Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: There have been some great jazz hits, such as “The Girl from Ipanema” (Getz & Gilberto) and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” (Vince Guaraldi Trio), just to name a couple.

I'm wondering if there is maybe one that's considered the all-time top jazz single.
—Victor Gill, Fife, Wash.

DEAR VICTOR: According to internationally acclaimed NPR (National Public Radio), the best-selling jazz single of the 20th Century is “Take Five,” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

This 1961 Top 40 hit (Columbia 41479) — a syncopated masterpiece that turned many listeners into jazz fans — stands as the most renowned tune ever in 5/4 time.

Most mainstream music is written in 4/4 time, which is four beats to a measure. Less common are those in 3/4 time, also known as waltz time because most 3/4 time tunes are waltzes.

Flying in the face of tradition, Paul Desmond wrote “Take Five” in 5/4 time. This means five beats to the measure.

For a hands-on feel for all these fractions and gobbledygook, start “Take Five” and begin counting the beats to five as the drum plays. Then immediately begin counting again at one.

If your time signature is correct, you will have counted to five four times (four measures) just when the first of Brubeck's piano notes are heard.

“Take Five” is culled from the “Time Out” album — the first jazz LP to sell a million — on which pianist Brubeck is joined by Paul Desmond (alto sax), Gene Wright (bass), and Joe Morello (drums).

This info should also answer a very similar question, recently submitted by Attilio Gatta, of River Grove, Ill.

DEAR JERRY: A very cute recording from the late '50s is “Just Keep Walking,” a novelty about a girl and boy walking in a subway.

Not long ago I bought a Jimmy Valentine record thinking it to be the one I remember, because it had that same title.

I was surprised when I played it, because it is mostly an instrumental.

Even more surprising is that it does have the boy (Ambrose) saying “Just Keep Walking,” but not the girl.

What gives? Did they just add the girl's voice later?
—Robin Lopez, Ephrata, Pa.

DEAR ROBIN: No, these are two completely different recordings.

In December 1958 Linda Laurie gave us the original of “Ambrose (Part 5) (Glory 290), in which she also provides the gravel-voice of her walking companion, Ambrose.

Two months later, guitarist Jimmy Valentine issued “Just Keep Walking (Ambrose),” the record you unknowingly bought.

Valentine's record didn't chart nationally, but did get played in some parts of the country, as did its Hawaiian rock flip side, “Rockin' Hula” (Cub 9024).

DEAR JERRY: Someone wrote not long ago asking about the different versions of “The Hot Canary,” and about Paul Nero (nee: Kurt Polnarioff).

“The Hot Canary” was originally a violin exercise that Kurt's father, Poppa Polnarioff, frequently used. Kurt then adapted it to the pop hit we now know.

The musical talent in the Polnarioff family doesn't end there. His sister, Rosa (Polnarioff-Kupper), is the first woman ever to play

First Violin the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.

Rosa also had perfect pitch and Poppa Polnarioff told me how he discovered it.

He enrolled her in a school of music at an early age. One day Rosa's teacher asked that she not return to class because she kept correcting the staff, and saying the music just didn't look right.

So Poppa played the written score and discovered there had indeed been a typo on the charts — a glitch that Rosa instinctively felt.

Kurt and Rosa's father, who I knew only as “Poppa,” was once the Concert Master of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra

I had the privilege to know the family through Richard Kupper, Rosa and Danny Kupper's son.
—Gerry D., Mahopac, N.Y.

DEAR GERRY: Thank you for an interesting assortment of background details, the kind of information best known by the family and their friends.

IZ ZAT SO? In 1951, when Florian Zabach's “Hot Canary” perched in the Top 20, he became one of only four solo artists in the last 100 years whose last name begins with Z, to have a Top 20 hit.

The others are Efrem Zimbalist (“Serenade,” 1921); Helmut Zacharias (“When the White Lilacs Bloom Again,” 1956); and John “The Cool Ghoul” Zacherle (“Dinner with Drac,” 1958).

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