Bill Bailey Won't You Please Trombone

The music itself was inspired by the Dixieland jazz standard entitled “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home.” I played a lot of Dixieland while in graduate school at Arizona State University, and this was one of my favorite tunes. As a tuba player, I enjoyed the harmonic motion at the end of each verse, and followed a suggestion from a member of the Fox Valley Brass Band (Aurora, IL) to use this as a basis for the trombone solo. The unadorned melody is offered twice, once at the beginning of the piece and once at the end. In between, the soloist plays a series of variations on the theme, including excursions into ¾, 4/4, and 7/8 time signatures.

The lyrics tell of a domestic conflict between Bill Bailey and his wife, who is inviting him to come back home. In the slow variation, careful listeners will hear a reference to the folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” This is a musical reference to the introduction of the song, which tells us that the cause of Bill Bailey’s irregular schedule at home was his work as a railroad man. Domestic issues aside, this is an energetic song that has been recorded by many of the top Dixieland bands from history, including the Dukes of Dixieland and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. More recently, it was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Patsy Cline.

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