Friday, August 21, 2015

Comienza el Beguine - Begin The Beguine

Cole Porter at the piano (1930s)
Cole Porter composed Begin The Beguine and also wrote the lyrics, the song had its debut in Cole Porter’s musical comedy Jubilee in 1935. It was reputedly the longest popular song ever written of 108 bars while the conventional length for a song normally is 32 bars. The song later became a hit for bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw, who recorded his instrumental version for Bluebird in 1938.
Bluebird, B-7746-B
Artie Shaw and his orchestra recorded Begin The Beguine on July 24 1938 as the B-side of the shown Bluebird B-7746, the A-side had Shaw's version of Indian Love Call. About the same time was recorded a soundie (short film of live performance of the song) where the song was presented -it has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here

Artie Shaw's instrumental version of Begin The Beguine soon became the standard arrangement of the music. The song had only little in common with the original biguine,  Shaw's arrangement is in the fox trot style (- slow fox may be the right denomination) and addressed dancers of the swing era. However, Begin The Beguine was a hit, and in the 1940s it became a jazz standard recorded by Benny Goodman, Glen Miller a.o. popular bands of the time.
Sheet music front
Oscar Alemán y sus Quinteto de Swing recorded Begin The Beguine on 4 November 1942 as Comienza el Beguine in the same session where Tengo Ritmo (I Got Rhythm) and Blues del adios (Bye Bye Blues) also were recorded. Alemán's version was issued on Odeon 45826 and is a great example of his guitar playing and Hernán Oliva's excellent contributions on the violin

Alemán did not record Begin The Beguine again in his later career, but the tune was nevertheless a part of his standard repertoire at live-performance in radio, TV and public shows. A live air-shot from Radio el Mundo 1965  gives an impression of how the tune was arranged and performed by Alemán and his Cinco Caballeros - the guitar solo has not changed fundamentally from the first version at Odeon 45826, I think