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Re: Early band pianists and Miss Lil

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  • revellalex
    Message 1 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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