BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Avalon”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

“Avalon” is a song written by Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva and Vincent Rose in 1920. It’s one of his more popular songs. Here’s the way he did it. (It’s not in the running, so don’t vote for it.)

It has since become a jazz standard, where it’s played considerably faster. I have three versions of the song in this Battle of the Bands, kind of like Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy from MAD magazine. I was struggling with which one to leave out of this battle, and finally decided to use all three.

The Benny Goodman Quartet The Benny Goodman Quartet was Goodman on clarinet, Teddy Wilson on piano, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, and Gene Krupa on drums. From 1937.

Django Reinhardt et al. I believe this was recorded in 1934, and the only musicians I know for certain are on it are Django on guitar and Stephane Grappelli on violin. I used to have a roster which came with the Djangology box set, but of course it has been lost forever…

Louis Armstrong et al. The players are listed on the graphic in the video. I believe they’re members of The Dukes of Dixieland. This was recorded in 1960, so the sound quality is better than on the other two.

So the question remains, which of these three versions of the song do you like best? Listen to them, decide which you like the most, and vote by leaving me a comment with your choice, and a little bit about why you chose that over the other two. Then, if you’d be so kind, take a trip over to the Battle of the Bands blog of Stephen T. McCarthy, who will likely be running a battle today and who has a list of all the blogs whose owners might be having a Battle as well. Vote in Stephen’s battle and in the battles of those listed in the right-hand column. You need not be a participant in the Battle of the Bands to vote. The more the merrier, I say. I’ll announce the winners of this battle next Tuesday, May 22, so make sure I receive your vote by then.

The lines are now open. Good luck to Benny, Django, and Louis!

15 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Avalon”

  1. I’ve lived in California for about 26 years now and still haven’t been to Avalon on Catalina Island. We’ve almost gone but managed to talk ourselves out of going each time. Besides, I really don’t like boat trips across vast expanses of open water. Maybe someday.

    You had two Armstrong videos so I had to go look up Benny’s version for a refresher. I’ve very familiar with Goodman’s take on this since I have a vinyl album with this song by the quartet. I also recall the scene in the film “Benny Goodman Story” where they meet Hampton and play this song. I am particularly partial to Goodman’s version–the others are outstanding–but Goodman and his ensemble gets my vote in this round.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  2. All three of these had their good points, but I like the Django Reinhardt version best. Not sure why exactly; maybe the violin. Interesting battle! I’ve re-joined the BOTB crew this week. Nice to be back. 🙂

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  3. Liked them all, of course. Love jazz. How could a guy my age not go for Goodman, Hampton, Wilson and Krupa? My vote goes to Goodman.

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  4. I like the Benny Goodman version the best. I like the piano and clarinet sounds. The second version was too fast for me. I prefer the softer sounds of the Goodman version over the trumpet of the Armstrong one. They’re all good, though. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so these songs remind me of the New Orleans section of Disneyland.

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  5. Django’s version reminds me of Dan Hicks (who probably borrowed Django’s style to begin with). If I were the a producer, I’d say the rhythm guitar is a bit too hot, but they probably recorded this live in one take to monaural tape. They didn’t have today’s multi-microphone, multi-track control. Of the three here, it gets my vote

    As a teenager of the 1970s, I prefer Roxy Music’s Avalon. Of course it’s a different mood, but I always liked the sparse arrangement and unhurried tempo.

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  6. Hi John,
    This was a fun battle. I knocked Django Reinhardt out of the running right away. That version just didn’t do anything for me. So then it came down to Benny Goodman vs Louis Armstrong. Tough match-up. Armstrong’s and those “Dukes of Dixieland” sure sounded very New Orleans-y. I wanted to grab a Hurricane and some jambalaya right quick!
    Overall, I prefer Goodman’s Quartet version so Benny gets my vote.

    It’s nice to be back to battling with you all! It felt great coming back for the 4M last week but I just couldn’t manage to get another 4M post ready by the past Monday but I’ll be back for your next theme on the 21st…

    Have a great rest of the week,
    Michele at Angels Bark

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  7. The first one reminded me of It’s a Wonderful Life for some reason..oh yes, it’s when they have the party when Harry comes home with the wife and George is told Mary is back but Jimmy is upset because he is looking at his travel maps. Funny how a song brings a memory alive. According to my dad, we are related somehow to Gene Krupa which I’d love to find out. Saying this, I really like Django Unchained for the style done with the instruments. I love Louis but the Dixie sound didn’t appeal to me here.

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