2 January 2018


Start with a standard 12-bar (12-measure) blues structure in Eb:

Eb | Eb | Eb | Eb7 | Ab | Ab | Eb | Eb | Bb7 | Bb7 | Eb | Eb

Now, just for fun, let us extend it to 16 bars by playing the two Bb7 bars three times:
Eb | Eb | Eb | Eb7 | Ab | Ab | Eb | Eb | Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7  |  Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7 | Eb | Eb

Now let's think about the melody. Over bars 7 and 8 (both Eb bars), let's have the band playing this motif in unison:
Next, over the six Bb7 bars, let's have the clarinet playing this pretty two-bar pattern three times:
The reason why I'm saying all this is that I have been listening to Armand Piron's Red Man Blues (composed in 1925); and the devices I have mentioned are exactly what he uses in the first theme of the piece.
Listen to Piron's Orchestra playing this tune: CLICK HERE; and note in particular the part from 15 seconds until 28 seconds. You will hear what I have been describing. (You can hear it again when it is repeated at 42 seconds and again at 2 minutes 06 seconds and 2 minutes 31 seconds.)

You will note that Red Man Blues has a second theme that actually uses a standard 12-bar blues structure. And the piece then has a kind of 'Interlude' 16-bar third theme featuring the clarinet. It provides contrast by being minor-key in mood (using plenty of Eb minor chords). After this it returns to Theme A in which those tricks I described occur again, leading up to the Coda.

I remember hearing bands in England occasionally playing Red Man Blues in the 1980s and 1990s but I don't recall hearing it played in recent years. I hope it has not dropped out of fashion. It is a very pleasant and pretty number. And it is an important and interesting part of our heritage.