Thursday, June 21, 2007

Miss Brown to You, Billie Holiday

Miss Brown to You, Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra, July 2, 1935

Song by Leo Robin / Richard Whiting / Ralph Rainger

Roy Eldridge, trumpet

Benny Goodman, clarinet

Ben Webster, tenor sax

Teddy Wilson, piano

John Truehar, guitar

John Kirby, bass

Cozy Cole. drums

Billie Holiday, vocal

Note…two clich├ęs of the Swing era:…that the title of the song is often the final lyric of the a phrases, and that cuts often end with the drum shot. There are also here the beginnings of a particular Holiday vocal signature or mannerism—she fades at the end of a phrase, without cutting the line off precisely. In the cuts to come, this turns into a downward glissando (slide) at the ends of phrases, usually to emphasize the final word of the line as well as the end of the musical phrase.

Listen especially… to Holiday’s timbre, to her delivery, and to her command of phrasing. She could ride any tempo and make it sound either effortless or hot, as she wanted. She had an unbeatable sense of rhythm, though less explosive than Louis Armstrong’s… Her interplay with the instrumentalists in the group was real jazz give-and-take, and her sense of phrasing, or placement of the lines, was the equal of anyone’s. (Jazz: A Listener’s Guide, James McCalla, 56)

With this song you can clearly feel the solidity of the AABA structure: repetition (AA), contrast (B) and return (final A). The players

Intro 0 – 5

Benny Goodman solo for a couple of bars

First AABA chorus 6 – 54

Benny Goodman with Teddy Wilson doing filligrees in the background. The tempo is somewhat stately, the pitch is in the middle register. The first A is from 6 - 17. The second A from 18 - 29. The bridge comes in at 30 – 41, and Goodman does some nice, firm things to establish the contrasting material of the bridge before Teddy Wilson contributes his return to the final 8.

Second AABA chorus 55 – 1:42

Billie Holiday vocal, Ben Webster in obbligato quietly in the background during the first 16 bars (AA) and Roy Eldridge comes in with his obbligato at the bridge.


Who do you think is comin' to town?
You'll never guess who!
Lovable, huggable Emily Brown
Miss Brown to you! (1:06)


What if the rain comes pattering down?
My heaven is blue
Can it be sending me Emily Brown?
Miss Brown to you! (1:18)


I know her eyes will thrill ya
But go slow, oh, oh
Don't you all get too familiar (1:31)

At the bridge Webster lays out on the obbligato accompaniment and Eldridge steps in on muted trumpet.


Why do you think she's comin' to town?
Just wait and you'll see
The lovable little Miss Brown to you
Is baby to me (1:42)
Yes, yes

Third AABA chorus 1:42 – 2:32

Teddy Wilson solos on next chorus, and she says “Knock it down” in front of the bridge at 2:03, the final A returning around 2:24.

Da capo return to conclude with BA 2:33 –3:03

Roy Eldridge trumpet solo takes them out on the final eight with the others filling in.

We see, then, that the four parts of the AABA chorus are tossed around from player to player, and that the final chorus may consist of only the BA sections.