Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Old Westbury Web Radio at stjamesinfirmary.net

Here is something unusual; maybe you can explain it to me.

Residing at the web page stjamesinfirmary.net is a web radio show that can be downloaded. The shows feature a variety of songs ranging from middle-of-the-road pop music to old blues songs, and much in between. The selections are certainly interesting, and could only have been selected by a true music fan. A true music fan?? What do I mean by that? Well, look at the lists and I have no doubt that you will agree with me.

Each show (there must now be over fifty of them) is divided into two parts, in which the first (or occasionally second) song of the first part is "St. James Infirmary." The really odd thing is that the "St. James Infirmary" in the various broadcasts is always, without exception, the one recorded by Alan Toussaint. Actually, Toussaint's 2009 version is one of my favourite recent recordings of "St. James Infirmary," along with Van Morrison's (2003) and Hugh Laurie's (2011). The shows are recorded at 128 kbps.

But, hey, the dj - a dentist by the name of Michael J. Mand - talks over Toussaint's piano at the beginning of the broadcasts, in fact chats with his audience (in an informal, meandering - appealing - way) before moving into the subsequent playlist, which really is a fascinating cornucopia of popular music past and present. Check out the site, listen for a while; I am sure you will discover something you like.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More copyright questions: "Grist for the Mills"

Ratzo B. Harris
Well, this seems to be a day for copyright issues! Hours after I had written the article below, I received - from one of my readers - a link to another discussion that muses about copyright

The "Mills" in the title above refers, no doubt, to Irving Mills. And that part of the title is also the title (are you following?) of an article by bassist Ratzo B. Harris. The article concerns a number of things, in part a confession of a painful misunderstanding, but ends up discussing concerns about how financial difficulty or professional relationships can result in misattributed copyright assignments. (From another article by Ratzo Harris, but pertinent to this discussion: "there is the problem of whether something agreed to vis-à-vis economic coercion is actually a matter of mutual consent.")

For those unfamiliar with the music of Duke Ellington - who figures prominently in this article - let me say here that Billy Strayhorn was a gifted composer, pianist, and arranger who was, for many years, part of the Duke Ellington organization. While he and Ellington worked closely together, it is often difficult to determine which compositions Strayhorn originated (and were credited as a collaboration between Ellington and Strayhorn), which ones Ellington originated and Strayhorn modified (but for which Ellington retained copyright credit), and so on. In the same way, sort of, that there is controversy over how much Irving Mills contributed to the many Ellington tunes on which he receives co-composer credit (likely more than is generally opined).

Okay, here I shall take a deep breath. And let Ratzo B. Harris tell his own story. His article can be found here, at The New Music Box website: "Grist For The Mills"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Copyright article - from "Brain Pickings"

Maria Popova
Readers of this blog will be aware that the history of "St. James Infirmary" is intimately entangled with issues of copyright. There is an argument, easily sustained, that rigid copyright law is antithetical to a culture's creative evolution - and, by extension, contributes to stagnation and decline.

I have just encountered an article from . . . well, a most interesting blog called "Brain Pickings," managed by Maria Popova. The article can be found here: Transformation As Authorship. Well-written and concise, it is definitely recommended reading.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saxophone sheet music for St. James Infirmary


I recently had a request to show the sheet music scans I have for the saxophone section of the orchestra, in the 1929 arrangement that Fred Van Eps made for the Gotham Music Service - aka Mills Music.

There are actually several saxophone parts, so I shall include them all here. At the top of this entry is the 1st saxophone part, written for alto sax.

The also sax also served as the third saxophone, and that music is immediately below:


And, finally, the music for the 2nd saxophone, written for tenor sax:


All these images should enlarge if you click on them.