Biology in the News Explained

Insect Jazz

It’s been a busy week for music – my jazz band performed three times in eight days. One tune especially satisfied the requirements of this blog quite nicely: “Inchworm.” Jazz aficionados will recognize this tune as a Coltrane standard.

But I never liked the fact that Coltrane only played one of the two counter-melodies in the song, which originated from the movie musical “Hans Christian Anderson,” starring Danny Kaye. The song starts as children in a school house chant addition in a rather haunting melody, which Kaye then sings against as he watches a caterpillar crawling on a plant.

Here is the first place I heard the song — the classic Sesame Street version with muppet inchworms:

I did a new jazz arrangement that includes both melodies. In addition to the sung counter-melodies, there is a third counter-melody in the strings that I decided to add to the jazz version as well. Thus, with three saxes and two vocalists, we covered it all.


“Inchworm”, by the way, is the common name for moths in the family Geometridae, of which some in Hawaii are sit-and-wait predators. But the family is cosmopolitan, and recognizable in the caterpillar because unlike other families they only have prolegs at the back end of their abdomen, resulting in their distinctive inching walk. Many species are also known as “loopers” for the same reason.


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