Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Brian Carrick's Heritage Jazz Quartet - A Review by George A. Borgman

Many British jazz musicians are obsessed with the early and even the recent jazz music of New Orleans, and Brian Carrick's recording, according to Peter King's liner notes, is supposedly the music "coming from one of the many dockside bars along Decatur Street, New Orleans, or from one of the small dance halls dotted around the French Quarter in the 1940/50 era."
The first of the quartet's two sessions was recorded for Bill Bissonnette's Jazz Crusade label, and the second session was recorded at a jazz festival at Pontin's, "a holiday camp" at Weston-Super-Mare, England.
The quartet has been in existence for many years and its members come from diverse areas of England. According to King's notes, the music consists of spirituals, blues, ballads and a couple of breakdowns; however, the "spirituals" are more like hymns, and it is questionable as to whether any of the tunes are authentic ballads.
Carrick plays the clarinet with a very wide vibrato which on the hymn-like tunes produces a feeling of melancholy. Bassist Ken Matthews, in the style of many British bassists, plucks the strings very loudly which leads one to believe the bass' strings are made of catgut.
Since there are only four players, with the clarinet taking most of the solos and playing the melodic lead, drummer Male Murphy has to produce a great variety of rhythmic variations in the background to Carrick's improvisations and variations of the melodies. This keeps the music on this CD from becoming boring.
The best performed tunes are "St. Phillip Street Breakdown," "God Will Take Care of You," in waltz time, "Nearer My God to Thee," "High Society" and "Burgundy Street Blues." More solos from the banjo and bass, a vocal or two, and even an added cornet would aid the listener in appreciating more of this recording which is quite interesting for the listener who likes the New Orleans sound. - George A. Borgman, IAJRC Journal

Brian Carrick's Heritage Hall Stompers play at a festival, Exactly Like You, 2001.

The Heritage Hall Stompers Website.

Memories of a Jazz Journalist - Part Seven - "Errors"

Here is the continuation of Memories of a Jazz Journalist by George A. Borgman.

I have reviewed numerous jazz recordings for the Mississippi Rag. In one review I identified the tune "Cross Your Heart" as "Cross Your Eyes," and in another, "Big Butter and Egg Man" as "Big Brother and Egg Man." The errors got through me, my wife, Janet, an excellent proofreader, and the editors at the Rag.

Here is the tune Cross Your Heart played by Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra in 1926.
Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five with singer May Alix - Big Butter and Egg Man, recorded in 1926.


"Who would believe?" - by George A. Borgman

George Borgman writes a short autobiographical blurb on January 27, 1996.
Who would believe that I would be a jazz journalist in the later years of my life? I was a lousy high school student, doing best in band and orchestra, playing clarinet, and writing for the Courier, the Normandy High School newspaper.
I played with dance bands and combos and went on to college and eventually earned a B.M. (prefer to call it B.Mus.) degree in music history and literature and a master's degree in musicology. And until now, I've never worked as a reviewer or written concerning music subjects.
I'm not writing about classical music but about traditional jazz. Amazing!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jazz Performance Saturday! Dixieland French Style - "Yes Sir, That's My Baby"

George A. Borgman said, "Traditional jazz belongs to the world," and since the Saturday Jazz Performance series was started here at Yankee Jazz Beat, it appears that he was absolutely correct.
We've had examples from Italy, Russia, Slovakia, Germany and of course the United States. Today's, jazz performance is one by an unknown street band in Perros-Guirec, Brittany, France during a street festival sometime in 2010.
Although only four in number, they certainly produce a pretty lively version of, I believe, Yes Sir, That's My Baby The group, dressed as old fashioned convicts, seems to consist of a tuba, trumpet, portable  drums contraption and a banjo. Despite their funny appearance they perform a pretty convincing dose of Trad jazz!

Yes Sir, That's My Baby was written by Gus Kahn (words) and Walter Donaldson (music) in 1925, the song being introduced by Margaret Young. Later, Al Jolson would sing it in 1930.

Since the original English version, there have been other versions in various languages including Yiddish!

So, without further ado...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jazz Performance Saturday! "Down By the Riverside" - Jericho Dixieland Jazz Band

Publicity photo taken from their Facebook
page. All rights reserved. 
The Jericho Dixieland Jazz Band is based out of San Pietro a Maida, of the Calabria region of Italy! Their performance of  Down By the Riverside was recorded March 3, 2013.
Down By the Riverside is an American spiritual that was first published in 1918 by the Rodeheaver Company in a musical collection called "Rodeheaver's Plantation Melodies: A Collection of Modern, Popular and Old-time Negro-Songs of the Southland."
Although Down By the Riverside has been assumed to be a song that originally emanated from the struggle of slaves for their freedom around the Civil War, unfortunately there is no solid evidence in the written record of this.
The phrase "down by the riverside" is a fairly common one in slave songs. Also, the way the song was written is similar to other call out songs where one will lead the song and others will repeat. The song has long been included in Baptist hymnals and it has been published under various titles such as, Ain't Gonna Study War No More, Goin' to Lay down My Burden, and Ain't Gonna Grieve My Lord No More among others.
It was first recorded by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet as I Ain't Goin' to Study War No More. It has long been played by Traditional jazz bands. Both Bunk Johnson and George Lewis during the traditional jazz resurgence  both recorded the tune as well as many many others.
Here the Jubilee Dixieland Jazz Band play a spirited version of the tune in the "traditional" or Dixieland jazz vein. This band was started in 2005 featuring Lorenzo Varano on trombone; Nicholas Marinaro on trumpet;  Anthony Davoli on bass tuba; Francis Davoli on euphonium;  Gianluca Materazzo on banjo and Joseph Maggisano on vocals and guitar. New members of the band are Francesco Gemelli on alto saxophone; Thomas Maggisano on drums; Luke Roseto on soprano saxophone and Andrea Bonaccurso on banjo.
It is not clear which members are playing in this 2013 performance unfortunately. The original video had some serious shake going on so I have processed it to make it more presentable.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thatcher/Blount/Vickers - River Stay' Way CD Review by George A. Borgman

Thatcher/Blount/Vickers - River Stay' Way - It is amazing how jazz has spread throughout the world and the Brits are now some of the better performers of the New Orleans style. On this recording Jazz Crusade producer Big Bill Bissonnette has come up with some very fine British musicians who play in a style reminiscent of that heard years ago in New Orleans.
These jazzmen are from three bands: the Ken Colyer Trust, directed by trumpeter Norman Thatcher, banjoist Dave Brennan's Jubilee Jazz Band, and clarinetist Chris Blount's New Orleans Jazz Band. Trombonist Dave Vickers is a member of the Ken Colyer Trust, and he, bassist Mick Kennedy and pianist Barry Grurnmett play in the Jubilee Jazz Band. Drummer Male Murphy works with several bands.

Put these guys together and, as Bissonnette says in the album notes, it's "a real good ensemble band." The front line musicians work very well together with fine backup from the piano, and the rhythm section provides a steady beat that is evident today in only such New Orleans-inspired bands as the New Black Eagle Jazz Band in the United States and Kid Bastien's Happy Pals in Toronto, Canada.
These British musicians play with feeling and dynamics while playing in New Orleans ensemble, which is immediately evident in the initial rendition, "There's Yes! Yes! in Your Eyes," from 1924. This tune was recorded by Paul Whiteman on the Victor label, Al Kahn (Columbia), Guy Lombardo (Decca), Artie Shaw (Columbia), and Eddy Howard (Mercury). And here, as elsewhere on this CD.
Thatcher's trumpet sounds off very well on the melodic lead and the three members of the front line and the piano have outstanding solos. Blount's clarinet, Vickers's trombone and Thatcher are at their best on solos and leads on "River Stay 'Way from My Door."
The ensemble playing is particularly outstanding on the traditional "Lily of the Valley," Joe "King" Oliver's wonderfully bluesy "Snag It," one of the better renditions, and "Daddy's Little Girl."
"Just a Gigolo," from 1930, a Viennese popular song originally titled "Schöner Gigolo," was introduced in the United States by Irene Bordoni. Its first successful recording was by Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra on the Hit of the Week label; a new recording, on a flexible disc, was issued and sold under this label's name each week at newsstands. Other early recordings were by Bing Crosby (Victor) and Harry Richman (Brunswick). Today, at concerts and jazz festivals, Berlin born Marty Grosz does a splendid vocal of this song in English and German, but here there is no vocal, unfortunately; however, the tune is one of the better offerings by the band with fine solos from the trumpet, trombone and piano, and some nice, light press rolls from Murphy.

The band is best on the snappy "Indiana," from 1917, as there are excellent solos and counterpoint from the front line, Brennan takes an interesting banjo solo, and Murphy uses the drum set, to include the snare drum, cowbells and tom-toms. Following "Indiana" is the traditional "Yes Lord I'm Crippled," a perfect selection for the final tune. For those listeners who like the wonderful New Orleans style, this fine CD is tor them. - George Borgman IAJRC Journal

River Stay 'Way From My Door - Barnes, England 27 December 1995.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jazz Performance Saturday! "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" - By a Russian Dixieland Band!

Here is an unusual performance which I was unable to learn very much about. All I could find out is that this is a Russian jazz band playing Bei Mir Bistu Shein at an unknown jazz festival.

The uploader called it "Moscow Dixieland jazz." Using an automatic translator, I believe the members of the band may be, A. Loshakov I. Pankratov A. Volkov V.  Rodionov and A. Alhasyants.

If anyone has any information they can add regarding this group, please feel free to let us know.

The song being played Bei Mir Bist du Shein also known by the German title Bei Mir Bist du Schön, was written by Sholom Secunda and Jacob Jacobs in 1932 for a Yiddish musical comedy I Would if I Could.

But it wasn't until Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin rewrote the lyrics in English in 1937 that the song took off, with the Andrew Sisters recording it that November. The tunes popularity made it's way around the world!

Dixieland Russian style!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jazz Performance Saturday - Traditional Dixie Stompers - "Back Home Again in Indiana" & "Bourbon Street Parade"

Jazz Performance Saturday is back!
Today we have a video of a band called the Traditional Dixie Stompers from of all places, if I am not mistaken Slovakia! I can't tell you too much about the group because everything written about them is in Slovakian.
In this video the Traditional Dixie Stompers are comprised of six people who play keyboards, a trumpet, saxophone, trombone, guitarist, drummer and what looks like a sousaphone.
The first tune played is Back Home Again in Indiana composed by Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley. The song was published as Indiana in 1917.
The next piece of music played by the band is Bourbon Street Parade which was written by the New Orleans drummer Paul Barbarin (1899-1969) in 1952 and was popularized by traditional jazz band, The Dukes of Dixieland.
The very last tune briefly played after the band is introduced in Slovakian is Bye Bye Blues! Bye Bye Blues was composed by Bert Lown, Chauncey Gray, Fred Hamm, and Dave Bennett in 1930. A band Bert Lown was leading recorded it for Columbia. Lown would use it as his band's theme song. It would be revived in the 50s by Les Paul and Mary Ford.

Traditional Dixie Stompers - August 22, 2013.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The "First" Use of Certain Instruments in Symphonies - by George A. Borgman

The object of this paper is to show how certain composers used certain instruments for the "first" time in their symphonies. First is in quotes, because scores of the first symphonies of several of the composers could not be found by this writer.

The usual orchestra of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven consisted of one or two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, first and second violins, violas, cellos, and contrabasses.

Franz Joseph Haydn
Only some of the latter symphonies of Haydn are considered here. In the Surprise Symphony (94), Haydn used a triangle, cymbals, and bass drum; this was in the second and forth movements. In The Clock Symphony (101), he used two clarinets, which were usually independent of the rest of the orchestra; however, they were sometimes used with the strings, with the bassoons, and with the brass.
Although the Overture to Magic Flute is not a symphony, it is considered here, because not many of Mozart's symphonies are available to the writer. Mozart used three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass) in this overture. They are usually used with brass and woodwinds in harmony parts.
All of Beethoven's symphonies were available to the writer.
Ludwig van Beethoven
In the Erioca (3), Beethoven used three horns for the first time. Sometimes Beethoven only uses two horns, and other times he uses only one horn in this symphony. The three horns are usually used with the brass and woodwinds. 
In Symphony No. 5, Beethoven, in the fourth movement, uses a piccolo for the first time in a symphony. The piccolo usually plays in thirds or sixths with the flutes, and sometimes in unison. One contrabassoon is used, and it usually runs along with the contrabass part. Beethoven also used three trombones in this symphony; they are used separately from the rest of the brass and they are often used in choir with other brass; they also have sustaining parts.
In Symphony No. 9, Beethoven used four horns for the first time. They are used for sustaining, and are employed with the woodwinds and brass; all four are usually not used at one time. In the fourth movement, Beethoven uses a chorus with soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, triangle, cymbals, and bass drum are also employed in this movement.
Three trombones are used along with the other brass in Schubert's Great Symphony (7). Schumann also used three trombones, as well as four horns (three trombones in Symphony No. 2 and four horns in Symphony No. 3).
Hector Berlioz
Berlioz uses two cornets in the Symphonie Fantastique. They are usually independent of the trumpets, but sometimes they are a part of the brass choir. In the second movement, two harps are employed to play arpeggios, chords, and scale passages. In the third movement, Berlioz introduces the English horn to the symphony; it is independent of the rest of the woodwinds, and it is usually a solo instrument in this movement. In the same movement, four timpani are used. In the fourth movement, he employs two tubas, four timpani, and a tambourine. In the fifth movement, he used six pianos, two bells, divisi first and second violins and violas.
In Harold en Italie, Berlioz has a viola solo part. A contrabassoon is used by Brahms in his Symphony No. 1. It is used with the timpani, basses, and cellos. In Symphony No. 2, he uses a bass tuba with three trombones.
Tschaikowsky also uses the tuba with three trombones in Symphony No. 2. He uses the tamtam in the fourth movement. In No. 6, he divides the first and second violins and the cellos. 
In Antar (2), Rimsky-Korsakov uses three flutes, one oboe, and an English horn together (in first movement). In the second movement, he uses a tamtam. In Scheherazade, there are triangle trills.
As a summary, it may be noted that the size of the orchestra increased as time passed. Berlioz seems to have set the size for the Romanticists, but not all of them followed the French composer. In the classic era, Beethoven seems to have varied the size of the orchestra more than Haydn or Mozart.

Haydn's The Clock Symphony (101)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Waiting For the Robert E. Lee"

In 1912 a song was published that would cement a link between a 19th Century riverboat and Traditional Jazz. That song was Waiting For the Robert E. Lee by Lewis F. Muir and L. Wolfe Gilbert. It has been used to evoke a nostalgia for the Southern riverboat era on the Mississippi River and has been an exciting example of Dixieland music at it's finest.

Waiting For the Robert E. Lee was used in the first feature "All-Talking" musical film The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson.

The Robert E. Lee was a real riverboat that was built in 1866 and would reach the height of it's fame by taking part in a riverboat race with the Natchez that lasted from June 30 to July 4, 1870.

This is all the more interesting to the Yankee Jazz Beat because George A. Borgman's great grandfather Frank Wecker actually worked on this famous riverboat.

Frank Wecker
Frank was described as, "One of the best known local citizens of Owensboro, especially to those who have lived for years in the city." The March 26, 1905 article from the Owensboro Messenger continues. "He is, withall, a modest man, but deserves the distinction given above because of the many years he has lived here and varied experiences through which he has gone. It is probable that he can be said to have done more traveling than any other citizen in Owensboro."

Frank, "left Owensboro when a boy as a deck-sweep on a steamboat, but it was not long until he was assisting in the kitchen and later became an expert cook. It was as such that he spent many years on the great boats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers." He saw, "the rivers of the central United States and every part of the Gulf of Mexico." As well as visiting, "the great military encampments held and spent a number of months in British Honduras."

Frank had an extreme love of music and served as a "drummer boy," from Kentucky during the Civil War. After the war he, "began his career in steamboating. He spent thirty years almost continually on boats. Much of this time was on the packet line between Henderson and Louisville, but much of the greater part of it was on the Mississippi and Southern rivers. He ran on the old Robert E. Lee with Captain J. W. Cannon. Many were the experiences he had during these steamboat days and it would take many columns in which to recite them."

The Robert E. Lee.
Captain John W. Cannon and Thomas P. Leathers the captain of the Natchez had a rivalry that can only be described as dramatic. Leathers prided himself of having the fastest riverboat in the Natchez and would race other boats using every dirty trick in the book to come out ahead. He would use barrels of lard in the boiler to give his boat an extra boost and would cut off other riverboats by veering into their paths. He even had been known to shoot cannon off in the direction of the competitors steamboats. He ruled as the king of the riverboats since about 1855 with an earlier version of the Natchez.

Captain J. W. Cannon
In preparation for the race Captain Cannon would take no chances and stripped the Robert E. Lee of every non-essential piece of metal, wood and luxury. Even the chandeliers came down.

Conversely, Captain Leathers, so sure of his boat's speed, didn't bother stripping the Natchez down. He, in fact, took the passengers denied passage on the Robert E. Lee, and loaded up with cargo. He hoped to win the race and make a hefty profit too.

Starting on June 30, 1870 from New Orleans on the Mississippi River at exactly 5 O' Clock, the two riverboats started the race! Almost immediately the Robert E. Lee with it's lightened load, crew and a handful of passengers bound for Cairo, Illinois took the lead.

Captain Thomas P. Leathers 
It took the Natchez minutes just to leave the harbor giving the Robert E. Lee a four minute lead. Hundreds of people along the shore watched the historic race and cheered as the two boats paddled up river. Needless to say that thousands of dollars were wagered on this one race that would been remembered a hundred years hence.

As the Natchez passed Baton Rouge at 8:30 PM the Lee was now six minutes ahead! Captain Leathers continued to make his stops, unloading passengers and cargo as fast as possible, but the Robert E. Lee made none and continued in the lead.

Barrels of pitch were thrown into the furnace of the Natchez to give the boat extra speed as Leathers berated his crew on the one hand and gave them shots of whiskey on the other. This tactic worked to a point because the Natchez continued to trail by only six minutes when the craft passed Natchez, Mississippi.

As the Robert E. Lee passed Vicksburg a steamboat, the Frank Pargaud, pulled alongside the Lee and tied together, long enough for the Lee to be resupplied with barrels of combustibles for the remainder of the race.

By the time the Robert E. Lee passed Memphis, Tennessee the steamboat was an hour ahead of Captain Leathers! Victory was in sight for Captain Cannon. However, disaster struck when the Lee made its one and only stop at Cairo, the steamboat hit bottom which caused the whole boat to shake.

It was mayhem for the Captain and crew. Members of the crew prayed and wept and others swore as the captain gave orders to turn this way and that  to no avail. Captain Cannon an experienced hardened captain told his pilot to put the boat in reverse.

Suddenly, with groans and scraping sounds emanating from the Lee the boat ripped free from the sandbar and they were off once again, but not before losing much of their lead. For now, the Natchez was back in view and steaming towards them with a fury.

As the distance narrowed between the racing steamboats, so too did the width of the river. As the Natchez caught up they were racing side-by-side until the two riverboats, in the narrowed waterway, collided with a hard crash.

One set of opposite passengers shook hands before the two behemoths pulled loose from each other and the Robert E. Lee managed to pull ahead and cut off the Natchez.

By the night of July 3rd the race was too close to call as the boats paddled towards St. Louis as fast as they could be made to go. Then as the night wore on a mighty fog rolled in which made sight impossible.

Captain Leathers moored the Natchez to wait out the fog. Whereas Captain Cannon threw caution and sense to the wind and continued on at a much slower speed towards the finish. Going was so bad that the Lee's crew had to use fathom lines to test the depths of the river as the riverboat proceeded through the fog. Then after only about an hour, they broke through the fog and journeyed into history.

Despite the arguments that the newer boat Natchez would have won IF it didn't stop for cargo and crew and IF it hadn't moored for six hours while the fog lasted, the American public accepted Captain John W. Cannon and the Robert E. Lee the official winner, arriving at St. Louis six and a half hours before the Natchez.
Illustration of the Robert E. Lee burning on Sept 30, 1882.
From then on the Robert E. Lee was a celebrity known as the "Monarch of the Mississippi." On September 30, 1882,  only thirty miles north of New Orleans, the Lee caught fire in the middle of the night and twenty-one people perished. Thus ended the career of the Robert E. Lee which faded into history to come out the other side into legend.

Songs about the Robert E. Lee and the steamboat race would become popular jazz tunes in the years to come. Waiting For the Robert E. Lee,  The Natchez and the Robert E. Lee and Sailing on the Robert E. Lee are three examples.

The Natchez and the Robert E. Lee.
Frank Wecker survived his steamboating days. He joined the Owensboro military group known as the Monarch Rifles, as a drummer, and took part in the Centennial Celebration of the Surrender at Yorktown in the Fall of 1881 in Washington, DC.

The love for music that Frank Wecker had, was passed down to his great grandson George A. Borgman who listened to, loved, studied, played and wrote about it all of his life.

According to Frank's obituary in 1908 there was a story, "illustrative of Wecker's love of music... that occurred while he was tending bar for Theodore Washburn on Frederica Street, near the river. A brass band was in town. Possibly it was a circus band. Anyhow, Wecker followed it leaving the bar to tend itself. He did not come back the next day -- nor the next. About a year passed, when one day Wecker walked in hung his coat on the hook and faced a regular customer of the house. 'How will you have it this time, Colonel -- straight or toddy?' And he went about the performance of the duties of the position just as though he had merely stepped out for lunch."

Four years after Frank's death Lewis F. Muir composed the music for and L. Wolfe Gilbert the words for, Waiting For the Robert E. Lee. Gilbert was just starting out in the composing world, but after Al Jolson performed the song for the first time at a Sunday evening New York Winter Garden concert, Gilbert's career took off. The song would even make the top three ragtime flavored tunes in the United Kingdom in 1913.

Turk Murphy playing Waiting For the Robert E. Lee!
Collins & Harlan recorded Dec. 13, 1912.