Welcome to From Basin St. to Birdland

by mikeconklinmusic


Tin Pan Alley

The American Songbook, compositions that are mostly derived from the Tin Pan Alley tradition, has its origins around 1885. A number of music publishers set up shop on West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. The name, Tin Pan Alley, is a reference to the sound made by many pianos, playing different tunes in this small urban area, that produced a cacophony comparable to banging on tin pans. The musicians who were playing those pianos were deemed “song pluggers.” One famous “song plugger” was George Gershwin.

George Gershwin

The end of Tin Pan Alley’s success fairly nebulous. I suggest that the decline of the era coincided with the end of the Great Depression; most families were spending their quality time being entertained by the phonograph and radio, both of which supplanted sheet music as the driving force of the dissemination of the American popular song.

But prior to the end of the Tin Pan Alley era, Johnny Green composed what would become one of the most popularly used vehicles for jazz improvisation, “Body and Soul.”

Body and Soul

On October 15th of 1930, “Body and Soul” appeared in the Broadway revue, Three’s a Crowd. The show would run for 272 performances with Libby Holman as the vocalist. But, I think the epochal performance was recorded on October 11, 1939 at RCA Studios, New York, NY.

Coleman Hawkins

Here’s the line-up:

Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Gene Rodgers (piano), Tommy Lindsay and Joe Guy (trumpets), Earl Hardy (trombone), Jackie Fields and Eustis More (alto sax), William Oscar Smith (bass), Arthur Herbert (drums).

Below is a clip from NPR, which includes Hawkins’s perspective of jazz upon his return from Europe just prior to this recording.