Several years ago Mark Liberman had a Log post investigating the contraction I’ma for I’m going to; today he has an update in which he reproduces a snippet of Art Blakey introducing his musicians from the famous “Night at Birdland” recording of February 1954 with a quintet that was a forerunner of the Jazz Messengers he was to lead for over three decades, one of the most influential groups in the history of American music. Here’s how Mark transcribes it: “Yes, sir, I’ma stay with the youngsters. When these get too old, I’ma get some younger ones.” What I (like others in the comment thread) hear in the second sentence, however, is “I’mna”—i.e., a reduced “I’m gonna,” a different form. Listen to the clips at the Log and see what you think; theoretical issues hang on it!
On a non-linguistic note, I will add that the “youngsters” were Horace Silver on piano, Curly Russell on bass, Lou Donaldson on alto sax, and the immortal (though dead too young) Clifford Brown on trumpet. It doesn’t get much better than that, and I urge anyone with any interest in jazz to get this wonderful two-disc set (Vol. 1, Vol. 2).


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    That disc also has what may be the only recording of the voice of Pee Wee Marquette, who was for many years the MC at Birdland.

  2. Wait a sec — that’s the record that has PeeWee Marquette? I have that in my stack of currently unplayable vinyl (hardware issues). I didn’t even recognize it (though with Clifford playing, I think I can be excused for not noticing specific speech patterns).
    In 1954 Blakey was just 35 years old, which seems quaintly young to me, in 2010, to be making such statements. Last time I saw him was in 1985, and he looked gooood.

  3. Pee Wee Marquette is the diminutive MC whom Lester Young famously called “half a motherfucker.”

  4. dearieme says

    “The Jazz Misanthropes” Larkin called them.

  5. Larkin should talk about anyone else being a misanthrope. Anyway, he hated all jazz after about 1930.

  6. I can just imagine the kind of jazz Larkin and Kingsley Amis listened to: Aker Bilk, Chris Barber & Humphrey Littleton. Nice men, but..

  7. rootlesscosmo says

    I never heard, or had forgotten, that Lester Young line. Many thanks for refreshing my memory.
    Before the later Summer-of-Love usage, “hippy”–Horace Silver used it as the title of a tune–was defined by someone as “a white guy in a four-button suit who stands next to the bandstand at Birdland and moans every time Blakey moans.”

  8. dearieme says

    Oh no, AJP, they loved the originals – Bix, Fats, the Chicago men and, above all, Louis. On the other hand, if you want to hear just how good Acker could be, try his “Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”.

  9. Now that I think about it, I’m quite sure you’re right. They were the same generation as Lytleton, Barber & Bilk.
    Since you’ve spelt his name right, I’ll try the Acker Bilk…

  10. Acker Bi;l had a big hit during my HS years and I still like it when I hear it. “Stranger on the Shore”. It came along when I was 15 or so and more involved in Top 40 than ever before or since. And right before The Beatles.

  11. Judy Garland was the Jay Gatsby of reality.

  12. I like the Nat King Cole version the best. Acker Bilk’s is very good; he doesn’t have the right accent, in my opinion. I always liked Stranger On The Shore too. I can’t imagine how it must be to play one song over and over, every day for fifty years.

  13. The final vowel of Ima is IMO a fusion of a Plantation Creole particle a and a very reduced version of going to.
    In ordinary allegro speech I say Imana myself.

  14. dearieme says

    I don’t enjoy Nat King Cole as a singer, but I find his jazz piano pretty fine.

  15. I can take him or leave him as a singer, but his piano is indeed excellent; I have a wonderful CD called The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio: The Instrumental Classics, but apparently Capitol now makes you buy it as part of a three-disc set of which two discs are vocal. Thanks a lot, Capitol.

  16. michael farris says

    “In ordinary allegro speech I say Imana myself.”
    Me too, but usually without a glide, so it sounds more like [‘am@n@] (ah’m’na) just like I’ll is [al], again without the glide.

  17. I agree about Nat King Cole.

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