Tamar Korn introduced a new song to us the other night at The Lost Church (65 Capp Street, San Francisco) — “new” although it was made famous by Marion Harris in 1920: I’M A JAZZ VAMPIRE.
Being a Jazz Vampire circa 1920 had nothing to do with phlebotomy. Rather, a vampire (shortened to “vamp”) was a woman with powerful sexual allure, a femme fatale, a seductress who used her powers for her own advantage. Tamar is far too gentle, too good-natured to take advantage of anyone, so she sings this song with a wink at us. Because it wasn’t always easy to catch the lyrics as they went by, I am reprinting them below — with the patter in the middle of the song, very amusing in itself.
“Say, did you ever hear the saxophone let out an awful moan? / Let out an awful groan? / It makes you feel so nervous, yet it’s great. / It’s the saxophone a-callin’ to his mate. / Lest we forget: the clarinet. / Now listen for a minute and the birth of jazz you’ll hear. / And where there is a little jazz, you’ll always find me near. / For I’m a jazz vampire. / Shake a foot, shake a foot, shake a foot with me and dance, dance. / Dancing is my specialty. / Wise men keep out of my way. / They know I’ll lead ‘em astray. / They fall the minute I sway. / I insist you can’t resist a jazz vampire. / Take a tip, take a tip, take a tip from me. / For I am all that evil music has. / Went down to the river, stood on a bank. / Shook my shoulders and the boats all sank. / For I’m the meanest kind of jazz vampire. / I’m the wicked vampire of the jazz.”
“Get up in the morning and I make the coffee bowl, / Ham and eggs turn over, put the crullers in a hole. / Get upon a trolley car, the car begins to sway, / I sit upon a half a dozen laps to start the day. / I walk into the office and I greet the sauna there. / Six or seven elevators go up in the air. / Sit down at my Remington and syncopate the keys. / The fellow by the water stand gets water on the knees. / The boss dictates a letter: “Dear sir, I’d like to state….” / The man who gets the letter has to stop and hesitate. / Now when the day is over and the sun sets in the west, / Say I’m the only little bird who doesn’t go to rest.”
“For I’m a jazz vampire. / Take a tip, take a tip, take a tip from me / For I am all the evil music has. / I stood by the ocean, no one around, / Shook my shoulders and the sun went down. / For I’m the meanest kind of jazz vampire. / I’m the wicked vampire of the jazz.”
Here is Miss Korn, wicked vampire of the jazz, swinging out with Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass.
Be afraid. Be very afraid!
P.S. If anyone has a copy of the sheet music with the lyrics, feel free to write in with corrections to the online transcription above. Somehow “sauna” strikes me as dubious, although all things are possible. For the first four songs of this glorious evening, click here.
May your happiness increase!