Tunes on Tuesday: Bye Bye Blackbird

Why this tune?

Bye Bye Blackbird is one of the oldest songs we still play as jazz standards, first recorded in 1926. I expect most jazz fans today will be more with Miles Davis’ 1957 interpretation and later recordings than the first versions from the likes of San Lanin and Nick Lucas “The Crooning Troubadour.”

On Miles’ version, like most others, he skips the verses and only plays the chorus of the song. This leaves some mystery about the identity of the “blackbird” in the title. The “Straight Dope” column unearthed those verses, in which the singer is leaving the big city to go home to her family, saying “bye bye” to the “blackbird singing the blues all day / Right outside of my door.” You can hear some of the first verse on Paul McCartney’s 2012 recording.

I had the pleasure of recording this song at the beautiful Baldwin grand piano at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in Frederiksted St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Thanks to Douglas Canton for recording the performance and editing the video.

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Full piano track

Miles Davis

Paul McCartney

Nick Lucas “The Crooning Troubadour,” 1926

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer in Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology professional working at a small DC nonprofit

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