Friday, March 17, 2017

Singin' The Blues - A Jazz Classic

Original sheet music (1920)
Singin' the Blues is a 1920 jazz composition by J. Russel Robinson, Con Conrad, Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. The song was released with lyrics by vocalist Aileen Stanley in 1920 on Victor 18703.


Frankie Trumbauer's Orchestra with Bix and Lang
In 1927, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra recorded the song as an instrumental for Okeh in New York on February 4th. The Trumbauer recording is considered a jazz classic, greatly contributing to Frank Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke's reputation and influence. Participating musicians are: Frankie Trumbauer (C-melody sax), Bix Beiderbecke (co), Bill Rank (tb), Jimmy Dorsey (cl), Doc Ryker ( as), Paul Madeira Mertz (p), Eddie Lang (g) and Chauncey Morehouse (dm)


An essay by David Sager gives an in-depth analysis of the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke recording, accessible here 

Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio
Here we will focus on a few other recordings of Singin' the Blues. First I like to point to the recording by Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio from 1928, which emulate the famous version by Bix and Tram. It is an example of Sol Hoopii's sophisticated steel guitar playing


In 1931, Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra recorded a version of Singin' the Blues, which re-arranged the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke version. Here the solo part of Trumbauer's C-melody sax is rearranged for the reed section, while Beiderbecke's solo is repeated by Rex Stewart's cornet


In 1939, Lionel Hampton recorded Singin' the Blues in his series of sessions for Victor. This version feature Benny Carter (tp), Edmond Hall (cl), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Lionel Hampton (vib), Joe Sullivan (p), Freddie Green (g), Artie Bernstein (b) and Zutty Singleton (d), recorded December 21, 1939 in New York


Finally, to end this small presentation of a famous jazz classic, here's a contemporary version from a live performance, which re-creates the famous Trumbauer-Beiderbecke recording. The recording was made August 4th 2011 by Andy Schumm and his Gang. Participating musicians were: Andy Schumm (co), John Otto, (reeds), Dave Bock (tb), Vince Giordano (sb), Leah Bezin (bj, g), David Boeddinghaus (p) and Josh Duffee (d) 

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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Novelty Piano

Original sheet music (1915)
Novelty Piano is a genre of piano music that was popular during the 1920s. A successor to ragtime and an outgrowth of the piano roll music of the 1910s, novelty piano can be considered a pianistic cousin of jazz, which appeared around the same time. Nola,  a 1915 composition by New York pianist Felix Arndt, is generally considered the first novelty piano hit.


Sheet music (1921)
Novelty piano came most powerfully to the attention of the public in 1921, with the appearance of Zez Confrey's Kitten on the Keys. The popularity of this piece quickly led to other Confrey works and inspired other artists to issue novelty pieces. The style remained popular through the end of the decade, at which time big bands were on the rise, player pianos were in decline, and the popularity of jazz continued unabated. Novelty piano slowly succumbed to, or was absorbed into, the new orchestral styles as the piano moved off center stage and took on more of a "support" role.


Although novelty piano has structural and stylistic similarities to the earlier ragtime form, there are also distinct differences. Ragtime was generally sold in the form of sheet music, so it was important to keep it simple enough to be played by the competent amateur. By the mid-teens, though, two new technologies had appeared which allowed the general public to hear music as performed by skilled musicians: the "hand-played" piano roll and the phonograph record. Novelty piano was developed as a vehicle to showcase the talents of these professionals, and was thus more often sold in the form of recordings and piano rolls than as sheet music. It was a new "turbo-charged" piano form, infused with chromatic piano roll flourishes, and influenced by the "modernistic" sounds of the art-deco twenties (which were themselves largely adopted from the French "Impressionist" pianists such as Debussy and Satie; "novelty" pianists tended to be highly classically trained, they were fully familiar with such "modern" pianists, and their fondness for complex chordal intricacies). (info extracted from Wikipedia, here
Zez Confrey (1895 - 1971)
As mentioned, Zez Confrey had a huge hit with his novelty ragtime composition Kitten on the Keys. Below I'll insert a few more examples of his most popular compositions. Here's first the 1923 Dizzy Fingers 


Original sheet music (1922)
Confrey had another hit with his Stumbling, here from the hand played piano roll by the artist


Another sheet issue of Stumbling
Confrey's novelty rags were also recorded by larger ensembles, for some time he had a contract with Victor to make recordings for the growing market of dance records. Here we'll end this small intro to the novelty piano tradition by inserting Paul Whiteman and his orchestra's version of Stumbling - a hit for the orchestra and with the dancing public


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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Centennial of The First Jazz Record

Dixieland Jass Band One-Step_Victor 18255-A
The recording of Livery Stable Blues and Dixieland Jass Band One-Step made February 26, 1917 for Victor in New York by the Original Dixieland Jass Band  were released as Victor 18255 on March 7, 1917 and is considered the first ever jazz record.
Livery Stable Blues_Victor 18255-B

 Tony Sbarbaro (dm), Edwin Edwards (tb), Nick LaRocca (co), Larry Shields (cl), Henry Ragas (p)
The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) was a band of white musicians from New Orleans. The band consisted of five musicians who had played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a racially integrated group of musicians who played for parades, dances, and advertising in New Orleans. ODJB billed itself as the "Creators of Jazz". It was the first band to record jazz commercially and to have hit recordings in the new genre. Band leader and cornetist Nick LaRocca argued that ODJB deserved recognition as the first band to record jazz commercially and the first band to establish jazz as a musical idiom or genre.

Henry Ragas (p), Larry Shields (cl), Nick LaRocca (co), Edwin Edwards (tb), Tony Spargo (dm)

Victor Records advert
Below is inserted the audio of the first jazz record to remimd us where it started - a centennial of recorded jazz.


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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Memory of Svend Asmussen - Some Live Shots

Svend Asmussen (photo by Thorkild Amdi, 2002)
The keep(it)swinging blog likes to honor the Danish jazz violinist Svend Asmussen, who passed away earlier this month at almost 101 years of age. Below some live performances from uploaded videos at YouTube to keep our memory of a great artist alive.
Svend Asmussen & Benny Goodman 1950 (photo courtesy Scanpix)
Benny Goodman and Svend Asmussen had met and played together before Goodman's last live performance in Copenhagen at the Tivoli Gardens in 1981. At this concert Goodman and Asmussen shared solo spots in a repertoire of jazz standards, i.e. After You've Gone


Toots Thielemans & Svend Asmussen (YouTube still photo)
Toots Thielemans and Svend Asmussen performed together in a Swedish TV production from around the same time as the Goodman concert above


From a 1986 live performance at Club Montmartre, Copenhagen - It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing


Finally, Svend Asmussen quartet featuring Jacob Fischer (g), Jeper Lundgaard (b) and Aage Tanggaard (dm) from a live performance at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen 1993 - Limehouse Blues

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Jo
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Svend Asmussen (1916 - 2017)

Svend Asmussen  (photo by Ida Munch)
The media have just released the sad news that the Danish jazz violinist Svend Asmussen has passed away today. A true legend and giant of the jazz violin has left the scene.

Svend Asmussen (28.2 1916 - 7.2 2017) R.I.P. 

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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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Monday, February 6, 2017

A Dream of Hawaii - Kostas Bezos & The White Birds

Kostas Bezos and The White Birds, Olvido Records (OLV-002) and Mississippi Records (MRP-098) (2017)
The Hawaiian hype hit all over the the world during the first decades of the 20th century. The sound of the steel guitar and the ukulele as played by native Hawaiian musicians reached and attracted a global audience through records, films and visiting Hawaiian ensembles. The effect of the hype furthermore gave inspiration to local musicians in every country and region to create their own version of 'Hawaiian' music by using the novelty instruments in performance and interpretation of popular music of their own region. This way local musicians the world over supported a dream of Hawaii which  fascinated their audiences, and in many instances records were made documenting the local version of 'Hawaiian' music. An example of such a local ensemble performing music in the Hawaiian style is the Greek steel guitar virtuoso Kostas Bezos and his White Birds which recorded some remarkable 78 rpm discs in Athens during the 1930s. A selection of these recordings has just been reissued in a limited LP and bonus CD edition or as a digital download version, co-released by Olvido Records (OLV-002) and Mississippi Records (MRP-098)
Kostas Bezos (-seated, center left) and his ensemble (photo courtesy Les Cook, SteelGuitarForum)
Kostas Bezos (1905-1943) was from a village near Corinth in Greece. He was a political cartoonist, frequented the 'underground scene' in Athens and performed as a guitarist playing rebetiko songs, but also played excellent steel guitar in Hawaiian style. He recorded several 78 rpm discs for Columbia and His Master’s Voice, both rebetiko and Hawaiian style repertoire.
A HMV 78 rpm disc featuring Kostas Bezos (1931)
The first-ever compilation of Kostas Bezos' Hawaiian influenced music containing 32 recorded and remastered sides including extensive notes, rare photos and lyrics in both Greek and English is now available produced by Gordon Ashworth, Tony Klein and Dimitris Kourtis. You can find more info about this compilation and also have the opportunity to listen to all 32 recordings in streaming audio and purchase online here. - To give you an impression of the music as played by Kostas Bezos and his White Birds ensemble, I'll insert a couple of uploaded audio videos from You Tube.  Here is first the 1936 recording of Ta Aspra Poulia Sta Vouna (The White Birds in the Mountains), also available at the compilation mentioned above


The strange animal imitations at the beginning of this record are superseded by great choir vocal and outstanding lap steel guitar, the atmosphere is not too serious, but rather unrestrained. A similar atmosphere is to be found in the recording of Pame sti Honolulu (Let's Go to Honolulu), here even including yodelling


Let's end this small presentation of Kostas Bezos and his White Birds with the ensemble's version of a song titled The False Kisses of Women in English, here in the You Tube video from the original Columbia 78 rpm

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Jo
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Oscar Alemán And The Blues

Original sheet music (1914)
It has been said that Oscar Alemán never was a 'blues man',  implying that his concept of jazz did not include the Afro-American music genre known as 'blues', an important source in the original versions of jazz rooted in New Orleans' music culture and practice. However, the statement should be modified, if 'the blues' is not just the musical style that originated in the Southern states of USA around 1900 and was performed by amateurs and local pick-up ensemples at social events in mainly black Afro-American societies long before the music spread to other parts of the country via radio networks and 'race' records. 
W.C. Handy
Innovative tunesmiths and music publishers like W.C. Handy (1873-1958), known as 'father of the blues', were soon aware of the commercial opportunities of the blues and took advantage of the music by publishing their own versions of blues as sheet music which became popular hits with the public even before WW 1. W.C. Handy's Saint Louis Blues (published 1914) was among his most popular songs and was quickly adopted by the mainstream music business as an example of the original version of the blues style. Countless musicians and jazz bands have since incorporated Saint Louis Blues in their repertoire and the tune is a fundamental part of the jazz standard book, still performed today by traditional jazz orchestras. 
Alemán performing St. Louis Blues
It is from the tradition paved by W.C. Handy Aleman´s concept of the blues  originates, I think. Fact is that the mentioned Saint Louis Blues was a part of Alemán's repertoire throughout his career in Argentina from 1940 and on. Already at one of his first public performances after his return to Argentina from Europe, Saint Louis Blues is presented and elaborated as a great vehicle for his improvisational skills both as a musician and entertainer. Luckily, a test recording from this live performance October 14, 1941 at Teatro Casino in Buenos Aires has been saved and documents Alemán's rousing and roof raising version of Saint Louis Blues as a solo piece of improvised music for guitar, vocal and stomping feet! 


Alemán recorded Saint Louis Blues commercially twice, the first version was recorded by Odeon January 30 1953 featuring Alemán's Orquesta de Jazz (mx 18802, Odeon 55613 and LDS119). The tune is here a great vehicle for his improvisational skills as a guitar player in the applied solos.


The next time Alemán recorded Saint Louis Blues was in May 1973 at the session for the Redondel label with Jorge Anders' orchestra issued on Redondel SL-10511. This version has also been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below


Alemán composed and recorded two tunes which were titled Oscar Blues No. 1 and Oscar Blues No. 3, both recorded for Redondel - the first mentioned on Redondel L-809 made September 1974, the other was issued on the Alemán '72 LP (Redondel, SL 10.508) recorded Sept.-Oct. 1972. Both tunes are solo pieces for guitar, here is Oscar Blues No. 3 inserted below


Collectors of Alemán's output may have wondered, if there also exists a tune titled Oscar Blues No. 2 although never recorded officially. I don't have the answer to that question, but instead I like to point to a saved untitled home-recording from c. 1971 in much the same style and mood as the two known pieces titled Oscar Blues. Thus, below is inserted a possible Oscar Blues No. 2 to end this

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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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