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Early band pianists and Miss Lil

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  • ROBERT R. CALDER
    ...   I suppose it was a little more complex than mere reproduction speed, just a matter of compensation for what the supervisor(s) of sessions supposed would
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 18, 2009
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      >We have had at least two posts coming to Miss Lil's defence, e.g. arguing that the draggy >effect was due to wrong reproduction speed -
       
      I suppose it was a little more complex than mere reproduction speed, just a matter of compensation for what the supervisor(s) of sessions supposed would not get recorded and what would be further stifled by the apparatus of musical reproduction. Lil was a schooled though hardly conservatory pianist and transcriber-copyist drafted in, in various respects her musical background was probably not so different from white players, or East Coast players of any hue, or even New Orleanians before Blue Heat was activated .
      She was a dance band anchor such as I suppose there were from Shreveport to Sarajevo to Shetland, just differing according to the music they had to bottom. But she digs in rather than plodding, to get rhythmic attack -- and her compensating for recording balance thickened the sound actually recorded. She has a nice easy swing on the numerous recordings she made as a blues accompanist for Decca in the later 1930s.
      There was general agreement that the best pianist in New Orleans was Steve J. Lewis, who seems to have had some command of dynamics, judging from the few snatches audible on accompaniments and band numbers, but he doesn't get many openings on the Piron sides on which he was pianist. Probably the important thing with Morton was the characteristic which has had some people deny he was that much of a pianist, the concentration probably learned from unschooled players heard on his travels, on putting rhythm first.
      Clarence Williams wasn't much of a pianist, Morton's great pianistic achievement was his working out of how to be both strongly idiomatic and have a considerable range.
      The problem with Luis Russell is that he was an exceptionally competent pianist who could play pretty well anything, and also orthodoxly schooled. He played with a straight or legit fingering, and the result was always something analogous to French spoken with an English accent. The very opposite of Morton.
      Richard M. Jones was not much of a pianist indeed. John Robichaux is better, but he had Morton records to imitate, presumably also Earl Hines.
      I suppose if pianists were very competent they'd be more likely to work solo, and that given the limited audibility of Steve Lewis on the Piron sides there just wasn't much of a place for pianists in New Orleans band music other than as interior engines.
       
      The string bassists of course made a huge difference. Ellington needed Wellman Braud, Milt Hinton needed John Lindsay,  Morton had to be a genius to achieve what he did whether on piano or orchestration.
       
       
      Robert R. Calder
       
       
       
       




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • David Brown
      Some confusion elsewhere so many thanks here Robert R. for super post. [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 19, 2009
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        Some confusion elsewhere so many thanks here Robert R. for super post.




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Robert Greenwood
        ... Excellent. You need to work this up into an article for publication. Unless you have already? I just thought I would mention two other New Orleans pianists
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 19, 2009
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          --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "ROBERT R. CALDER" <serapion@...> wrote:
          >
          > >We have had at least two posts coming to Miss Lil's defence, e.g. arguing that the draggy >effect was due to wrong reproduction speed -

          Excellent. You need to work this up into an article for publication. Unless you have already? I just thought I would mention two other New Orleans pianists who seem also to have worked pretty much as solo artists: Walter Pichon and Burnell Santiago. Sadly Burnell's only known recordings are two very lo-fi private recordings but show an amazing pianist at work.
          Robert G.
        • David W. Littlefield
          I would note that the pianist s fundamental role in our favorite music is *rhythm*; depending on the style/tune being played, driving the band. It doesn t take
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 29, 2009
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            I would note that the pianist's fundamental role in our favorite
            music is *rhythm*; depending on the style/tune being played, driving
            the band. It doesn't take an outstanding pianist to do the job. Of
            course appropriately played extras are nice to have, but as long as
            the rhythm and chords are good, the pianist has earned his/her keep.

            --Sheik

            At 01:27 PM 6/18/2009, Robert R. Calder wrote:

            >I suppose it was a little more complex than mere reproduction speed,
            >just a matter of compensation for what the supervisor(s) of sessions
            >supposed would not get recorded and what would be further stifled by
            >the apparatus of musical reproduction. Lil was a schooled though
            >hardly conservatory pianist and transcriber-copyist drafted in, in
            >various respects her musical background was probably not so
            >different from white players, or East Coast players of any hue, or
            >even New Orleanians before Blue Heat was activated .
            >She was a dance band anchor such as I suppose there were from
            >Shreveport to Sarajevo to Shetland, just differing according to the
            >music they had to bottom. But she digs in rather than plodding, to
            >get rhythmic attack -- and her compensating for recording balance
            >thickened the sound actually recorded. She has a nice easy swing on
            >the numerous recordings she made as a blues accompanist for Decca in
            >the later 1930s.
            >There was general agreement that the best pianist in New Orleans was
            >Steve J. Lewis, who seems to have had some command of dynamics,
            >judging from the few snatches audible on accompaniments and band
            >numbers, but he doesn't get many openings on the Piron sides on
            >which he was pianist. Probably the important thing with Morton was
            >the characteristic which has had some people deny he was that much
            >of a pianist, the concentration probably learned from unschooled
            >players heard on his travels, on putting rhythm first.
            >Clarence Williams wasn't much of a pianist, Morton's great pianistic
            >achievement was his working out of how to be both strongly idiomatic
            >and have a considerable range.
            >The problem with Luis Russell is that he was an exceptionally
            >competent pianist who could play pretty well anything, and also
            >orthodoxly schooled. He played with a straight or legit fingering,
            >and the result was always something analogous to French spoken with
            >an English accent. The very opposite of Morton.
            >Richard M. Jones was not much of a pianist indeed. John Robichaux is
            >better, but he had Morton records to imitate, presumably also Earl Hines.
            >I suppose if pianists were very competent they'd be more likely to
            >work solo, and that given the limited audibility of Steve Lewis on
            >the Piron sides there just wasn't much of a place for pianists in
            >New Orleans band music other than as interior engines.
            >
            >The string bassists of course made a huge difference. Ellington
            >needed Wellman Braud, Milt Hinton needed John Lindsay, Morton had
            >to be a genius to achieve what he did whether on piano or orchestration.
            >
          • revellalex
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 1, 2009
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              --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David W. Littlefield" <dwlit@...> wrote:
              >
              > I would note that the pianist's fundamental role in our favorite
              > music is *rhythm*; depending on the style/tune being played, driving
              > the band. It doesn't take an outstanding pianist to do the job. Of
              > course appropriately played extras are nice to have, but as long as
              > the rhythm and chords are good, the pianist has earned his/her keep.
              >
              > --Sheik
              >
              > At 01:27 PM 6/18/2009, Robert R. Calder wrote:
              >
              > >I suppose it was a little more complex than mere reproduction speed,
              > >just a matter of compensation for what the supervisor(s) of sessions
              > >supposed would not get recorded and what would be further stifled by
              > >the apparatus of musical reproduction. Lil was a schooled though
              > >hardly conservatory pianist and transcriber-copyist drafted in, in
              > >various respects her musical background was probably not so
              > >different from white players, or East Coast players of any hue, or
              > >even New Orleanians before Blue Heat was activated .
              > >She was a dance band anchor such as I suppose there were from
              > >Shreveport to Sarajevo to Shetland, just differing according to the
              > >music they had to bottom. But she digs in rather than plodding, to
              > >get rhythmic attack -- and her compensating for recording balance
              > >thickened the sound actually recorded. She has a nice easy swing on
              > >the numerous recordings she made as a blues accompanist for Decca in
              > >the later 1930s.
              > >There was general agreement that the best pianist in New Orleans was
              > >Steve J. Lewis, who seems to have had some command of dynamics,
              > >judging from the few snatches audible on accompaniments and band
              > >numbers, but he doesn't get many openings on the Piron sides on
              > >which he was pianist. Probably the important thing with Morton was
              > >the characteristic which has had some people deny he was that much
              > >of a pianist, the concentration probably learned from unschooled
              > >players heard on his travels, on putting rhythm first.
              > >Clarence Williams wasn't much of a pianist, Morton's great pianistic
              > >achievement was his working out of how to be both strongly idiomatic
              > >and have a considerable range.
              > >The problem with Luis Russell is that he was an exceptionally
              > >competent pianist who could play pretty well anything, and also
              > >orthodoxly schooled. He played with a straight or legit fingering,
              > >and the result was always something analogous to French spoken with
              > >an English accent. The very opposite of Morton.
              > >Richard M. Jones was not much of a pianist indeed. John Robichaux is
              > >better, but he had Morton records to imitate, presumably also Earl Hines.
              > >I suppose if pianists were very competent they'd be more likely to
              > >work solo, and that given the limited audibility of Steve Lewis on
              > >the Piron sides there just wasn't much of a place for pianists in
              > >New Orleans band music other than as interior engines.
              > >
              > >The string bassists of course made a huge difference. Ellington
              > >needed Wellman Braud, Milt Hinton needed John Lindsay, Morton had
              > >to be a genius to achieve what he did whether on piano or orchestration.
              > >
              >Rhythm from a pianist is fine, but if he/she plays wrong chords he/she will soon be belted of the stand. Only a musician's view, of course.
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