Every once in a while, a song gets lodged so firmly in my mind's ear that it plays itself consistently for years. While this may be some sort of occupational hazard, I think everyone can relate to the ol' ear worm dilemma. Stuck In My Head is an ongoing series of posts about my experience with this, from the perspective of someone who hears AND plays these dastardly catchy melodies.
Minor Swing. An old melody, and a simple chord progression, yet one of the most recognizable and "sticky" tunes of all time. It's been performed by countless jazz groups over the decades, and remains both a unique vehicle for improvisation and a sonic time capsule.
When my PSU Faculty group The New Dimension performed this tune back in 2009, we made a point to stay loyal to Django (and his compatriot, violinist Stephan Grappelli)'s vision. Saxophonist and Director of Jazz Dan Yoder went so far as to arrange Grappelli's original melodic interlude as a fine bridge section across guitar, piano and saxophone.
Like any good Jazz Standard, Minor Swing continues to inspire new interpretations. Spurred by this tradition of tinkering with classic tunes, the Alex Radus Trio recently released a 21st century contrefact entitled "We Can't Play Like Django". Featuring Dave Cahill on the very Reinhardt-esque acoustic guitar, the trio keeps the "gypsy jazz" vibe alive while injecting contemporary vocal and melodic stylings.
So maybe it's stuck in my head because I've played a few too many times? Maybe it's that infectious walk-down on the bass? Or the delicate simplicity of the melody? Perhaps the kickin' uptempo French/Roma swing feel is the culprit? Either way, it's a great tune, and I hope it'll continue to get hear, interpreted, and stuck in people's heads for generations to come.
"We Can't Play Like Django" is the first single from Alex Radus's new album Jewels & Tinware, set for release in September 2014. Buy the single now on iTunes.
"Minor Swing" is part of a PBS Special entitled New York Cool, which aired in the winter of 2008/2009. You can see the program both here and at WPSU's website.