Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A song by any other name...

The name always bothered me.

Guaraldi had an occasional tendency to recycle his own compositions, sometimes under new titles ... much to the hair-pulling frustration of discographers. "Ginza Samba," which popped up on 1958's The Cal Tjader/Stan Getz Sextet, is pretty much the same as plain ol' "Ginza," which debuted on 1956's Modern Music from San Francisco (Guaraldi's first album as a combo leader). "Air Music," a bouncy little track originally recorded for TV's A Charlie Brown Christmas — but not included on the soundtrack album — also is known as "Surfin' Snoopy," reflecting the tune's later use behind Snoopy's imaginative effort to hang paws on the end of his surfboard ... in a wading pool.

And then there's "Casaba," alternately known as "Jambo's."

"Casaba" opens 1964's Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete & Friends, the first of the jazz pianist's three collaborative albums with the Brazilian guitarist. The eight-minute tune, which reflects Guaraldi's sense of compositional whimsy, boasts sparkling interplay between his single-note runs and Sete's graceful guitar work. The tune resurfaced on 1970's Alma-Ville, the third of Guaraldi's albums for Warner Bros., and the last LP he recorded during his lifetime. This time, however, it was retitled — rather oddly — as "Jambo's." Percussionist Rubens Bassini highlights this latter-day version of the tune, which evokes the same bossa nova atmosphere that Sete had given it six years earlier.

But that name ... who or what was Jambo's?

Jimbo's would have made much more sense, given all the happy hours Guaraldi spent at the after-hours San Francisco club that took its name — Jimbo's Bop City — from John "Jimbo" Edwards, the cool cat who ran the place from 1950 to '65. I learned quite a lot about that venue while researching my book, with most of the information coming from filmmaker Carol P. Chamberland's excellent 1998 documentary, The Legend of Bop City, and an extensive article she wrote for the fall 1996 issue of California History.

Surely Guaraldi would have honored Edwards with a song, and surely the so-called "Jambo's" must have been that song. But how to prove as much?

This sounded like a job for the U.S. Library of Congress, and its musical composition copyright deposits. And, indeed, it was.

Click here to see a larger image.
On October 20, 1961, Guaraldi filed a copyright claim for an original composition titled "Jimbo's." The copyright deposit — the page of music filed to identify the song — displays a melody line that can be recognized instantly as "Casaba"/"Jambo's."

Two years later, almost to the day — on October 14, 1963 — Guaraldi filed a copyright claim for "Casaba." That page of music displays an identical melody line, allowing for minor variations on how long individual notes were to be held. "Casaba," then, was the title used when Guaraldi and Sete debuted the recorded version of the tune on their first collaborative LP.

Why, we wonder at this late remove, the change of heart, title-wise? And for that matter, why file a second copyright? What had changed, aside from the title?

The song's owner, that's what.

Prior to this most recent bit of research, I was under the impression that Guaraldi had issued only two songs — "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and "Alma-Ville" — under the Friendship Music banner, the partnership he had formed with Trident club manager Frank Werber. An exhaustive examination of the Library of Congress' Guaraldi copyright registrations, however, reveals that Friendship also represented "Jimbo's" ... but not for long. By the time Guaraldi and Sete recorded their album, the song belonged to Felfar Music, one of the many shell entities that Fantasy Records' Sol and Max Weiss employed to conceal their control of the pianist's work. We'll never know why Guaraldi chose to re-title the song at that point, but he did.

Click here to see a larger image.
And he didn't immediately arrive at that new choice, either. The sheet music deposit for "Casaba" shows this to be a replacement title, written beneath a crossed-out "Cashasa." Cashasa — also spelled cachaca — is one of Brazil's most popular distilled spirits (390 million gallons consumed annually!), fermented from sugar cane juice and ripened to somewhere between 70 and 100 proof. The connection is obvious: Bola Sete, Brazil, bossa nova, cachaca. 

A casaba is a melon that hails from Turkey. Not much of a link there.

Why "Casaba," then, instead of "Cashasa"? Hey, we'll never know that answer, either.

Which brings us back to the title employed when Guaraldi re-recorded the tune on his final Warner Bros. album.

There is no Library of Congress copyright registration for "Jambo's," which suggests this might have been ... a typographical error on somebody's part. Guaraldi himself? The person responsible for the album liner notes and disc song titles? If the latter, you'd certainly think Guaraldi would have caught such a mistake, particularly since it seemed his intention, in 1970, to finally acknowledge Jimbo Edwards and his club.

My good research buddy Doug — who has assisted greatly with these copyright investigations — points to Guaraldi's occasionally tendency toward wordplay (as with "Coffee and Doe Nuts"), and suggests that perhaps the jazz pianist made a droll portmanteau word out of Jimbo's and jam (as in jazz jam), and arrived at "Jambo's." That's a much more romantic option than an unfortunate spelling mistake, but — as with Casaba and Cashasa — the truth remains lost to time.

But this much is certain: As originally composed and registered as "Jimbo's" in 1961, Guaraldi clearly intended this tune to honor John Edwards and Jimbo's Bop City ... which I long suspected and now can safely accept as fact.


Speaking of the album Alma-Ville...

I'm issuing a call to the Internet Group Mind: Let's see if anybody out there can help answer a few questions about this album.

1) Any thoughts of the significance of the title? (Both the LP title, and of course the song of the same name, which debuted back on 1962's Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus.)

2) Who is the kid in the photo?

3) Where was the picture taken ... and what are those things behind and beneath him?

Enquiring minds want to know...


Duggadugdug said...

Regarding your query about the enigmatic front cover of Alma-Ville: According to the liner notes, the front "cover photo and art direction" were done by Ed Thrasher, who unfortunately died back in 2006: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/24/obituaries/24thrasher.html

As to the title, the hypothesis in your September 2013 entry (http://impressionsofvince.blogspot.com/2013/09/whats-in-name.html) is the best one I've heard. Barring new evidence to the contrary, I'm convinced -- it's probably a Palo Alto allusion from back when the song Alma-Ville was composed, circa 1962.

Unknown said...

The Spanish and Portuguese meaning for "alma" is soul. That would make it "soul-ville". Or more soulfully stated, "newborn who nourishes or lifts the spirit". If a male philosopher landed on the beach, the meaning could be closer to "lady love". When I played the Black Orpheus album for one of my folkie guitarist friends as a teenager, she said the intro sounded like a video game. To my ears, it sounds like a rambunctious girl running around on the sand, stopping occasionally to see the expressions of onlookers. I'd say a receiver for a tribute, is a Miss Dia G, who was 2 years old.