June Song Of The Month: Limehouse Blues

MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-30, Altamira M-10
edited June 2023 in History Posts: 388

Coincidentally, as I was considering this standard for song of the month, an interesting discussion erupted on the forum about soloing over challenging chord changes. That thread shined the forum light on this song, so look to that for great information from our knowledgeable members about soloing ideas on this one.

It was composed in 1921 in Britain by Philippe Braham (music) & Douglas Furber (lyrics). Evidently, Limehouse is the Chinatown of London, and the song premiered in 1921 in the show "A To Z", with Teddie Gerard singing it.

Django first recorded it in October of '35 and there's a link to that classic version below. He recorded it 5 times between '35 & '40. From show tunes to jazz standards to pop versions, so many great artists have recorded it over its 100+ year lifespan. Notable versions include those by Oscar Aleman, Kay Starr, John Jorgenson, and Bucky Pizzarella with Frank Vignola.

I dont particularly enjoy playing it super fast, as some guys play it in my area. It's too hard to get an idea going before you have to move on to something else. The joy for me in soloing over these changes is to slow it down a bit. But either way, it's a gypsy jazz classic with a great melody. And of course Django & Steph blaze on it, despite the intense speed. I'll post the chart that my band uses later.



  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    edited June 2023 Posts: 472

    Some GJ hopefuls (!) don't play Limehouse Blues so fast. E.g., here's Bireli playing Limehouse at about 210 bpm one time, and 180 bpm another time:

  • krzyskrzys New
    Posts: 136

    Hi folks, what is the function of the C7 and what can I target on it to sound like Django?

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263

    The first HCQ version was taken at a very leisurely pace but it still swings like mad. Django's creativity is way ahead of Steph's on this version.

  • edited June 2023 Posts: 4,804

    It's a blues changes IV chord. I suppose to sound like Django the easiest way is to see what he played and make a variation of that.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio
    Posts: 772

    I also love Fapy's laid-back version on his Star Eyes album. On which he plays a 1946 Selmer guitar #632!

  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-30, Altamira M-10
    Posts: 388

    Here's the chart my band uses:

    I agree with Buco, the C7 can be seen as the IV chord if you see this as a blues in G. And the A7 can be seen either as the ii chord made into a dominant, or as the "V of the V", leading you to the D7. You also get a cool minor V-i in Emin in bars 11 and 12 (the relative minor of G) and a minor V-i in Amin in bars 26 thru 28. The soloing possibilities are limitless here, especially if the tempo is brought down a tad.

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,335

    When there is a song with lyrics, I often like to learn them as I learn the melody. It helps to cement the melody in my head and is often the basis for the melody in the first place. Many times now, soloists take liberties with the original melody but the lyrics help keep you on track.

    In this case, the original lyrics are sort of questionable. I found versions of modern people singing to the original sheet music, but not any original recordings in my hasty search (you can search if you are interested, I won't post them here.) The original version actually had one of those intro stanzas that @Willie is so good at rooting out, but in this case is sort of boring. The core melody as played by most of us today and represented in the sheet music above by @MikeK is the heart of the song without these extra bits.

    Here are some more modern "revised" lyrics that remove the questionable racist content from the original, along with a video of Julie Andrews singing them (more or less).

    Oh, Limehouse kid

    Oh, oh, oh, Limehouse kid

    Goin' the way

    That the rest of them did

    Poor broken blossom

    And nobody's child

    Haunting and taunting

    You're just kind of wild

    Oh, Limehouse blues

    I've the real Limehouse blues

    Can't seem to shake off

    Those real China blues

    Rings on your fingers

    And tears for your crown

    That is the story

    Of old Chinatown

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263

    Wow! Limehouse Blues and Julie Andrews? Not a combination that comes readily mind.

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