Way Down Yonder in New Orleans

One of the songs I picked for my recent duo recording with Michael Kanan was Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. Written in 1922 by Turner Layton and Henry Creamer, the African-American songwriting team also responsible for the more well-known After You’ve Gone, Way Down Yonder seems to only really be played by more trad/Dixieland bands now. It’s a fun sequence to improvise over though, with an unusual 28 bar form and a couple of interesting harmonic corners. Here’s a video of Layton himself performing it.

On our recording, Michael and I played Lester Young’s beautiful one-chorus solo on this tune together in unison to finish the performance instead of playing the melody of the song as a more usual ‘head out’. The Pres solo comes from this recording by the Kansas City Six. I suppose us doing that was also a nod to the Lennie Tristano school: Tristano was big on learning classic jazz solos by ear and there are a number of examples of his notable students (such as Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz) incorporating them into actual performances. Here’s Marsh, along with Ted Brown and Art Pepper, with a nod to the classic Young solo on the same tune from this recording with Count Basie.

Click below for a transcription of Lester Young’s Way Down Yonder solo. I’ve transposed it up an octave to make it easier to read.

lester young – way down yonder

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