'Early in the Morning' - samba, rumba and history

Mar 15, 2013

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

It has been variously described as a samba, rumba and Caribbean-flavored. Louis Jordan appeared in many films and musicals. In this clip,he performs the song from the unbelievably campy 1949 film Look Out Sister:

Harry Nilsson recorded “Early in the Morning” with only organ accompaniment on his 1971 Grammy-nominated album Nilsson Schmilsson. It’s doubtful that many listeners realized the song was a rhythm and blues hit from 20 years earlier.

Buddy Guy gave the song an unconventional twist by combining a 6/8 time signature with a driving swing blues bass line. It’s on his 1991 cd Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues.

Slo Leak takes a modern, studio-savvy approach to blues, often using rhythm loops and samples to weave murky and rhythmic textures. Some of their recordings, including their 2008 version of “Early in the Morning” verge on being “trance blues”.

Here are the complete versions of “Early in the Morning”:

Louis Jordan “Early in the Morning” 1947

Harry Nilsson “Early in the Morning” 1971

Buddy Guy “Early in the Morning” 1991

Slo Leak “Early in the Morning” 2008