Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Jazz Performance - Estonian Dixieland Band

Photo produced by the Estonian Dixieland Band

This Saturday will be a little different because of the lack of video performances available for this band, the Estonian Dixieland Band. The only video I could find of the band playing live, featured parts of two tunes in which the Ella Stone sang with them.

The performance on the video, which was posted to YouTube on May 11, 2016, covers a part of both Crazy Rhythm and Bei Mir Bist Du Schön. Crazy Rhythm was featured in the 1928 musical Here's Howe. It was written and composed by Irving Caesar (1895-1996), Joseph Meyer (1894-1987), and Roger Wolfe Kahn (1907-1961). Kahn and his orchestra were first to record the tune in April 1928. It has been a popular jazz tune ever since.

Bei Mir Bist du Schön, is the German title for Bei Mir Bist du Shein which was written by Sholom Secunda (1894-1974) and Jacob Jacobs (1890-1977) in 1932 for a Yiddish musical comedy I Would if I Could.

But it wasn't until Sammy Cahn (1913-1993) and Saul Chaplin (1912-1997) rewrote the lyrics in English in 1937 that the song took off, with the Andrew Sisters recording it that November. The tune's popularity made it's way around the world.

The Estonian Dixieland Band is comprised of Petri Piiparinen on drums; Edgar Roditšenko on clarinet; Keio Vutt on saxophone; Sander Valdmaa on trumpet; Teno Kongi on trombone; Argo Vals on tuba; and Tommo Henttonen on banjo. They appear to have at least one album out. Here is their excellent recording of Sweet Georgia Brown.

Now lets listen to Crazy Rhythm as recorded by Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra in New York on April 12, 1928.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dixieland Legend Clarinetist Pete Fountain Dead at 86

Born Pierre Dewey Fountain, Jr. was born on July 3, 1930 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was known the world over as Pete Fountain. After joining the Lawrence Welk Orchestra in the late Fifties for two years he went on to record album after album for Decca Records

Every jazz fan has heard of Fountain who played everything from Dixieland to the Blues.

He died Saturday morning August 6, 2016, while in hospice care in New Orleans. He leaves his wife of 64 years and his two sons.

Here is a video of Pete Fountain performing in New Orleans that is part of the Bob and Ruth Byler Archival Collection.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Musical Echoes from the Hub "Jazz and the Genuine" by Henry J. Harding

Musical Echoes from the Hub "Jazz and the Genuine" by Henry J. Harding


EVIDENTLY the craze for wild jazz combinations is dying out, and popular favor is swinging back to the more subdued effects of the legitimate orchestra. As with everything, when carried to excess, the public speedily tire of that which is overdone bygoingto extremes. It is not so very long ago that every hotel, cafe and dance-hall was experimenting with jazz music — and how the different leaders vied with each other for new and crazier stunts! Drummers had traps by the score (the noisier the better), the biggest crash cymbals and the loudest beating bass drums pedals, strings of cow bells, etc.; clarinetists were encouraged to play entirely in the upper register and produce goosey wails, trills and runs, while the rest of the team swayed back and forth to the rhythm of the music As for the leaders — some of them would dance and prance about the stage, others went so far as to do cabaret stunts on the floor among the dancers.

Is it any wonder that the public should grow weary of the continuous bedlam of noise? The proper setting for a musical comedian is the theatrical stage — anywhere else he falls flat. There is a certain dignity to orchestral music, for the dance as well as concert, which enforces the performer to concentrate upon its interpretation, therefore absurd comedy cannot be indulged in without sacrificing genuine effects. As an illustration of the change in popular favor, let me cite an instance.

At a big ball recently given in the Copley-Plaza Hotel, a jazz team had been stationed in one of the connecting halls, with a regular combination of strings, wood-wind and brass placed in the other. When the jazz team started you could almost see the ceiling vibrate. It was rip, tear and rattlety-bang from start to finish — banjos strumming, saxophones warring and the drummer laying down a regular battle scene — but when the other orchestra began, what a noticeable contrast! Here the strings were the big feature, the six first violins bowing as one instrument and working up every little effect in true musicianly style; now a piano strain, then working up to a forte and instantly dropping back to piano, with a background of tone-color from the wood-wind and muted brass.

The jazz hall was practically deserted by the dancers, and in the other hall encore after encore was demanded. With either team it was not a question of the most popular numbers, for undoubtedly with both teams the music libraries and tempos were the same. It was simply that the dancers had tired of jazz, and were swinging back to the time-honored and legitimate form of music.

We have all played in jazz teams when the craze was on and (regardless of our personal opinions of the effects) it seemed as if the dancers really enjoyed the numbers, yet I doubt if many of "us" performers ever have danced, or have been present as mere spectators to listen to the music for an entire evening. The first few numbers seem to attract, but after those the monotony of the same colorings is noticeably tiresome. With the string orchestra, however, an innumerable variety of effects is made possible.

You may not agree with this statement — but did you ever notice that it is not necessary to play forte all the time for the dancers to keep in perfect rhythm, not even in the big auditoriums? Do you know that at times, in the end of the hall farthest away from the orchestra, the music cannot be heard, yet the dancers keep in the same step? It is the rhythm or pulsation which enables them to do this without actually hearing the music.

To make it more clear, let us estimate that the sound-zone where the music is heard embraces three-quarters of the hall; when the dancers enter this zone they catch the steady, swinging rhythm of the music, then circling nearer they pass the orchestra and move up the other side, but now leaving the music. The further they recede the fainter the sound of the music, yet by carrying the rhythmic pulse of the music with them as they pass out of the sound-zone, they keep in perfect step until they again enter it.

Just as a picture attracts the eye, so does music sway the mind. The tempo is perfect enough with the noisy jazz and the dancers could not possibly miss the rhythm, yet with the lights and shades of the string team the mental effect is intensified, together with the added pleasure of colorings. This feature is applicable to the small orchestra of five or six, as well as to the fifteen or twenty-five piece teams. To be convinced, attend a dancing party where some well-known regular and popular orchestra is playing, listen to the comments of the dancers and then draw comparisons. All the jazz effects are there, but are introduced only occasionally to vary the color. There certainly is no lack of pep, for owing to the shadings all climaxes are possible, even in waltzes. By the way, the slow dreamy waltz seems to be coming back into favor again this season, for it is requested about every third or fourth number.

The object of this article is not to knock jazz teams in general, but to inform the readers as to the popular trend of dancers. The day of the slam-bang style is passing, and the more musical effects are in demand. During the height of the jazz craze many leaders dropped the violin for the banjo, but now they are returning to the old school and feature the banjo and jazz only once or twice during an evening. As the saxophone has developed it has become a permanent member of the dance orchestra, the counter melodies of the 'cello adding body and harmony in the smaller teams.

Keep abreast of the times, boys! Don't sit down and wait for something to happen, but spruce up your orchestras along the new lines. Prosperous times are looming ahead in the music profession, and the demand is for live ones with good music.

(This article was originally published in the April 1919 issue of Jacob's Band Monthly on pages 22 & 61.)