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"MOP MOP" (BOFF BOFF)

A 1942 riff tune with similarities to "Salt Peanuts", credited to Coleman Hawkins but with a more nuanced origin typical of early bop.


Scott DeVeaux describes the tune's structure and provenance thus: "The opening motif, taken by itself is a standard swing riff, unambiguously in the grove. But subsequent repetitions dislodge it from its original metrical bearings until, by the 3rd bar, it is precariously off-balance. The fourth bar provides the punchline: two quarter notes (reinforced by the bass drum), ponderously reaffirming the downbeat ("Mop! Mop!"). Hawkins listed himself as composer, but this in itself tells us little beyond the fact that Hawkins brought it into the studio first. Leonard Feather, trying to sort out the early bop repertory only five years after the fact, traced the figure to Charlie Parker, who in fact used a variant of the "mop mop" idea in a tune he recorded as "Red Cross" in the fall of 1944. "Mop Mop" most likely traveled from Minton's to 52nd Street with Kenny Clarke; it was in Hawkins' repertory as early as the spring of 1943 and "Mop Mop" was only the beginning [of Hawkins' forays into bebop]."


Ira Gitler, however, cites Feather as crediting Clarke with the tune, a version supported by drummer/writer Burt Korall: "In 1942, Clarke led his own group at Kelly's Stable on 52nd Street. For no clearly apparent reason, it was called Kenny Clarke's Kansas City Six. Clarke brought over Nick Fenton and Thelonious Monk from Minton's and filled out the band with Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone) and Willy Nelson (trumpet). Quebec and Clarke devised the now widely known riff tune "Mop Mop" during the engagement. Coleman Hawkins sometimes fronted the group, later taking it over when Clarke left."


After the first recording by Hawkins and Leonard Feather's All Stars (Cootie Williams, Edmund Hall, Art Tatum, Al Casey, Oscar Pettiford, Sid Catlett) in December 1943, the tune was featured live as "a little stomp number" at Esquire's All-American Jazz Concert at the Met in New York the following month. Louis Armstrong later performed an uptempo version of "Mop Mop" on several live recordings, most notably at the Symphony Hall concert in Boston in 1947, with perhaps the greatest of swing drummer Sid Catlett's (pictured bottom left) drum solos on record. 


Max Roach, who had "Mop Mop" in his group's repertoire in the 1960s, recorded a tribute to Catlett's solo entitled "For Big Sid" on his 1966 album "Drums Unlimited". Constructed around the rhythmical figures of "Mop Mop", it draws out the tune's inherent bop phrasing and became an iconic drum solo in its own right, still popular as a transcription set piece. In the album liner notes, Max explained that "This is not an attempt to play the way [Sid] did, but rather a mark of respect to him. He was a powerful man but gentle on his instrument. And he was a very generous man. He made me proud to be a drummer."


In an exotic and recent twist, "Ladies of Düm", a women’s Middle Eastern drumming ensemble led by "darbuka extraordinaire" Raquy Danziger and featuring Canadian Tap Dance champion Lady Bruce, premiered their own group arrangement of Max's solo in Vienna in spring 2019 (see references below). 


Musical references:

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