Category Archives: musical bits

In defense of polkas

The inimitable Destination Out has done it once again, uploading a freakin’ free jazz polka by Frank Wright. The likes of which you have probably never heard before. (It sounds to me a little bit like a mad deconstruction of “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.”)


The Industrial Jazz Group, it turns out, had its own little foray into this highly misunderstood genre — many years after Wright, but many years before we knew we were mining the same territory. The tune, of course, is “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy-Presidents” (which may get the award for the IJG track many more people know the title of than have actually heard). The titular reference is to our (now thankfully departed) idiot-king; this was written right around the time the US invaded Iraq. So yes, there is a political subtext, thank you very much.

Below is the relevant excerpt. The “free jazz polka” bit starts at about 1:30. For the purposes of this post, I preserved the dreamier lead-in section, starring Kris Tiner, Cory Wright, and yrs truly. I also kept the wacked-out minor ending (a musical impression of night-vision bombing), cuz that’s my favorite part of the tune.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy-Presidents (excerpt)

Featuring Beth Schenck (soprano), Evan Francis (alto), Cory Wright (tenor), Phil Rodriguez (trumpet), Kris Tiner (trumpet), Garrett Smith (trombone), Aaron McLendon (drums), Aaron Kohen (bass), Durkin (piano).

In subsequent incarnations, the IJG has explored many other flavors of polka (see, for instance, “The Job Song”). But as far as free jazz polkas go: well, this may be our only attempt. Hope you like it!