This arrangement is inspired by Louis Armstrong’s 1938 version of the tune. It can be practiced along with that recording by listening to the spoken introduction (in which Armstrong introduces himself as ‘Reverend Satchmo’), counting through the trombone statement of the tune and the four-bar interlude that follows it, and then playing along with Armstrong’s vocal. In the arrangement the first vocal chorus is followed by a saxophone solo by Charlie Holmes. In the piano arrangement below, after the melody statement, I’ve suggested some ideas for improvising your own solo by suggesting a group of notes to work with for each of the three chords in the progression as well as some ideas about converting the call-and-response phrasing in Armstrong’s vocal rendition to a left hand-right hand conversation on the piano. This approach can also be used on other instruments by leaving space to listen for the new chord change rather than playing through it. After one or more choruses of solo, return to the head to complete your performance. For more on the fascinating cultural history of this song (as well as a transcription of a solo Wynton Marsalis took on it at UVM), see my post American Tunes. I also used a somewhat altered version of the progression from ‘When The Saints’ in a tune of mine called Twists and Bends, with the expert help of Caleb Bronz on drums, Colin McCaffrey on guitar and bass, and Amber deLaurentis on backing vocals.
Practicing this music score alongside Louis Armstrong is a fun, no-pressure way to get a feel for entering into an instrumental conversation, both with others and between your left and right hand on the piano. The music score feels dynamic and malleable rather than rigid, so I felt encouraged to try a little improvisation, too, which normally feels a little intimidating!