Yankee Doodle Mambo
This piece was started in 1983, but not completed until 1994!
Yes, the piece is a type of mambo, but is also closely related to the two-trumpet
latino-mexican music idiom of, say Herb Alpert and the like. But the piece
also has a boogie bass - usually entirely out of idiom in LA music, but here
is essential for this solo piano piece (hence the long gestation period). The
title comes from a cheeky little reference, in a break in the piece, to the
Yankee Doodle song - yet another jazzman’s cheeky trait of interpolating a
bit of popular music into a jazz solo.
In his teens Hellewell, whilst still
playing jazz with a young Dixieland band, also formed a latin-american band
amongst young friends. The band was offered a spot by the famous Edmundo Ros
on his show in London, but the young Hellewell was ticket off in rehearsal
by Edmundo for playing a boogie bass for the well-known piece “South American
Joe”! Hellewell changed it, of course, but this incident shows how, even in
those early days, Hellewell was more concerned about musical coherence and
living performance than idiomatic purity (although he actually went on to become,
at one time later, a professional LA pianist).
So although crossing the divides
himself, in his ‘ multiu-dimensional’ music, Hellewell has very strong respect
for individual cultural identity.