz is On Its Way" refers abstractly to the jazz migration. But it's more about the movement of the music itself into other parts of the country. Once again, you could use it as a talking point in your jazz studies when discussing the expansion of jazz. A few cities are mentioned in the song, but of course, there were others that were significantly affected by this new kind of music. What were they? In what ways did jazz impact them?

To exemplify the sounds of the era, the tune is written in a lively two-beat Dixieland style. As the script points out, Dixieland is another name for Traditional Jazz or New Orleans Jazz. The style is immediately recognizable however, whatever it's called. A "front line" of instruments playing the melody and improvising around it usually incorporates trumpet, trombone, and clarinet – which is what we have also used. The rhythm section keeps a steady beat behind. For our arrangement, we also added a jazz ensemble background, just for fun.

The melody is unison throughout, so it's not too tricky to learn. It kind of comes off like a partner song in a way, voices partnering with the Dixieland soloists. But to be sure each has their moment in the spotlight, the voices go first, then the soloists are featured the second time. The third time, both groups perform together. See? Like a partner song.

During the second time, you have the option of adding patsches (thigh slaps) to keep the kids engaged and moving. The part on the music is a suggestion which you can alter as you like. It's quite basic, but it does have a mini call and response that recurs for a touch of pizzazz. The third time through, the patsching is stopped, but resumes toward the end of the song to bring it on home.

One performance idea we have mentioned on the music would be to have students pretend to play the solo instruments. (Or really have players join in if you have such an option in your situation.) Use real or fake instruments as props. Dress performers in Dixieland garb – strawhats, vests, etc.

When we first produced this song, we thought it would make a really neat solo feature. As it so happened, we had one of our alumni singers – Missy Schott – with us at the time, so we asked her to perform this as a solo. What a treat! We have included the recording as an online extra for you to download and share with your students. (See details on page 75.) If you like the idea, consider using your own soloist. Let her listen to Missy for ideas on how to interpret the style.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.