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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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In Tune               November 2007

"Breaks" in Jazz

passage or introduces a solo,”[Essentials of Music, glossary – online]; and
passage or introduces a solo,”[Essentials of Music, glossary – online]; and

“an instrumental or percussion section or interlude during a song derived from or related to
stop-time – being a ‘break’ from the main parts of the song,” [Wikipedia – online].
Perhaps the most enduring discussion of the importance of “breaks” in jazz comes from
Alan Lomax’s interview with Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton for the Library of Congress in
1938. Morton said:
…You may notice that in playing jazz, the breaks are one of the most essential
things that you can ever do in jazz. Without breaks and without clean breaks,
without beautiful ideas in breaks, you don’t need to even think about doin’
anything  else. If you can’t have a decent break, you haven’t got a jazz band,
or you can’t even play jazz….Without breaks you have nothing. Even if a tune
have [sic] no breaks in it, it is always necessary to arrange some kind of spot
to make a break. Because without a break, as I said before, you haven’t gotten
jazz….When you make the break – that means all the band break, with maybe one,
two, or three instruments. It depends on how the combination is arranged…”

Breaks can be inserted in the performance of any tune at the whim of the band’s players or
leader simply by the verbal or non-verbal communication of understood words or signals
during the playing of a tune. However, there are a large number of jazz tunes for which
arranged breaks are peculiar to the melody. Here are a few which you can whistle or hum
and hear the breaks:

TIGER RAG- is credited to Nick LaRocca, Larry Shields and the Original Dixieland
Jazz band in 1918. However, in 1908 this melody was referred to as “Play Jack Carey”    by
Allen’s Brass Band of Algiers, Louisiana. In an article in the Dec.2001, issue of the British
Periodical Jazz Journal, Nick LaRocca is quoted as once saying he took a few bars of “The
Holy City,” a few bars from “La Paloma” and a few from “The National Emblem  March”
and made “Tiger Rag.”

JAZZ ME BLUES-by Tom Delaney who also wrote “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This
Morning.” It was first introduced by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in 1923. Bix and the
Wolverines recorded it in 1924, for Gennett.

FIDGETY FEET – This is another 1918 piece by LaRocca, Shields and the ODJB.
Its first strain is based on the harmonies of the cake-walk of 1897. The ODJB recorded it in
1918 just prior to their leaving for Europe.

NEW ORLEANS STOMP – written in 1922 or 23 by Alphonse Picou who sent this
number to King Oliver in Chicago. Oliver recorded the tune for Columbia in 1923. It was
later recorded by clarinetist Johnny Dodds and his Blackbottom Stompers               
in 1927 with Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines.

POTATO HEAD BLUES – written in 1927 by Louis Armstrong who also popularized it with
his Hot Seven as one of his most outstanding trumpet solos.

KING OF THE ZULUS – this tune was written in 1926, by Lil Hardin Armstrong  (Louis’
wife). It was popularized by Louis and his Hot Five.