A new year is upon us! That means it’s time for fresh starts, promises to yourself and promises to others, often known as New Year Resolutions. I generally try to pick an interesting resolution, rather then the stock-standard ones like ‘eat healthier’ or ‘exercise more’ (though those are both good goals, and probably things I should also do). This year I’ve chosen to try something that I’m hoping will go well. It’s a long term resolution; if I do it right it’ll take all year. I’m vowing to publish a new piece of music every week, for free, for everyone to peruse and hopefully perform. This shall be known as Marvellous Musical Monday!
As I’m sure most of you know, it’s now 2019, and that means that 100 years ago the roaring 20s were just about to start. This was the beginning of the Jazz Age, a time which was crucial to the development of jazz as we know it today. It was an ingenious combination of blues and ragtime, with a touch of marching band heritage, that had its roots in the African-American communities of New Orleans. Jazz was a melting pot, and absolutely scandalous at the time. Young adults were listening to syncopated rhythms and cheeky lyrics which horrified their parents, but the young adults of the time just didn’t care. World War I had ended in 1918, and it was the war to end all wars, the Great War, and there would never be another war like that, right? On top of it all, soldiers returning from the war had bought back with them the Spanish Flu (so-called because Spain was one of the only countries to have uncensored media in the wake of the war and therefore talked about the spreading pandemic). While the Spanish flu did stick around until December 1920, the worst was over by early 1919 and the death rate slowed. With everything that had happened, the young adults of the time were feeling pretty lucky, and they wanted a way to celebrate!
So we’re starting off the year with some 20s-style jazz, a genre that I was lucky enough to learn about due to my involvement with the New Empire Ballroom Ragtime Dance Orchestra, Australia’s only authentic 20s jazz orchestra. (As a side note, what make a 20s orchestra authentic is the strings section – violins were an integral part of a jazz orchestra until the mid-30s.) Written by Al Jolson and Vincent Rose, Avalon went soaring to no.2 on the charts of 1921 and continues to be popular in gypsy jazz to this day. People who have recorded Avalon include Bing Crosby, Natalie Cole and Harry Connick Jr, among others.
The arrangement I’ve made is in lead sheet format, and I’ve made it available in two different keys; G for a male singer, or D for a female singer. Both of the original verses are included; the second verse is rarely preformed now but was included in Jolson’s original recording. The wonderful thing about lead sheets is their flexibility; I’ve included everything I think is important in the music but you can do with this information whatever you please!