High Society (composition)

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"High Society" is a multi-strain melody, originally a march copyrighted in April 1901 by Porter Steele, which has become a traditional jazz standard.

The piccolo obligato is not found in Steele's first version of the song; it appears to originate in an orchestration by Robert Recker from later in 1901.[1] In New Orleans, Louisiana, Alphonse Picou adapted the piccolo part into a clarinet variation, sometimes considered one of the earliest documented jazz solos. The Picou variations became standard in New Orleans jazz (unusual in a form that values improvization); many traditional jazz clarinetists from the generation just after Picou until today will copy or do a close paraphrase of Picou's solo, sometimes followed by their own improvisations on a second chorus. Picou himself recorded it a number of times in his later life, including recordings with Kid Rena Papa Celestin and on film. The first couple of bars were frequently quoted by Charlie Parker in his improvisations.

The tune was recorded as a march by Charles A. Prince's band in 1911. The first jazz recording of it was made by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in 1923, with Johnny Dodds on clarinet.[1] Apparently unaware that the tune had previously been copyrighted, Gennett Records filed a copyright on the tune as a Joe Oliver original.

In the 1920s Walter Melrose added words to it (which are never performed) and republished it, as he did to a number of jazz numbers in order to claim a larger share of the royalties.


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  1. ^ a b Evans, David (2008). Ramblin’ on my Mind: New perspectives on the blues. University of Illinois Press. pp. 301–302. ISBN 0-252-07448-3. 

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