This one has roots all the way back to my childhood. I first heard this incredible piece of music in the 1940’s and it electrified me then as a child. I would always stop whatever I was doing to give it my full attention and move to the beat. As with all things we love, it is impossible to put into words why we love them. Love is emotional and comes from the heart not the head. I can’t explain why I loved it as a child nor today as a grown up, I only know it makes me feel alive in a special way.
Before you hear it, though, you need to learn a bit about its genealogy. Bumble Boogie actually has classical roots. It is based on The Flight of the Bumble Bee an orchestral interlude by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of the Tsar Saltan in 1899-1900.
Wikipedia says, “Flight of the Bumblebee is recognizable for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic sixteenth notes. It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that are played that challenges the musician, but simply the musician’s ability to move to them quickly enough; because of this and its complexity, it requires a great deal of skill to perform….
Flight of the Bumblebee was featured, along with other compositions by Rimsky-Korsakov, in the fictional 1947 biopic Song of Scheherazade.
“The radio program The Green Hornet used Flight of the Bumblebee as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin. The music became so strongly identified with the show and the character that it was retained as the theme for the later TV series, Wikipedia reported.
Enter Jack Fina, New Jersey born musician and composer. Born August 13, 1913. Fina played in a number of bands in his life, including the Freddie Martin band in the 1940’s. It was with this group that pianist Fina composed his version of Flight of the Bumble Bee – Bumble Boogie. It was so popular that Walt Disney included it in his 1946 Melody Time which took my breath away when I saw and heard it on the big screen in a movie theater as a child.
I am including a You Tube video of a recording of Jack playing his version in the 1940’s. It’s obviously dated and not up to current standards of acoustics, but I thought you ought to hear the composer play his song.
It’s important to understand that while the Rimsky-Korsakov original has a frenetic pace, Fina tones that down and lets the listener feel the music. After all, it’s Bumble Boogie, not Flight of the Bumble Bee. A lot of pianists get caught up in playing this as fast as they can and it becomes little more than an exercise in fast fingering. I have also included a version by Luis Coloma and his trio. For my money Coloma understands and performs it exactly correctly. Again, this isn’t the greatest recording acoustically, but I think you can get the idea. The version available on iTunes is superb.
I have bought a number of versions on iTunes and the one available by Coloma is my favorite. There are several other good ones which I will let you find and enjoy for yourself. Enjoy the hunt. You can also buy the DVD of Melody Time on Amazon. Disney had it removed from You Tube, so you can’t sample it there. But I recommend buying the DVD just for this tune.