"Big Joe" Turner, voice; Pete Johnson, piano, live at the From Spirituals to Swing concert.
The piano begins the first chorus with a dramatic series of repeated chords
"Well, it's all…..right…..then!"
The bass ostinato enters when the harmony arrives on IV. After singing one phrase, Turner adds an additional rhythmic layer by tapping his feet.
spoken: "Yeah, papa"
"That's all right, baby, that's all right for you"
Turner sings his first chorus. The piano's left hand continues the ostinato, while the right hand retreats to simpler lower-register chords. Each time Turner sings the phrase, it is slightly different in rhythm: on the off-beat for the first phrase, on the downbeat for the second
"Well, you're so beautiful, but you've got to die someday"
Turner and Johnson use the same texture as in the previous chorus
"Baby, what's the matter now?"
Behind Turner's vocal, the pianist begins playing short riffs
"Roll 'em, boy…let 'em jump for joy"
Turner's vocal begins ahead of the bar line. Urged on by the lyrics, Johnson plays a familiar boogie-woogie riff before launching into continuous eighth notes.
"Ah, pick it, papa!"
The piano takes over, spurred on by a strong backbeat coming from Turner's foot stomp and hand clap. The piano's is based on another simple riff figure.
"Way down, way down!"
The piano suddenly moves to the highest register, playing a series of repeated notes.
As Johnson returns to the middle register, Turner emits a loud chuckle of appreciation.
"Solid, pops, solid!"
Turner sings his simple phrase as the call, followed by the response in the piano.
The interchanges between Turner and Johnson are similar in tone, but subtly different in pitch and rhythm.
"Well all right, then!"
Turner sings a new phrase, answered by a tremolo in the piano.
Turner stretches out his two-note phrase into an expressive arc that covers several measures
"Bye bye, baby, bye bye!"
Johnson suddenly cuts off the boogie-woogie ostinato. With a few simple gestures, Johnson and Turner dismantle the rhythmic momentum and bring the performance to a close.
Thunderous applause greets the performers.
Copyright W.W. Norton