[Dixielandjazz] Prettiest melody contest

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Mon Mar 2 15:28:34 PST 2009

Jim Kashishian commented and asked about Ken Gates nomination "New  
> .......one of the best, but I have also heard from those that go ape  
> over chord progressions, that New Orleans is
> exceptional.  So, is it tops in melody & chord progressions, thereby  
> covering both sides of the coin?
> And, was the melody or chord progression written first?  Was the  
> creation the chords with the melody laid over the top, or was it the  
> melody first
> with the chords accompanying it?

Dear Jim,
You may be interested in Richard Sudhalter's comments in his 2002 book  
'Stardust Melody. The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael'.
The following is the extract from page 151:
"One outstanding 1932 item is "New Orleans", celebrating another  
southern locale its composer never visited. Built on the same chord  
sequence that underpins the bridge, or middle section, of such  
standards as "You Took Advantage Of Me"and "Wrap You Troubles In  
Dreams", it is a jazzman's melody in its shape and note choices, a  
sixteen-bar improvisation.
  But as performed briskly on record by Bennie Moten's Kansas City  
band (= 124) and even faster by the Casa Loma Orchestra (= 132), it  
seems awkward, its sing-songy, dotted-eighth-and-sixteenth-note melody  
marching along with dismaying rigidity. Neither Ben Webster's rubato  
tenor sax solo on the Moten record or Gene Gifford's rich scoring on  
the Casa Loma succeeds entirely in breaking the rhythmic lockstep.
  The tempo, though all but required for dancing in 1932, was  
demonstrably wrong for this melody and may account for the song's  
failure to catch on until 1938, when the composer found his own  
solution: singing "New Orleans" in a recorded duet with Scottish  
"Highland Harlequin: Ella Logan, he slowed it down to a more leisurely  
(= 96), allowing the words to elasticize the melody. That has since  
been the convention, producing heartfelt, even slower-tempo, records  
by many jazz stylists, among them -memorably- cornetist Bobby Hackett  
and trombone master Jack Teagarden."

Therein Jim, may lie your answer.
The quoted Moten version, with vocal by Jimmy Rushing, can be accessed  
You will need to search collections for the others, which I have.
Kind regards,

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