Posted by Charlie DeVore on January 11, 2001 at 00:25:26:
Hello, gang, isn't this fun??
After Monday nite's initial program, I dashed off some words to Leslie because the Message Board wasn't up and running...so, if you'll permit me to indulge myself, here are my comments after the first show, or, as the doctor said to one of his colleagues, "I appreciate your patience!!"
Subj: Re: bulletin board
Date: 1/9/01 12:51:20 AM Central Standard Time
I was just going to access the Bulletin Board with a few comments, but will send them on to you instead and try the Bulletin Board again after it is up and running..
I love all the old film footage and still pictures, but, unfortunately, much of what we're seeing isn't identified often enough and sometimes the photos don't match the chronology ...there's a photo of Armand Piron, Clarence Williams, and Oscar Celestin taken around 1914 or so in costume for an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville tour that never materialized (see page 284 of the New Orleans Family Album book by Al Rose and Edmond Souchon) used to illustrate narration describing bands from an earlier period....I suppose this is splitting hairs, but 1904 is ten years earlier than 1914 and this band was just posing for a publicity shot in costumes depicting levee musicians from the 19th century for purposes of their anticipated tour (which never happened); they weren't really levee musicians as inferred by the narration.
I think the most egregious practice in the segment dealing with Buddy Bolden was to use contemporary bands playing music thought to be associated with Bolden rather than Bill Russell's American Music recordings of Bunk Johnson (who actually was playing in New Orleans at the same time as Bolden and probably played in at least one of his bands, perhaps his brass band...) Bill recorded Bunk whistling Bolden's variations on the chord changes of Tiger Rag for starters, in June of 1942, and then in 1943 recorded Bunk in San Francisco at Bertha Gonsoulin's house where Bunk played Make Me A Pallet On The Floor changing keys in the middle of the recording and doing the same variations on his trumpet that he had whistled the previous June. The recordings Ken Burns used were re-creations of what Bunk had already recorded in the Forties, so why not go with the real thing??
On another tune, Careless Love, I wonder why they didn't use Bill's Wooden Joe Nicholas recording...Wooden Joe was always compared to Bolden because of his powerful tone and great blues feeling, to say nothing of his fantastic swing and timing...I don't know what band Ken Burns was using, but I suspect it may have been Wynton with Michael White's Liberty Band..hard to say for sure. But it was, again, a re-creation band, that much I'm sure of...
In that same context, during the Jelly segment, behind the narration Burns used a recording by the New England Conservatory Ragtime Orchestra of Smokehouse Blues, a note-for-note transcription. Why not use the original Victor recording by Jelly and the Red Hot Peppers from 1926? It would have been a lot more authentic than Gunther Schuller's transcription, and the sound on those electrical Victor recordings is terrific, recorded in a ballroom of the Webster Hotel in Chicago...great ambiance.
I know what you mean by Wynton's pontificating....he's only 39 years old, younger than my son Chuck, so he had to learn about the city's early music second or third hand (probably from his dad and the observations of Dr. Michael White) because he sure as hell didn't experience it. When I was living in New Orleans from 1954 to 1957 (before Wynton was born) there weren't any young black musicians that I ever encountered interested in the earlier styles...this was before Preservation Hall so what I heard was in the dance halls and in the streets. You never heard young black players playing early jazz styles...it was usually post-swing bebop. The Eureka Brass Band used all older players that were steeped in the earlier brass band tradition and there was no bop..The Young Tuxedo Brass Band had some younger players, such as John Brunious (Wendell's dad), but even tho' they were playing traditional brass band street pieces, their styles were very definitely bop inspired....The brass band beat that Wynton described was not played by Robert Lewis (Son Fewclothes) of the Eureka..he played a four/four beat with accents (listen to the Atlantic recording of the Eureka) but not accented the way Wynton described them...He was born in 1900 and that probably is the type of beat that he grew up with and heard in the streets...Lawrence Marrero was also a bass drummer in Bunk's Brass Band that Bill Russell recorded for American Music and he used basically a one and three beat, switching to 4/4 on the last chorus, he never used the beat Wynton described. Just listen to the CD..Danny Barker almost single-handedly resurrected an interest in brass band street music amongst young musicians..just ask Lucian Barbarin or Freddy Lonzo....as the older players began dying out, the brass bands started to disappear, and Danny Barker was concerned..he started up a kid brass band that attracted a lot of interest amongst black high school kids and that lead to the beginning of brass bands such as the Dirty Dozen and many others that are going strong today...That was about the time Wynton was growing up and I think that's the beat he heard. I guarantee that he wasn't paying much attention to it when he was a kid....he was interested strictly in the contemporary jazz of that time..the beat these young bands used was different from the older bands and that's the beat Wynton was describing..There's nothing wrong with it, don't get me wrong, and it surely swings, but it has roots other than jazz, probably...more closely associated with New Orleans rhythm and blues. Emil Knox, of the Young Tuxedo, used a beat that was on the order of what Wynton was talking about, and he was only two years younger than Robert Lewis, but the average age of the Young Tuxedo was considerably less than the Eureka, and perhaps he used that beat to please the post swing guys in the band, once again, hard to say....I just don't think that it goes back to the beginning of the music, as Wynton inferred.
Anyway, those are a few observations....thanks for asking, you have the patience of a saint!!
Loquacious Charlie, the hysterian!!
P.S. Wynton starts off the program by saying, "Jazz objectifies America!" What's that's supposed to mean?
Double P.S. I just listened to a CD of bass drummer Emil Knox with the Young Tuxedo once again, and there definitely was nothing in his beat that resembled what Wynton was making reference to in that first episode.