Morning Song – Zagred This
Birthed in New York in the 1940s and 50s by the second generation of African-American jazz musicians, bebop was always an intensely—and intentionally—coded musical style. Mary Lou Williams knows because she was there at the start:
“Now I want to write what I know about how and why bop got started. Monk and some of the cleverest of the young musicians used to complain: ‘We’ll never get credit for what we’re doing.’ They had reason to say it.
In the music business the going is tough for original talent. Everybody is being exploited through paid‑for publicity and most anybody can become a great name if he can afford enough of it. In the end the public believes what it reads. So it is often difficult for the real talent to break through.
Anyway, Monk said: ‘We’re going to get a big band started. We’re going to create something they can’t steal, because they can’t play it.‘”
As part of that complexity, bebop songs also delighted in wordplay. Which, in a roundabout way, is how we get to trombonist Melba Liston’s “Zagred This”. Based on nothing more than its title (and with a little help from the interwebs), I’m guessing it started out as a bebop update of Fats Waller’s “Viper’s Drag”. (And even if it’s not, it’s still a lot of fun.)