A Blues Serenade
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 Pathé (US) 36535, and on Perfect 14716, c/w “St. Louis Hop” in each case. Haim provides the following link to a .ram audio file of the recording:
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.”
Pianist Frank Signorelli founded the Original Memphis Five with trumpeter Phil Napoleon in 1917. According to Wikipedia, 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 played trombone in The Original Indiana Five, which also recorded as Johnny Sylvester and his Orchestra, Johnny Sylvester and his Playmates, and the Memphis Melody
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. 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, possibly because Glenn Miller’s 1935 arrangement not only included the Parish lyric, but eliminated much of the music found in the earlier recordings, keeping just the melodic middle section, which in the original is a clarinet solo by Lytell, accompanied by Signorelli on piano. Only Signorelli and Parish are credited on the sheet music cover left (date unknown), featuring a photo of bandleader Henry King, who reportedly adopted “A Blues Serenade” as his theme song.
(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.
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 6026 — Johnny Sylvester and his Playmates
- Champion 15203 — Bobby Jones and His Orchestra
- Challenge 234 — Memphis Melody Players
- Silvertone 5024 — Johnson’s Plantation Serenaders
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).
Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, vocal: Smith Ballew — 1935
Crosby recorded two takes of A Blues Serenade on 8 July 1938 with Matty Malneck and his Orchestra.
(below) The provider of the following 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.
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…”
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).
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
Bob Hayward and the Mellotones — early 1950s? — note: I’ve never heard of this band or the bandleader, but a comment at YouTube says,
This recording originates from the album “Pop Serenade”, from label Tops Masterpieces, with a green sleeve. This early 50’s 10″33RPM record started with this wonderful track of Bob Hayward. My grandparents bought this record around their marriage, and I remember i listen to it.
Bill English — self-titled LP, Vanguard VRS-9127, recorded in 1963
Seldon Powell (ts), Dave Burns (tp), Lloyd G.Mayers (p), Martin Revere (b), Bill English (ds)
Philippe Lernould — piano solo, uploaded on 15 November 2007
Simon Ireson — solo on a Roland RD-700sx and using Synthogy Ivory II Bosendorfer grand piano; uploaded on 17 September 2011