Red Norvo: Dance of the Octopus


Dance of the Octopus


Red Norvo (marimba)


Dance of the Octopus (Hep 1044)

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Red Norvo (marimba), Benny Goodman (bass clarinet), Dick McDonough (guitar), Artie Bernstein (bass).

Composed by Red Norvo


Recorded: New York, November 21, 1933


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

This strange piece of music sounds like . . . hmm, how about a dancing octopus? In a clever piece of program music, Norvo evokes an underwater mood with his lopsided melody, unusual instrumentation and startling arrangement. This masterpiece of cool jazz pushes beyond the typical confines of American popular music, circa 1933, and displays its avant-garde credentials proudly in every measure. The tenuous harmonies are reminiscent of "In a Mist," a version of which Norvo recorded at this same session, and "Dance of the Octopus" reminds us of what Bix Beiderbecke might have been doing had he lived longer. This is no mere novelty number, but true jazz chamber music of the highest order -- and proof that the cool aesthetic pioneered by Beiderbecke and Trumbauer in the 1920s still had adherents during the FDR years.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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