Re: [RedHotJazz] Re: More about Boogie Woogie
- Dear Hugh,
I agree with most of your points about the standard 12 bar length in early
recorded blues progressions.
What I would add is that the variants in meter are not necessarily
unorthodox, but rather, driven by the words - and sometimes by the time
needed for a self-accompanying performer to prepare for the instrumental
In the case of Turner Parrish's "Trenches", I attribute the variants to
either: 1) an imagining of words or; 2) an unsophisticated or faulty
technique. Having said this, I do believe that technique and expression are
two different things. Poor technique does not necessarily equate to profound
expression - or vice-vera.
Andrew Homzy, Montréal
> From: Hugh Crozier <jellyrollstomp@...>
> Reply-To: RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com
> Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 01:38:00 +0100 (BST)
> To: RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: Re: [RedHotJazz] Re: More avout Boogie Woogie
> I disagree. Blues by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton amongst countless
> others are clearly of standard 12 bar length. Pinetop Smith always used an
> orthodox 12 bar structure as did Meade Lux Lewis. Unorthodox approaches, like
> Texas Alexander with (ironically) King Oliver, who clearly adapted readily,
> have an unsophisticated sound to my ear. This flexible approach to bar length
> may be to do with a certain approach to the music - but at the very least by
> the 1920s there was a standard orthodox form.
> I have found the same disregard of bar division in pubs and even with jazz
> players in London over the last 40 years. I am sure it is to do with musical
> sophistication and understanding - nothing more.
- Hugh Crozier wrote:
I disagree. Blues by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton amongst
countless others are clearly of standard 12 bar length.
Which Boogie Woogie pieces did they write? (sorry - I couldn't resist
All the Boogie Woogie since Cow Cow's Blues that I think was the
earliest have this (i.e. alternating 8 and 12 measure structures)
Hugh Crozier wrote:
Pinetop Smith always used an orthodox 12 bar structure as did Meade
Lux Lewis. Unorthodox approaches, like Texas Alexander with
(ironically) King Oliver, who clearly adapted readily, have an
unsophisticated sound to my ear. This flexible approach to bar length
may be to do with a certain approach to the music - but at the very
least by the 1920s there was a standard orthodox form.
I have found the same disregard of bar division in pubs and even with
jazz players in London over the last 40 years. I am sure it is to do
with musical sophistication and understanding - nothing more.
When Boogie Woogie was mostly within the realm of players, and
transcriptions of the pieces were not yet needed by publishers, there
was a loose regard as to bar length depending on the pianist. 8 or 12
bar divisions constituted a serving suggestion rather than a full
fledged dogma or orthodoxy. Players from the big cities (such as Mr.
Pinetop) tended to play in more rigid phrase lengths than those who
worked extensively in rural areas, such as Cow Cow Davenport.
Andrew's point about singing having a part in mutating phrase lengths
is certainly true - the phrase in Skip James' "If You Haven't Any
Hay" is stretched out to an odd count partly because the two lines
that make up the verse occupy about three quarters of a 12-bar phrase
each, and are dovetailed togther in the middle.
Pinetop Smith only made eight recordings. We can assume at least he
was consistent, and he was credited by his colleagues for giving
meaning to the Boogie Woogie format. By comparison, Meade Lux Lewis
made many recordings, and I have heard most of them. If he _always_
used a twelve-bar structure, how do you explain a piece like "Rough
Seas," which is like a Lisztian fantasy expressed in Boogie Woogie
terms? And what of James "Stump" Johnson, the unknown pianist behind
Sammie Brown or Jimmy Yancey? In the last case, what sounds to be his
most "unsophisticated" stuff actually contains some of the most
advanced compositional ideas to be found in Boogie Woogie.
How would you explain a player like Wesley Wallace, whose "No. 29"
(1929) is a Boogie Woogie piece in 6/8 time stated in phrase lengths
that average between nine and eleven bars each? But for the lack of
two notes, Wallace's basic boogie pattern would be identical to Mr.
Pinetop's. Clearly in the 1920s particularly the standard orthodoxy
regarding Boogie Woogie was still in a process of development.
Incidentally, the Vocalstyle roll of Cow Cow Blues actaully does have
one phrase of 7.75 measures in length, but this may be due to too
aggressive editing of the roll. But the roll is a little different
from the earliest Cow Cow Blues on record, and his subsequent 1939
version are all formally a bit different from one another. The vocal
version is radically different from all of these, for the reason that
But I don't hear guys like Cow Cow, or for that matter King Oliver
play an uneven phrase and say "that's unsophisticated." I say "that's
different." I wouldn't even think of comparing a player like Cow Cow
Davenport to someone who plays in a local bar down the street, unless
the guy down the street was especially good. Nor would I listen to
Boogie Woogie music from before the time I was born with the
expectation of certain formulas and then say the player
is "unsophiticated" if these criteria are not met.
Uncle Dave Lewis
- For all its worth, when I was a kid, I had worked with my father, Roger Pryor
Dodge, transcribing solos. I remember a few cases of 16 bar blues where the
last 4 measures were like a type of coda added to the standard 12 bar form.
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