Friday, February 24, 2017

Pour: Coffee and Tea Edition

The Ink Spots: The Java Jive


Manhattan Transfer: The Java Jive


I will always associate this song with being excused from gym class. It happened in my senior year of high school. I had sung in the men’s chorus, (which was a way of getting out of homeroom), for three years, and the conductor urged me in my junior year to take choir as well. I also took choir as a senior, but I never even considered taking Schola Cantorum. This was the elite small singing group and class, and I never thought I would be good enough. I was, however, a rarity in high school especially, a true basso profundo, a low bass. I could sing notes below the staff with authority. So it happened in the middle of my senior year that one of the basses in Schola Cantorum broke his leg in a skiing accident, and could not perform with the group for the rest of the year. My choir teacher, who also taught Schola, basically strong-armed me into the group. He even got me excused from gym for the remainder of the year, which meant I got credit for nine classes in an eight period day. Java Jive was the first song I learned with the new group.

Java Jive was originally done by the Ink Spots, as presented here. I did not know that until years later. When I found the Manhattan Transfer version, I thought my search was over. In fact, I don’t think Manhattan Transfer has ever done an original song, but they do have a marvelous way with covers. Their Java Jive starts out being pretty faithful to the Ink Spots, but, at the bridge where they start listing the beans, they begin to make the song their own, and they take it out in style. The original lyric here says, “unless it is a cheery cheery bean”, which I have to assume was period slang. Manhattan Transfer’s pronunciation here is muddy, and some later versions sing it as the nonsensical, “chili chili bean.” I have never tried using coffee beans in chili, and I don’t expect to.

Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights: I’m a Little Teapot

Finally, our theme would not be complete without a version of I’m a Little Teapot. I have played the hero here, wading through some truly appalling examples of how bad children’s music can be to find this one. It’s a bit obscure now, and I could not find a purchase link. But this one was a big band hit in 1940. There was a dance that went with it, the Teapot Tip. The song was written a year earlier, and a dance that was more appropriate for very young children, and also easier, was also created at that time. I don’t have all of the details, but I believe the kids’ version was basically the moves that kids do to the song to this day. If you have ever sat through the preschooler portion of a dance school recital, you know the moves I mean. Meanwhile, in my big band version, I believe the singer is Ronnie Kelton. This is the only version of the song I could find that includes the lyrics about Napoleon.

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