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What You Didn’t Blue Bossa Know-va

I don’t know if Blue Bossa is the jazz song I’ve spent most time playing but, if you could add up all the minutes spent performing it, the song would surely be up there with the front runners. It is the staple of many a jazz jam and is the kind tune members of an audience will recognise in an instrumental set even if they can’t pin a name on it. According to Rachel Bronstein though, there is more to it than I thought.

In her article, Blue Bossa: What You Don’t Know About the Standard, she notes that Kenny Dorham’s original composition is all about the bassline (music to my ears!) and not the descending melody. Rather than laying back on the tune for a mellow bossa feel, early recordings start with the bass pushing ahead with a fast swing bop. She illustrates with early recordings and then shows how later versions by artists such as Dexter Gordon stamped a different, more laid back feel over the original.

Anyway, that has given me a piece to work on for my jazz homework. Leaning into the curves of the original is a harder workout on the double bass than just sitting back and letting the horns do their thing but I’d like to get it down so that, next time it’s called, I can stoke a fire down in the engine room.

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