BY FRED SOKOLOW | FROM THE SUMMER 2015 ISSUE OF UKULELE
Buddy DeSylva and Vincent Rose were among the elite of Tin Pan Alley songwriters, but a judge ruled that they stole part of “Avalon” from an aria in Puccini’s opera Tosca. Nevertheless, their paean to the romantic city on Catalina Island was a huge hit for Al Jolson in 1921, and he took partial writer’s credit for the song, not an unusual thing for star singers to do in those days.
It became a jazz standard and favorite jamming vehicle for instrumentalists like Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Red Nichols, and Coleman Hawkins.
Keep in mind that “Avalon,” though in the key of F, starts on the V chord (C7)—this is worth mentioning because many people are under the false impression that the first chord of a song is the tonic (I chord). In this case, the I chord (F) resolves the progression.
I’ve included two arrangements here: basic backup/melody and chord melody solo, both taken from my book/CD Jazzing Up the Ukulele, which teaches players how to use chord substitutions to enhance basic arrangements.