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Re: More about Boogie Woogie

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  • David N. Lewis
    Hugh Crozier wrote: I disagree. Blues by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton amongst countless others are clearly of standard 12 bar length. Dave Lewis: Which
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 9, 2005
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      Hugh Crozier wrote:

      I disagree. Blues by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton amongst
      countless others are clearly of standard 12 bar length.

      Dave Lewis:
      Which Boogie Woogie pieces did they write? (sorry - I couldn't resist
      that.)

      tommersl:
      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.

      Dave Lewis:
      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
      Andrew suggested.

      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
    • pryordodge@aol.com
      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
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 9, 2005
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        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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