Browsing in my favorite antiquarian second-hand store, eBay, I encountered a 1940 music folio that I’d never seen.  Now, I know that the music in these books is often suspect: “compositions” by a famous artist that (s)he had only a tenuous link to, solos created over songs owned by the publisher of the folio, and so on. Of course, anything connected to Irving Mills is a touch more suspect . . . but here’s the cover:

DUKE Rhythmoods frontWithout being a deep Ellington scholar, I recognized those titles: aside from SOPHISTICATED LADY and CARAVAN, which date from the start and end of the Thirties, the rest come from the Twenties.  But what of RUB-A-TUB-LUES? Did Ellington whistle a blues line to Mills while he (Duke) was bathing?  It’s a mystery. Here’s the first page of the folio, to substantiate even more solidly:

DUKE Rhythmoods inside

It’s perplexing . . . can any Ellington scholars ride to the rescue?

Were I even an amateurish pianist, I would purchase the book (several copies are for sale on eBay) in hope of solving the mystery myself.  But I have to be realistic.

May your happiness increase!

2 responses to ““RHYTHMOODS,” 1940

  1. Interesting folio, Michael. Thanks for sharing. I’d particularly love to know more about Rub-A-Tub-Lues; a blues in ragtime is always of interest.

  2. Well, a look in the Catalog of Copyright Entries shows that Duke copyrighted no less than 22 numbers in 1929. The entry for “Rub-a-tub-lues” shows that it was registered for copyright Feb. 26, 1929 and 2 copies of the published edition were received on March 11, as published by the Mills subsidiary for jazzy material “Gotham Music Service”. I was going to record a literal version of the score for you, but then I found that a pair of pianists have saved me the trouble, with this rather literal 4-hand rendition of the score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vrwmiZ0t-I
    The one of these 1929 copyrights that I’m really interested in seeing is “Swampy River”, which shows as being published by Gotham with two copies received (indicating a published piano score, not just a lead sheet) on January 17. The reason is that a couple of years later, an edition of what I’m convinced is a transcription of Duke’s 1928 piano solo record of that piece came out. Some people have claimed that since the record and the published score are almost identical, that means that Duke was playing from the score! Obviously there are two ways that the published score could be identical with Duke’s playing, with I think the far more likely being that the published score with a later date is a transcription of the record. My bet is that the first, 1929 publication of the piece is a simple arrangement just like the published “Rub-a-tub-lues” score is, along with all the other scores in this folio. Except the arrangement by Lou Singer of “Caravan” and that of “Sophisticated Lady” by James Matte, which are fancied up significantly from the original simple editions. As far as I know, all of the original publications of Ellington tunes in this period are simple and don’t bear too much resemblance to the way Duke would have played them. The flip side of the “Swampy River” record is “Black Beauty” as a piano solo, and that one I have the original published arrangement. It indeed is pretty painfully simplified (and shortened), as was the practically universal practice in those days. It wasn’t until the 1940s that music publishers started to occasionally come out with more elaborate arrangements, which clearly were transcriptions of records or in some cases unreleased acetates done by some really ace guys, like the amazing Morris Feldman and, almost but not quite as good, Frank Paparelli. We get a glimpse of the elusive Mr. Feldman in the preface to “Errol Garner: five original piano solos” (Capitol Songs, 1950), where it says “These solos were transcribed by Morris Feldman, an outstanding man in the field. Garner heard these played by Feldman and were amazed at their accuracy.” I’ll bet he was!

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