Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Roll arranging

Expand Messages
  • zero2sixtymarketing
    Fred, There likely will be some notes that are unplayable from an exact roll transcription. As a performer you would have to decide which you prefer and
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 17, 2013
      Fred,

      There likely will be some notes that are unplayable from an exact roll transcription. As a performer you would have to decide which you prefer and sounds more correct, which sounds like what you are doing.

      I think using one version in one verse/chorus and then the different version in the repeating verse/chorus is a great way to go. Then you let folks hear it both ways.

      You mentioned "There are also many, many examples on his piano rolls where there are big block chords in the right hand with added grace notes that are extremely difficult to execute well. These notes may have been added - or not. We do know that those kinds of grace notes were a hallmark of the so called "Eastern" style of Ragtime. Eubie Blake, for one, has oodles of them in his published scores."

      I would suspect that these grace notes may have been part of Johnson's original performance. Something that was difficult to play and therefore copy. It also doesn't sound like the type of augmentation an editor would do. I could be wrong.

      Part of my response comes from a general disregard from the musical/jazz communities of roll performances that I see. It's an attitude that seems to say "these records were edited and so are unreliable as a recorded document." And I'm not saying that this is what you were saying or is a general belief of this group.

      I think rolls, on a whole, are great records of performances from the teens and twenties.

      I haven't heard what the final resolution was on Johnson's grave marker. I know there was a big "rent party" held down in New York to raise funds.

      Best,

      Paul



      --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, "FredC" wrote:
      >
      > Paul,
      >
      > Concerning "added notes" on Johnson's piano rolls, I have always felt that it can be really tough to know for sure what was added and what was not. In Roumanina near the end of the first-version of the second strain (or main chorus or whatever you want to call it), the right hand is played up and octave while some "tenor notes" carrying the melody line can be heard further down. These notes are unplayable with two hands and had to have been added.
      >
      > But what we really don't know is whether the piano roll company moved Johnson's right hand up an octave in order to add those tenor notes or did Johnson play his right hand up there to begin with? No way to tell for sure. I play it with my right hand up there but on a later repeat, I move my right hand back down again adding just a touch of my own interpretation to the piece.
      >
      > There are also many, many examples on his piano rolls where there are big block chords in the right hand with added grace notes that are extremely difficult to execute well. These notes may have been added - or not. We do know that those kinds of grace notes were a hallmark of the so called "Eastern" style of Ragtime. Eubie Blake, for one, has oodles of them in his published scores.
      >
      > By the way, does anybody know if James P. Johnson's grave finally got a good headstone? The last I heard he didn't have one.
      >
      > Regards,
      > Fred M. Cain
      >
      > --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, Paul Johnson wrote:
      > >
      > > Fred,
      > >
      > > I agree with you on Roumania.  Johnson's QRS performance is such an outstanding version.  I haven't seen the published score to compare, but after hearing what he does with it, you just know he had field day re-arranging it.
      > >
      > > I'm not so sure that there were that many notes added to Johnson's roll performances.  It may be slightly more so in his later release, but still, I don't think even that much was added later on.  If you listen to those early QRS efforts like Harlem Strut and Carolina Shout, they sound very close to what he recorded on phonograph record at about the same time.  While I acknowledge that roll companies could and would augment a performance, the amount of editing and augmentation usually depends on the roll company and even the time period that the piece was recorded.  During the early twenties when Johnson recorded Carolina Shout and Harlem Strut, I think QRS was still showcasing "the hand-played" sound. 
      > >
      > > We have to remember that these guys grew up hearing piano roll arrangements, and that helped to influence the full-keyboard style that they used.  What sounds like a very full arrangement today, was probably the normal way a professional pianist of the day distinguished themselves from the amateurs.
      > >
      > > Also, I think both the phonograph and the piano roll records are equally valuable in highlighting Johnson's musical genius.  Each of these methods help to bolster his reputation, but in different ways.  Certainly it's easier to hear his arranging prowess via his piano roll performances, because they are so immediate.
      > >
      > > Unfortunately, today, Johnson is probably known more for his phonograph recordings rather than his piano roll performances.
      > >
      > > Best,
      > >
      > > Paul Johnson
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > John,
      > >
      > > I might meantion that Bob Pinkser of San Diego was working on transcriptions of James P. Johnson' s piano rolls.
      > >
      > > You might try contacting him although he did not respond to the last
      > > couple of e-mails I sent him. Has anyone on our list heard from him?
      > >
      > > In my personal, honest opinion, it was James P. Johnson' s piano rolls
      > > that reveal his true genius and almost unbelievable keyboard facility.
      > > It is true that the piano roll companies almost certainly added extra
      > > notes but Johson's rolls are impressive even taking that fact into
      > > consideration. Published sheet music from that era, on the other hand,
      > > was often "simplified&qu ot; so the average piano player (like me)
      > > could play it.
      > >
      > > Take, for example, his rendition of "Roumania" ;. I have the original,
      > > published sheet music for this tune and it really isn't all that
      > > noteworthy of a piece. But Johnson' s arrangement turned it into a real
      > > gem.
      > >
      > > Regards,
      > > Fred M. Cain
      > >
      >
    • FredC
      Paul, You ve got some good thoughts in there and certainly nothing I can disagree with. The only thing I continue to wonder about is just what was on those
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 17, 2013
        Paul,

        You've got some good thoughts in there and certainly nothing I can disagree with.

        The only thing I continue to wonder about is just what was on those early rolls of James P. Johnson.

        Was it "Ragtime" or "Jazz" or both? To me, pieces like "Roumania" and "Ole Miss Blues" sure sound like Ragtime. But then other recordings like The "Farewell Blues" or "Gypsy Blues" get into some really fancy stuff that is hard to consider as traditional or even "Eastern" Ragtime. Or is it? If it's not, then what is it exactly? I know some people like to use the word "stride" but then if you call it that then is that Ragtime or jazz? Or, can "stride" be either one?

        I think Perfessor Bill Edwards has a good definition of "Stride" on his website but it still remains difficult, in my opinion, to pigeon-hole some of these rolls and call them one thing or another.

        But whatever the case, you are absolutely right that these recordings are important.


        Regards,
        Fred M. Cain

        --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, "zero2sixtymarketing" wrote:
        >
        > Fred,
        >
        > There likely will be some notes that are unplayable from an exact roll transcription. As a performer you would have to decide which you prefer and sounds more correct, which sounds like what you are doing.
        >
        > I think using one version in one verse/chorus and then the different version in the repeating verse/chorus is a great way to go. Then you let folks hear it both ways.
        >
        > You mentioned "There are also many, many examples on his piano rolls where there are big block chords in the right hand with added grace notes that are extremely difficult to execute well. These notes may have been added - or not. We do know that those kinds of grace notes were a hallmark of the so called "Eastern" style of Ragtime. Eubie Blake, for one, has oodles of them in his published scores."
        >
        > I would suspect that these grace notes may have been part of Johnson's original performance. Something that was difficult to play and therefore copy. It also doesn't sound like the type of augmentation an editor would do. I could be wrong.
        >
        > Part of my response comes from a general disregard from the musical/jazz communities of roll performances that I see. It's an attitude that seems to say "these records were edited and so are unreliable as a recorded document." And I'm not saying that this is what you were saying or is a general belief of this group.
        >
        > I think rolls, on a whole, are great records of performances from the teens and twenties.
        >
        > I haven't heard what the final resolution was on Johnson's grave marker. I know there was a big "rent party" held down in New York to raise funds.
        >
        > Best,
        >
        > Paul
        >
        >
        >
        > --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, "FredC" wrote:
        > >
        > > Paul,
        > >
        > > Concerning "added notes" on Johnson's piano rolls, I have always felt that it can be really tough to know for sure what was added and what was not. In Roumanina near the end of the first-version of the second strain (or main chorus or whatever you want to call it), the right hand is played up and octave while some "tenor notes" carrying the melody line can be heard further down. These notes are unplayable with two hands and had to have been added.
        > >
        > > But what we really don't know is whether the piano roll company moved Johnson's right hand up an octave in order to add those tenor notes or did Johnson play his right hand up there to begin with? No way to tell for sure. I play it with my right hand up there but on a later repeat, I move my right hand back down again adding just a touch of my own interpretation to the piece.
        > >
        > > There are also many, many examples on his piano rolls where there are big block chords in the right hand with added grace notes that are extremely difficult to execute well. These notes may have been added - or not. We do know that those kinds of grace notes were a hallmark of the so called "Eastern" style of Ragtime. Eubie Blake, for one, has oodles of them in his published scores.
        > >
        > > By the way, does anybody know if James P. Johnson's grave finally got a good headstone? The last I heard he didn't have one.
        > >
        > > Regards,
        > > Fred M. Cain
        > >
        > > --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, Paul Johnson wrote:
        > > >
        > > > Fred,
        > > >
        > > > I agree with you on Roumania.  Johnson's QRS performance is such an outstanding version.  I haven't seen the published score to compare, but after hearing what he does with it, you just know he had field day re-arranging it.
        > > >
        > > > I'm not so sure that there were that many notes added to Johnson's roll performances.  It may be slightly more so in his later release, but still, I don't think even that much was added later on.  If you listen to those early QRS efforts like Harlem Strut and Carolina Shout, they sound very close to what he recorded on phonograph record at about the same time.  While I acknowledge that roll companies could and would augment a performance, the amount of editing and augmentation usually depends on the roll company and even the time period that the piece was recorded.  During the early twenties when Johnson recorded Carolina Shout and Harlem Strut, I think QRS was still showcasing "the hand-played" sound. 
        > > >
        > > > We have to remember that these guys grew up hearing piano roll arrangements, and that helped to influence the full-keyboard style that they used.  What sounds like a very full arrangement today, was probably the normal way a professional pianist of the day distinguished themselves from the amateurs.
        > > >
        > > > Also, I think both the phonograph and the piano roll records are equally valuable in highlighting Johnson's musical genius.  Each of these methods help to bolster his reputation, but in different ways.  Certainly it's easier to hear his arranging prowess via his piano roll performances, because they are so immediate.
        > > >
        > > > Unfortunately, today, Johnson is probably known more for his phonograph recordings rather than his piano roll performances.
        > > >
        > > > Best,
        > > >
        > > > Paul Johnson
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > John,
        > > >
        > > > I might meantion that Bob Pinkser of San Diego was working on transcriptions of James P. Johnson' s piano rolls.
        > > >
        > > > You might try contacting him although he did not respond to the last
        > > > couple of e-mails I sent him. Has anyone on our list heard from him?
        > > >
        > > > In my personal, honest opinion, it was James P. Johnson' s piano rolls
        > > > that reveal his true genius and almost unbelievable keyboard facility.
        > > > It is true that the piano roll companies almost certainly added extra
        > > > notes but Johson's rolls are impressive even taking that fact into
        > > > consideration. Published sheet music from that era, on the other hand,
        > > > was often "simplified&qu ot; so the average piano player (like me)
        > > > could play it.
        > > >
        > > > Take, for example, his rendition of "Roumania" ;. I have the original,
        > > > published sheet music for this tune and it really isn't all that
        > > > noteworthy of a piece. But Johnson' s arrangement turned it into a real
        > > > gem.
        > > >
        > > > Regards,
        > > > Fred M. Cain
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • Paul Johnson
        Fred, You mentioned The only thing I continue to wonder about is just what was on those early rolls of James P. Johnson. I think I d classify Johnson s early
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 18, 2013
          Fred,

          You mentioned "The only thing I continue to wonder about is just what was on those early rolls of James P. Johnson."

          I think I'd classify Johnson's early rolls as ragtime that's headed for stride piano.  That's whats so great about Johnson's early roll performances.  You can hear the style changing and transforming.  You catch glimpses of how he got to Carolina Shout.  It always makes me wonder what Morton would have sounded like at the same time.

          You added "Was it "Ragtime" or "Jazz" or both? To me, pieces like "Roumania" ; and "Ole Miss Blues" sure sound like Ragtime. But then other recordings like The "Farewell Blues" or "Gypsy Blues" get into some really fancy stuff that is hard to consider as traditional or even "Eastern" Ragtime. Or is it? If it's not, then what is it exactly? I know some people like to use the word "stride" but then if you call it that then is that Ragtime or jazz? Or, can "stride" be either one?"

          I think when Johnson was playing a blues, it was a blues (12 bar or pop) but his performance is infused with the East Coast style of playing as well as his own personal style.  He ornaments his blues performances with his own arranging style..  Professionals like Johnson had to be able to play in a number of different popular styles to please their audience, which could include blues or stride or ragtime or whatever.  If they were performing solo or in a small group, they had to give their audience a wide variety of styles to keep things interesting.

          Anyway, it's great you're keeping these arrangements alive and relevant by learning and performing them.  I'm sure it wasn't a walk in the park learning to play "Roumania."

          Best,

          Paul



        • Andrew
          Hi gang, Again, I only have time for a little more right now, not so much of an in-depth thing. [sorry!] Part of the fascination with piano rolls is that they
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 19, 2013
            Hi gang,

            Again, I only have time for a little more right now, not so much of an in-depth thing. [sorry!]

            Part of the fascination with piano rolls is that they cover a very interesting period in American popular piano history: from the middle of the ragtime years through the first jazz epoch of the 1920s. More than anything, I believe these rolls very clearly and smoothly illustrate the transition from ragtime to jazz.

            OF COURSE, this depends upon who made the rolls. James P. Johnson still sounded like James P. Johnson, although of course his amount of "swing" is different for the different roll companies.

            This is a function of the roll editors/arrangers on staff at those companies, and of their own policies, not Johnson himself.

            Mr. Johnson never sounds any different on any of his audio recordings for various record companies for a given year.

            He may play different things to suit different singers and bands, but his basic style, and especially basic touch and swing, remain the same.

            The reason that his different rolls of "Caprice Rag" have different amounts of swing (at least one is straight-8ths) is probably due to them being made for three different roll companies: Aeolian, Standard, and Bennett & White.

            If you listen to enough Aeolian
            (Universal/Metro-Art/Mel-O-Dee/Duo-Art) rolls
            (by ALL their different artists),

            enough Standard (Perfection/Arto/Voco/SingA) rolls,
            (by ALL their different artists)

            and enough Bennett & White (Artempo) rolls,
            (by ALL their different artists)

            you realize these companies really had a "house sound" defined by their arrangers and arranging practices, although in most cases the original pianists' identities and musical ideas are still evident in the finished arrangement.

            THIS IS DISTINCT from what my friend, roll arranger L. Douglas Henderson, appears to claim (with little tangible proof, I might add), on his rather controversial website, namely that in nearly every case, the pianist listed on the roll had nothing to do with it, whatsoever!

            OF COURSE this is true in the case of fictitious "pianists" such as "Tom Blake", "Eubie Jones", and "Cal Welch" (all of whom were J. Lawrence Cook), or "Ted Baxter" (really Max Kortlander), "Stanford Robar" (really Lee S. Roberts) etc. etc.

            However, I believe that in most cases, at least pre-1940 or so, if a pianist is listed on the roll label, and was a real person, then they probably played, or at least arranged, that roll.

            There are a few authenticated, documented exceptions, such as:

            1. the later "Fats Waller" rolls from the 1930s and 1940s (made by J. Lawrence Cook in the style of Waller, who consented to this practice);

            2. most/all(???) of the "Vincent Lopez" rolls on Ampico (actually made by Adam Carroll and Edgar Fairchild, among others, according to their own testimonies; and usually based upon arrangements made by Mr. Lopez' ace band arranger, Domenico Savino);

            and:

            3. at least one "Pauline Alpert" roll on Aeolian Duo-Art, which was not made by her (as per her own testimony), but instead was possibly made by Robert Armbruster (although I'm not sure he himself said he made it), and her name put on without her consent.

            Of course, the amount of processing and arranging that occurred between pianist at the recording piano, and the finished roll, could be considerable.

            Some rolls sound "just like" a pianist (although rather jerky due to the early roll-recording equipment which did not have a very high "sampling rate"), while others, credited to one human being, sound like two or more human beings (such as the "Zez Confrey" QRS Word and Ampico rolls which I believe were mostly complex manuscript arrangements created by Mr. Confrey himself and sent into the QRS or Ampico factory to be put on the master).

            Other rolls sound in-between, without tons of over-orchestration, but with so much of the "house style" of that particular firm, that the original pianist's mannerisms and original ideas fade into the background.

            A good example of this practice are the Columbia and Capitol rolls made from 1921 to 1933. The arrangements are generally excellent, but it seems that only about 50% of what ended up on the finished, issued rolls originated with the recording pianist; the rest seems to have been the ideas of the roll arranger himself.

            Comparisons of the constantly-tweakable rolls with the recordings (which could not be tweaked back then, and so do not lie) of the same artists, prove how much or how little a certain roll company altered that pianist's style.

            I hope to provide a large list of American popular pianists who made BOTH audio recordings and piano rolls, so you guys can go out and listen and hear what I mean. I don't have time right now, however.

            -Andrew

            --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, Paul Johnson wrote:
            >
            > Fred,
            >
            > You mentioned "The only thing I continue to wonder about is just what was on those early rolls of James P. Johnson."
            >
            > I think I'd classify Johnson's early rolls as ragtime that's headed for stride piano.  That's whats so great about Johnson's early roll performances.  You can hear the style changing and transforming.  You catch glimpses of how he got to Carolina Shout.  It always makes me wonder what Morton would have sounded like at the same time.
            >
            > You added "Was it "Ragtime" or "Jazz" or both? To me, pieces like "Roumania" ; and
            > "Ole Miss Blues" sure sound like Ragtime. But then other recordings
            > like The "Farewell Blues" or "Gypsy Blues" get into some really fancy
            > stuff that is hard to consider as traditional or even "Eastern" Ragtime.
            > Or is it? If it's not, then what is it exactly? I know some people
            > like to use the word "stride" but then if you call it that then is that
            > Ragtime or jazz? Or, can "stride" be either one?"
            >
            > I think when Johnson was playing a blues, it was a blues (12 bar or pop) but his performance is infused with the East Coast style of playing as well as his own personal style.  He ornaments his blues performances with his own arranging style..  Professionals like Johnson had to be able to play in a number of different popular styles to please their audience, which could include blues or stride or ragtime or whatever.  If they were performing solo or in a small group, they had to give their audience a wide variety of styles to keep things interesting.
            >
            > Anyway, it's great you're keeping these arrangements alive and relevant by learning and performing them.  I'm sure it wasn't a walk in the park learning to play "Roumania."
            >
            > Best,
            >
            > Paul
            >
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.