Sandy Brown Jazz

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Take Two

Doctor Jazz




Take Two



Doctor Jazz is one of those songs that has remained popular over many, many years. Perhaps because it is a good tune, but perhaps particularly because of the sentiments in the lyrics where the verse says it all. It seems especially appropriate as we begin to come out of Covid-19 lockdown.

It was written by King Oliver back in 1926. Some references say that the lyrics are by Walter Melrose, but other references say that Melrose included his name as co-composer simply because he was the music publisher, 'as was often his practice'. I am not including the King Oliver version in this Take Two, but you can listen to it here. That was an instrumental recording.





As far as the lyrics are concerned, most recordings go straight into the chorus, but here is the verse that introduces the song:


Everybody gets the blues now and then, and don't know what to do
I've had it happen many, many times to me [or before], and so have you.
But those days have gone and past, I found out what to do at last,
When I feel all down and out, You will hear me shout:


Wikipedia has a helpful paragraph about Jelly Roll Morton's recording, also from 1926: 'Doctor Jazz, as a record made by Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers in 1926, is a prime example of early New Orleans jazz counterpoint and collective improvisation. The number of special features, pre-written stop-time breaks and improvised solo passages in this record yield a tapestry of musical contrasts. Jazz was producing significant accomplishments in its other aspects, such as the development of the soloist, but the specifically New Orleans jazz style of collective counterpoint playing would reach its apotheosis here and in a few other 1926-7 Morton recordings.' I am not featuring Jelly Roll's recording either in this Take Two, but you can listen to it here. In this version we get the lyrics, sung by Jelly Roll, or at least the chorus.



Chorus: Oh, Hello Central, give me Doctor Jazz,
He's got just what I need, I'll say he has.
When the world goes wrong, and I've got the blues,
He's the man who makes me get out both my dancing shoes.


There are plenty of versions of Doctor Jazz to listen to on YouTube, including a rather restrained version (for him) by Woody Herman (click here). However, I have chosen two videos that in their own different ways, each convey a joyfulness in their performance.

The first is from 1961 by Lil Hardin Armstrong and Mae Barnes. It seems appropriate that Lil Hardin plays this King Oliver tune although by 1926 she was no longer with his band. Mae Barnes was a jazz singer, dancer and comic entertainer. She was responsible for introducing the Charleston dance to Broadway in the 1924 revue Runnin' Wild. After a career on Broadway and in variety, she was still recording in the late 1950s / early 1960s, including a self titled album with a group led by Buck Clayton. In this video she is putting everything into a performance of Doctor Jazz:





The more I get, the more I want, it seems.
I page old Doctor Jazz in all my dreams,
When I'm trouble bound and mixed, He's the guy that gets me fixed,
Hello, Central, give me Doctor Jazz.


The second video is of the Oldfish Jazz Band busking in Bologna in 2017. Although very different, there is again that sense of joy that seems to convey itself to the passers by:




Out of Berlin, the Old Fish Jazz Band describe themselves as 'an international band of buddies that shares a passion for old time stompy jazz'. I should have included their 2016 album Here Comes The Garbage Man in my article uwrapping the tune Call Of The Freaks, but let's be grateful for their remedy here.


Doctor Jazz poster




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Other pages you might find of interest :

More Take Two
Tracks Unwrapped
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2020


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