A Blues Serenade

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page published, 25 November 2013; latest edit: 16 June 2018

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A Blues Serenade (Frank Signorelli, Vincent Grande, Jimmy Lytell, Mitchell Parish)

According to a forum message titled “At the same session that “Song of the Wanderer”…” posted by Albert Haim at the Bixography Forum (Network54.com), “The first recording of “A Blues Serenade” is by Frank Signorelli and His Orchestra, waxed on Aug 27, 1926.” Matrix 107071 was issued on (US) Pathé / Actuelle 36535, and on Perfect 14716, c/w “St. Louis Hop” in each case, and both HonkingDuck.com and The Online Discographical Project (78discography.com) date the recording 1 August 1926, not 27 August 1926. As of 16 June 2018, I haven’t found a playable copy of the August 1926 Signorelli recording.*

1926 A Blues Serenade (Signorelli, Grande, Lytell)The next recording I’m aware of is the 28 December 1926 instrumental by the Original Memphis Five. Six days later, on 3 January 1927, Johnny Sylvester and his Playmates recorded an instrumental version which was issued as the B-side of Gennett 6026, with the songwriters credited on the label as “Signorelli — Grande — Lytell.”

The Composers

  • Frank Signorelli — Pianist Frank Signorelli founded the Original Memphis Five with trumpeter Phil Napoleon in 1917.
  • Jimmy Lytell — According to the Wikipedia page on the Original Memphis Five (see link above), clarinetist Jimmy Lytell was a member of the band from 1922 to 1925, yet he plays the solo on the 28 December 1926 recording.
  • Vincent Grande — Trombonist Vincent Grande was  a member of The Original Indiana Five, which also released recordings under the band names Johnny Sylvester and his Orchestra, Johnny Sylvester and his Playmates, the Memphis Melody Players, Bobby Jones and His Orchestra, and Johnson’s Plantation Serenaders.

A vocal version of “A Blues Serenade” was recorded in 1935 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, featuring a lyric written by Mitchell Parish, sung by Smith Ballew. Miller’s 1935 arrangement eliminated much of the music found in the earlier recordings, keeping just1935 A Blues Serenade, Henry King (photo)-d10 the melodic middle section, which in the original is a clarinet solo by Lytell, accompanied by Signorelli on piano. Other artists to record the song include Bing Crosby (1938), Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (1938), Sarah Vaughan (1952), Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra, and Anita O’Day (LP “Waiter, Make Mine Blues“, 1961).

Some recordings credit the music to Frank Signorelli alone. Signorelli and Parish are credited on the sheet music cover at left (date unknown), featuring a photo of bandleader Henry King, who adopted “A Blues Serenade” as his theme song.

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Original Memphis Five 1az

(above) The Original Memphis Five — left to right: Phil Napoleon, Frank Signorelli, Miff Mole, Jimmy Lytell, Jack Roth

The Original Memphis Five — recorded in New York on 28 December 1926, and issued on the Victor label; features a clarinet solo by Jimmy Lytell, accompanied by Frank Signorelli on piano — See the Red Hot Jazz Archive articles on the band, and on Frank Signorelli.

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1927 A Blues Serenade-Gennett 6026-B-c21927 A Blues Serenade-Challenge 234-B

Johnny Sylvester and his Playmates (pseudonym for The Original Indiana Five) — recorded on 3 January 1927 (matrix X0432) and issued as the B-side of Gennett 6026, with “There Ain’t No Maybe In My Baby’s Eyes” by Harry Pollock’s Diamonds on the A-side. It was also issued under the pseudonym the Memphis Melody Players as the B-side of Challenge 234, and on other labels under still more pseudonyms.

According to a 4 January 2016 post at the site Gennett Records Discography, titled January 4th in Gennett History, 1927: Johnny Sylvester and His Playmates recorded “A Blues Serenade”, and the evidence at the 78discography links in the list below, the same recording (matrix X0432) was released on the following label/catalog number and pseudonym combinations:

Gennett Records Discography credits the performance of the music on X0432 to following the musicians:

Johnny Sylvester (c), Mike Martini (tb), Andy Sannella, Larry Abbott, and Jimmy Lytell (sax/cl), Henry Vanicelli (p), Joe Tarto (bs), Lou de Fabbia (bjo), and Ted Napoleon (d)

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Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, vocal: Smith Ballew — 1935

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On the “About this recording” page regarding the Naxos Jazz Legends compilation album THEMES OF THE BIG BANDS: Drifting and Dreaming (1934-1945) is the following mini-bio of Henry King:

1935 A Blues Serenade, Henry King (photo)-d10Classically-trained, New York-born Henry King (1906-1974) formed his own piano-led, violin-orientated, society and ballroom sweet band in the early 1930s. Although for a time resident at the Los Angeles Biltmore, the King orchestra toured to San Francisco, Denver, Memphis, New Orleans and Houston and became very popular on radio (King later claimed to have recorded more than 5,000 broadcasts for various networks). From 1933, he recorded for Vocalion, Victor, Columbia and Decca until the 1950s (with five pre-1949 hits in the U.S. Top Ten).

See also the Wikipedia page: Henry King.

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Henry King and Orchestra , vocal: Joe Sudy — recorded on 2 August 1936 (mx DLA 504-A); issued on Decca 1063, as the B-side of “My Day Begins and Ends with You”

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Henry King and Orchestra — recording date unknown, presumably in the 1930s; issued on the 78rpm EP Tops R 1007-49 (R 1007), probably in the late 1950s

VBR MP3 file (9.0MB) from archive.org:

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Bing Crosby_1_bf

Bing Crosby with Matty Malneck and his Orchestra — Two matrixes, from separate takes during the 8 July 1938 recording session, are listed in the “Commercial Recordings – The Decca Years” page of the Bing Discography at Bing Magazine.

  • Matrix DLA1311-A (2:59) — issued on Decca 1933, as the B-side of “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams” (m. James V. Monaco, w. John Burke), A-side recorded with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra
  • Matrix DLA1311-C (2:50), released in 1985 on the compilation album Just For Fun, Broadway Intermission BR-134

Decca 1933 B-side:

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Unless the provider cut it short, the recording in the following video is shorter than Matrix DLA1311-C by about 15 seconds, so it may be from a third take. In this take, Crosby goes off-key on the last line and then curses, saying, “What the hell happened to me? Son of a bitch…”

The provider of the video may have confused “A Blues Serenade” with the song “Serenade in Blue” (m. Harry Warren, w. Mack Gordon), a 1942 standard. The label bears the proper song title, handwritten, but the video is titled “Serenade in Blue”. In fairness, had the words been written when the music was, the title probably would have been “Serenade in Blue”, or possibly “My Serenade in Blue”, which are the last four words of each “A” section of the chorus.

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Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra, vocal: Leon “Cappy” LaFell — recorded on 1 August 1938; issued on Vocalion 4309, c/w “Jitterbug’s Lullaby,” and on (UK) Parlophone R.3178, as the B-side of “Lost in Meditation” — Note: In the description of the video content, the provider apparently incorrectly attributes to this recording the date and musician credits, plus vocalist Scat Powell, of the 4 August 1938 Duke Ellington recording (see below).

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Duke Ellington 1a

Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra — recorded 4 August 1938, matrix M880 (M880-1, according to ellingtonweb.ca), and issued on Brunswick m8221, b/w “Hip Chic,” the flip side recorded 9 August with the same personnel; also issued on (France) Swing 318, evidently as the B-side of “Hip Chic”

Rex Stewart, c; Wallace Jones, Cootie Williams, t; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, tb; Juan Tizol, vtb; Barney Bigard, cl, ts; Johnny Hodges, as, ss; Otto Hardwick, as, cl; Harry Carney, bs, cl, as; Duke Ellington, p; Fred Guy, g; Billy Taylor, b; Sonny Greer, d

.

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Sarah Vaughan, 1954-1Sarah Vaughan, London, 1953

Sarah Vaughan with Percy Faith and his Orchestra — recorded on 5 January 1953; issued on 13 March 1953 on Columbia 39963, as the B-side of “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”

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Philippe Lernould — piano solo, uploaded on 15 November 2007

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Simon Ireson — solo on a Roland RD-700sx and using Synthogy Ivory II Bosendorfer grand piano; uploaded on 17 September 2011

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* I find that none of the links to ram audio files provided by Haim, in the page cited and linked to above, work. Most of them lead to 404 (file not found) errors, and while the link to the 1926 Signorelli recording allows a file to be downloaded, three different media players that I’ve tried cannot play the file.

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