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Re : [RedHotJazz] Clarence Johnson

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  • Patrice Champarou
    ... *Clarence* and... (obviously) Sorry, P.
    Message 1 of 13 , Nov 3, 2012
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      > both Jimmy and James P. Johnson's,
      *Clarence* and... (obviously)
      Sorry,
      P.
    • Howard Rye
      There are partial listings of piano rolls which have come to his attention in Walter Bruyninckx¹s 95 Years of Recorded Jazz, including those of Clarence
      Message 2 of 13 , Nov 3, 2012
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        There are partial listings of piano rolls which have come to his attention
        in Walter Bruyninckx¹s 95 Years of Recorded Jazz, including those of
        Clarence Johnson. (I am surprised that these have not been copied by Lord,
        if they haven¹t).

        For Blake, James P. Johnson, Morton and Waller there are much more
        systematic listings in the bio-discographies.


        on 03/11/2012 11:44, Patrice Champarou at patrice.champarou@... wrote:

        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > I first heard Clarence Johnson decades ago, thanks to a (nearly
        > confidential, and now unavailable) compilation edited by French pianist
        > Jean-Paul Amouroux (Boogie-woogie story vol.1, Milan Jazz 887 795), an
        > amazing style with a rhythmic approach I found very "modern" at the time. I
        > recently noticed that he also accompanied more female blues vocalists than I
        > would have guessed, and the examples provided by the RedHotJazz Archive
        > (under names like Edna Hicks, Sara Martin, Lizzie Miles, Sodarisa Miller,
        > Monette Moore, or Priscilla Stewart) make him instantly recogizable. I also
        > found a great CD reissue of some of his piano rolls on Delmark (also seized
        > the opportunity to buy their Jimmy Blythe CD).
        > I was wondering if any biographical data about this pianist were available,
        > and more generally if any discography had ever been devoted to the solo
        > performances of Blythe, both Jimmy and James P. Johnson's, Eubie Blake, and
        > other post-ragtime musicians on piano rolls. Not expecting anything
        > complete, of course, but at least some systematic investigation of the
        > titles they were credited for.
        >
        > Patrice
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >

        Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
        howard@...
        Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Andrew
        Dear Mr. Champarou and group, You have come to the right place. Clarence Johnson is one of my most favorite pianists... he is one of my top five favorite
        Message 3 of 13 , Nov 22, 2012
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          Dear Mr. Champarou and group,

          You have come to the right place.
          Clarence Johnson is one of my most favorite pianists... he is one of my top five favorite pianists of all time.

          I think very few pianists recording pre-1925 or so had his special kind of relaxed, laid-back modern swing feel.

          Only the greats with which we are familiar (James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, James Blythe, Eddie Heywood Sr., etc) can really compare in terms of swing feel, in my opinion.

          If you listen to his 1923 records (recorded during a trip to New York) accompanying Monette Moore, Edna Hicks, and Lizzie Miles, you will hear immediately what I mean. I would imagine his 1923 record accompanying Edna Taylor (recorded in Chicago) is equally relaxed, but I have not yet heard it, although it's been reissued on Document.

          The late Mr. Mike Montgomery was probably the world's #1 authority on Clarence Johnson before he passed away, and I will forever regret not asking him more about Mr. Johnson while talking with him on the one or two telephone conversations we had (which I recorded) before he passed away.

          The lengthiest conversation I had with Mr. Montgomery about Clarence
          Johnson came at our first (and regrettably, only) in-person meeting, at the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest in Peoria, IL, on Memorial Day Weekend (May-June), 2008.

          I was a contestant in this event (I ultimately ended up placing sixth in the adult division, just shy of the top five), and Mr. Montgomery was there mainly because his son, a good pianist and very fine and creative modern ragtime composer, was also a contestant.

          Anyway, at some point early in the weekend (I think before the main event got underway), I had lunch with Mr. Montgomery in the hotel, and over my salad (I cannot remember what he ordered) I asked him as much as possible about Clarence Johnson, what with the limited time we had before I had to go run off to compete.

          It turns out Mr. Montgomery is probably the only jazz researcher to have done serious research on the 1920s pianist Clarence Johnson.
          He started inquiring about Johnson's whereabouts after first hearing some of his piano rolls (and possibly, audio recordings) in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

          He turned up a gentleman with the same name playing piano with Louis Metcalf's jazz band in New York. I'm not sure, but I believe this would be the same Clarence Johnson who had previously played with Louis Jordan's "jump swing" (R&B) band in New York in the 1930s and 1940s.

          THAT Clarence Johnson told Mr. Montgomery that although he had made one single piano roll when he was very young, subbing for another man who couldn't make the roll-recording date, (and thus the roll was probably not released under his own name), that he was not the same man who had made all of the rolls for Columbia/Capitol and US in Chicago (plus Billings/Staffnote in Milwaukee), and the half-dozen or so rolls for QRS and Aeolian in New York. He also said (apparently) he was not the same man who had accompanied those blues and vaudeville singers on records in the 1920s.

          I don't have the data on the later Clarence Johnson, but judging from the few photos I've seen of him with Louis Jordan's band in the 1930s and 1940s, he is quite a young man, apparently a teenager or in his early 20s in the late 1930s, and probably not older than his early 30s in the late 1940s. This alone would seem to rule him out as "the" Clarence Johnson, since this man's rolls started appearing circa 1921 (or circa 1919, if you believe the theory that US roll artist "Chet Gordon" was a name used by Johnson, which I don't believe).

          Here's the exact pertinent quotes from Mike Montgomery's 1963 interview with J. Lawrence Cook, reproduced in:

          The Billings Rollography
          Volume Five
          QRS PIANISTS
          1934-1994

          J. Lawrence Cook tape-recorded interview with Mike Montgomery, 1963.

          pg. 49

          "MONTGOMERY: Who is Clarence Johnson? Is he the guy, is he the same Clarence Johnson that recorded on Supertone or
          Capital[sic] and Melodee rolls and...

          COOK: Could well be, because I don't recall having met him, but I do know he's a real guy. His name's pretty well known, but
          I'm not sure about him. "

          pg. 58

          "MONTGOMERY: Again, Clarence Johnson, here's his name again. He made a lot of rolls on US. Now, there's a Clarence
          Johnson, Lawrence, that's still alive in New York here; he's fifty or so, fifty-five, and he's playing with Louie Metcalf's band
          downtown. And he says he made a piano roll once when he was fourteen or fifteen years old, because he was substituting for
          someone else who couldn't be there. He's not the Clarence Johnson I'm trying to locate. He's not THE big recording Clarence
          Johnson who made all the good blues rolls. But you never ran into this guy at US?

          COOK: No. When I worked there, I didn't work OUT there. I did the work on my Leabarjan machine [Andrew's note:
          a personal, keyboard-less table-top home roll perforator] and mailed it to them; and the first work I did for QRS, including
          "Dying with the Blues," I did all that on the Leabarjan machine. Mailed them. Mailed it to Chicago.

          MONGTOMERY: A lot of these people you might have run into if you'd been in Chicago.

          COOK: I definitely would have. I was only in the factory once, the time I was on vacation. "

          Anyway, according to Mr. Montgomery's own subsequent succesful research, "the" Clarence Johnson to whom we are referring was born circa 1900 in Kentucky. I don't have his birth information, but if it has been found, it probably exists with Mr. Montgomery's research and effects which are still in possession of the family.

          I believe he was at least a year or two older than James Blythe, who was born in 1901, also in Kentucky (although I don't think they were born near each other).

          Clarence Johnson moved to Chicago sometime in the 'teens and started hanging out with Lloyd and Warren Smith, brother musicians (Lloyd played piano; Warren played saxophone) and songwriters, who helped Clarence Johnson get some early songs published.

          He also collaborated with Clarence Williams before the latter left for New York, and may have collaborated with him on a few subsequent songs while visiting Williams in New York, or perhaps via telephone or mail.

          A young Thomas A. Dorsey encountered Johnson while hanging out at the Smith Brothers' store, "The Original Home of Jazz Music" (formerly owned and run by Clarence Williams) in Chicago. This reminiscence is recounted on pg. 77 of the book "The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church", by Michael W. Harris:

          http://books.google.com/books?id=S2Zq-GpNuxYC

          Also according to this same passage in the book, other people who visited the store included Spencer Williams, Charlie Warfield, Clarence M. Jones, and even W. C. Handy himself! I have read in other texts that Lil Hardin Armstrong and King Oliver were two other people who would visit the store from time to time.

          I sure would like to hear more anecdotes about this store, and maybe see some photos!

          Anyway, getting back to Clarence Johnson, seemingly absolutely nothing was known about him by jazz researchers (including Mr. Montgomery) until he had a breakthrough in the mid-to-late 1960s, where (I forget how, since it's been four years since he told me the story and I didn't write it down) he managed to locate Mr. Johnson's aunt(!), whose last name was Howard, as I recall. I believe she was living in a small town in Illinois, although I really forget the details and could be wrong about this.

          Basically, this was during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and black people were suspicious of white people, and vice versa. So Mr. Montgomery had quite a lot of courage to venture into a mostly-black neighborhood back then, and knock on Ms. Howard's door. Somehow he managed to convey that he was trying to find out about Clarence Johnson, and had hit nothing but dead ends so far, and she let him in. Ms. Howard apparently remembered her nephew quite well and even had a piano in the parlor on which he used to play(!) She pulled out a couple of photos of Clarence Johnson in his WWI uniform which I think might be in with Mr. Montgomery's effects.

          Now I wish I could remember more details of this visit as conveyed to me by Mr. Montgomery, I really should have had a tape recorder handy at the time. I only hope that Mr. Montgomery recorded the visit, or at least took down notes on a piece of paper.

          He must have written down SOMETHING, or at least had a good memory, since a few more details are included in the liner notes to the Delmark Clarence Johnson CD "Low Down Papa", which I recommend!

          Since Mr. Montgomery himself wrote these notes, before he passed away, they are obviously way more accurate than my half-baked recollection above.

          There is also a really really good photo of Clarence Johnson on the back cover of the Delmark CD, probably taken from the original photo used to make the 1923 QRS ad here:

          http://www.mmdigest.com/Gallery/MMMedia/QRS/Artists/index.html

          From the information he learned, Mr. Montgomery was able to piece together at least a little bit more about Clarence Johnson, and find out that he had moved to Detroit by the late 1920s, and died there of Tuberculosis in 1933.

          The former statement I've made (that Johnson was out of Chicago by the late 1920s) seems confirmed in this passage from a book on Lester Young. ["Pres: The Story of Lester Young" by Luc Delannoy.]
          The person quoted here, on page 22, is not Young himself, but seems to be saxophonist Eddie Barefield:

          "It was the winter of 1927, around Christmas time. I was in Bismarck ND playing at the Spencer Hotel with Clarence Johnson on the piano. I had just left Minneapolis, where I had founded the Ethiopian Symphonians with trumpet-player Roy "Snake" White and pianist Frank Hines, both of whom were to become Lester's first big admirers."

          http://books.google.com/books?id=9DI8c8wb-2YC

          I wish I could add more about Clarence Johnson, but about all else that I can recall are two statements, both with vague attributions.

          FIRST: The liner notes to the Delmark CD state that "Stories about Clarence Johnson confirm that he preferred to stay in the background". This is quite a vague statement and I wish Mr. Montgomery had gone to the extra trouble of reproducing and sourcing these stories, since I believe they are published nowhere. What are the stories, and where did he hear them? Johnson's aunt? Talking with Lizzie Miles?

          SECOND: Speaking of Lizzie Miles, I have read in several sources (which I cannot remember, or else I'd cite them here!) that (in later interviews with jazz fans) Lizzie Miles considered Clarence Johnson her favorite accompanist of all of the many pianists with whom she worked, including Jelly Roll Morton!
          If you listen to their records together, you really can tell they are two peas in a pod! I wonder if they were ever in a relationship!

          ---

          I have a feeling that Mr. Montgomery did not get to meet or correspond with several living (in the 1960s and 1970s) musicians who would have remembered Clarence Johnson:

          Lil Hardin Armstrong; William Evans (Buddy) Burton; Aletha Dickerson; Thomas A. Dorsey; William Henry Huff; P. M. Keast; Meade Lux Lewis; J. Mayo Williams; and Clarence Williams.

          Each one of these people could have shed quite a lot of personal and biographical light on both Mr. Johnson and also his dimly-remembered friend James Blythe. Unfortunately, as far as I know, when they were interviewed (by folks other than Mr. Montgomery) these musicians were never asked specifically about either Mr. Blythe or Mr. Johnson, and thus some good opportunities were wasted.

          This makes finding any personal information about either man more difficult today.

          [The only way we know or can guess these people knew Johnson is either circumstantial evidence:
          - they were in the right places at the right times and hung out or recorded with friends of Johnson, and so MUST have at least met him once -
          or direct evidence:
          - they volunteered his name during the course of an unrelated interview.]

          ---

          One more thing: As a musician, I am mightily impressed by Clarence Johnson's recordings and piano rolls. They are epitomes of good taste as well as good blues.

          I know is that his playing from the 1922-1923 period on is heavily indebted to James P. Johnson, particularly on his audio recordings.

          I find it interesting that most of piano solos he takes on his recordings with Edna Hicks, Lizzie Miles, etc (in between the vocal choruses) are based on the same motifs derived primarily from two James P. Johnson sources: a piano roll and a recording!

          Here's the roll... an A-roll adaptation of QRS 88-note roll 1673, originally issued in October, 1921.

          [Although a Columbia A-roll, this is derived from a QRS 88-note master, since early Columbia and very late Capitol coin piano rolls sometimes used QRS masters for the arrangements, due to a deal worked out with QRS. However, most Columbia and Capitol coin-op roll arrangements are their own, made in their own factories, using in-house talent (or at least local Chicago talent), and derived from the original Columbia and Capitol 88-note issues]

          This A-roll is played on a very fine Coinola CX coin piano with mandolin effect and xylophone, with a perfectly-restored and voiced piano. [The xylophone has been manually switched off for this particular video] THIS is how a fully-restored player piano should sound... not awful like so many other commercially-issued recordings of player pianos.

          Although the note field and sustain pedal track are adapted from the 88-note roll (although compressed to fit the 58 notes of the A-roll), The soft pedal (hammer rail) track is a creation of the coin piano roll editor.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-hRzSGBsAs

          Here's my pertinent comments I made on the video (in case it is ever removed):

          "This is one of the four or five most important James P. Johnson rolls in his entire oevure, because it was (along with his Pathe record "Watch Me Go" accompanying Lavinia Turner) one of the two primary sources influencing the ?younger? (b. 1900?) Clarence A. "Jelly" Johnson in his piano playing.

          Clarence Johnson obviously had a copy of both the original QRS 88-note roll of "Cry Baby Blues" and the Pathe record of "Watch Me Go", since practically every PIANO SOLO (not accompaniment portion) that Clarence Johnson plays on his 1923 records accompanying singers (Monette Moore, Edna Hicks, Lizzie Miles), is made up of licks copied note-for-note from either JPJ's piano solo in the middle of "Watch Me Go", or JPJ's two blues choruses on "Cry-Baby Blues" (here from 1:16 to 1:54). Remarkable!

          One more tidbit, Clarence Johnson's friend James Blythe (b. 1901) also knew this roll, possibly through exposure to it at his friend's house.

          This is proven because, on his 1924 Paramount record of "You Ain't Foolin' Me" accompanying singer Priscilla Stewart, Blythe copies the coda of JPJ's "Cry-Baby Blues" roll note-for-note (deliberately changing the very end from JPJ's original strong resolution to a Chicago-style "up-in-the-air" ending on an extremely strange chord, probably a hip way of "signifiying" used by Black pianists in Chicago in the early 1920s, as evidenced by its heavy use on blues records and piano rolls)."

          I wish I had links to both "Watch Me Go" (an absolutely FANTASTIC James P. Johnson record where he plays a KILLER accompaniment to Lavinia Turner's great vocal) and also "You Ain't Foolin' Me" (a very nice record by Priscilla Stewart with a very tasty piano accompaniment by the 23-year-old James Blythe), so that you folks on the group here could all hear them! At least they've been reissued once on Document, but we need CLEAN versions!!! Luckily a friend has an original 78 of "Watch Me Go" and I've been privileged to hear it!

          While I'm on the subject... I should mention that upon playing that Pathe record, both the record owner and I noticed there were not one, but TWO pairs of hands on the piano in the introduction to "Watch Me Go". Yet... Rust's "Jazz Records" (and the Scott Brown book on James P. Johnson) both only list Johnson as the sole pianist on the side.

          A telephone call to Brooks Kerr cleared everything up.

          Mr. Kerr claims it is legendary Harlem pianist Fred "The Tonsil" Tunstall lending his second pair of hands to James P. for the introduction to "Watch Me Go". I don't believe Mr. Tunstall made any other records, but if he did, I'd love to hear them!!! Here's a photo of him:

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/puzzlemaster/4119202488/

          Anyway, that's it for right now, but watch in a few minutes for the posting of my Clarence Johnson discography (compiled many months ago), and I hope to be able to throw together a rollography in a few weeks.

          In the meantime, you can hear quite a lot of Clarence Johnson's rolls here (including most of the "Chet Gordon" U.S. rolls from 1919-1920 which I don't personally believe are actually Johnson, but which Mr. Himpsl does):

          http://frankhimpslarchive.com/Page_4.html

          Notice that there are actual Clarence Johnson US rolls interspersed with the Chet Gordon rolls (including the many "Gordon and Brown" duets with Mae Brown, and the "Gordon and Winters", "Gordon and Robinson", etc etc rolls). I think the US rolls that actually say "Pianist: Clarence Johnson" on the label started coming out in 1921 or so, at least a few months before his first known Columbia rolls.

          Unfortunately, Mr. Himpsl has chosen to indiscriminately label all of his MIDIs of these US rolls as "Clarence Johnson" regardless of whether they said "Chet Gordon" on the label, or not. I hope to be able to straighten this issue out for you folks once my US Rollography is finally completed. (It won't be finished for a while).

          You can rest assured, however, that all of the Columbia, Capitol, and Supertone rolls on this page labeled as played by Clarence Johnson are correct, as are the handful of QRS and Staffnote rolls. This is a really excellent collection... I could spend days on this site!

          I hate to pick favorites, but "Mobile Blues" is fantastic, as is "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me" (unfortunately with some edge damage to the roll which Mr. Himpsl has not yet edited out of the MIDI file), the latter probably hands down the hottest roll ever made of this wonderful song (and for my money, one of the hottest rolls of anything ever made by anybody).

          Enjoy!
          Andrew E. Barrett


          --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "Patrice Champarou" <patrice.champarou@...> wrote:
          >
          > I first heard Clarence Johnson decades ago, thanks to a (nearly
          > confidential, and now unavailable) compilation edited by French pianist
          > Jean-Paul Amouroux (Boogie-woogie story vol.1, Milan Jazz 887 795), an
          > amazing style with a rhythmic approach I found very "modern" at the time. I
          > recently noticed that he also accompanied more female blues vocalists than I
          > would have guessed, and the examples provided by the RedHotJazz Archive
          > (under names like Edna Hicks, Sara Martin, Lizzie Miles, Sodarisa Miller,
          > Monette Moore, or Priscilla Stewart) make him instantly recogizable. I also
          > found a great CD reissue of some of his piano rolls on Delmark (also seized
          > the opportunity to buy their Jimmy Blythe CD).
          > I was wondering if any biographical data about this pianist were available,
          > and more generally if any discography had ever been devoted to the solo
          > performances of Blythe, both Jimmy and James P. Johnson's, Eubie Blake, and
          > other post-ragtime musicians on piano rolls. Not expecting anything
          > complete, of course, but at least some systematic investigation of the
          > titles they were credited for.
          >
          > Patrice
          >
        • Patrice Champarou
          Many, many thanks, Andrew, for such comprehensive information (and quite probably, for the time it took to gather all these data in two documents) I have mp3
          Message 4 of 13 , Nov 22, 2012
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            Many, many thanks, Andrew, for such comprehensive information (and quite
            probably, for the time it took to gather all these data in two documents)
            I have mp3 samples of the Edna Taylor recordings (Jelly's Blues and Good Man
            Blues) but I seriously doubt this could be Johnson - the pianist has some
            interesting licks, but he insistantly plays on the strong beats and mainly
            follows the melody...
            Since this is only a first impression, and I am used to be proved wrong with
            such appreciations, I will upload these to the group's files section later
            in the afternoon - I have not checked if you had a Yahoo account, but of
            course I can also email them to you if you like.

            Thanks again,

            Patrice
          • Patrice Champarou
            Good morning I did upload the two mp3 s by Edna Taylor yesterday night http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/RedHotJazz/files/ but unfortunately, the
            Message 5 of 13 , Nov 23, 2012
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              Good morning

              I did upload the two mp3's by Edna Taylor yesterday night
              http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/RedHotJazz/files/
              but unfortunately, the notifications which appear on the group's page never
              reached my mailbox, so I suppose they have not reached yours either.

              (Incidentally, what used to be the nicest feature of Yahoo groups, i.e.
              choosing between plain email or the webpage, has been faulty for more than a
              year now; I no longer receive subscription requests or notifications, and
              half of the notification of pending messages are no longer sent to me, so
              that I now have to check the webpage every day, sometimes unlock messages
              which should be freely allowed, which is very inconvenient... just meaning,
              do not be surprised if such incidents happen, do not hesitate to warn me,
              but I cannot fix this as a whole - and Yahoo never replied to my requests)

              Patrice
            • Hans van der Vink
              Hi Patrice, I did receive these two files yesterday in good shape. Thank you. Yahoo must be very selective. Hans van der Vink, Toronto To:
              Message 6 of 13 , Nov 23, 2012
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                Hi Patrice,

                I did receive these two files yesterday in good shape. Thank you. Yahoo must be very selective.

                Hans van der Vink,
                Toronto


                To: RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com
                From: patrice.champarou@...
                Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2012 10:46:11 +0100
                Subject: Re : [RedHotJazz] Re: Clarence Johnson


























                Good morning



                I did upload the two mp3's by Edna Taylor yesterday night

                http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/RedHotJazz/files/

                but unfortunately, the notifications which appear on the group's page never

                reached my mailbox, so I suppose they have not reached yours either.



                (Incidentally, what used to be the nicest feature of Yahoo groups, i.e.

                choosing between plain email or the webpage, has been faulty for more than a

                year now; I no longer receive subscription requests or notifications, and

                half of the notification of pending messages are no longer sent to me, so

                that I now have to check the webpage every day, sometimes unlock messages

                which should be freely allowed, which is very inconvenient... just meaning,

                do not be surprised if such incidents happen, do not hesitate to warn me,

                but I cannot fix this as a whole - and Yahoo never replied to my requests)



                Patrice


















                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Andrew
                Hello, Many many thanks for posting these two tracks! Who restored these? I can t believe they are from the Document CD, since the quality seems too good! The
                Message 7 of 13 , Dec 30, 2012
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                  Hello,

                  Many many thanks for posting these two tracks! Who restored these?
                  I can't believe they are from the Document CD, since the quality seems too good! The piano seems rather well-recorded compared to some of the other Paramount sides of the period!

                  I have just listened critically to these two recordings for the second time since downloading them today.

                  The pianist is DEFINITELY Clarence Johnson... after listening to at least a couple hundred of these old piano-vocal blues records from the 1920s (featuring all different pianists) as well as thousands of piano rolls, I'm convinced this is him.

                  Just compare with Johnson's excellent QRS piano roll of "Jelly's Blues" here. What he plays on this record is almost note-for-note (in places) what he plays on his QRS roll!:

                  http://www.frankhimpslarchive.com/uploads/Jelly_s_Blues_-_QRS_2994.mid

                  Also compare "Good Man Blues" (AKA "My Good Man's Blues" AKA "Mahailia's Blues") with the Columbia or Capitol roll of the same tune.

                  I have not seen the 88-note issue of this arrangement, nor a listing for it, so I'm not sure if the credited pianist is actually Johnson. However, I would bet dollars to donuts it's actually him, due to his characteristic style heard on this roll. It contains a wealth of authentic Clarence Johnson figures!:

                  http://www.frankhimpslarchive.com/uploads/Mahalia_s_Blues__aka_My_Good_Man_s_Blues__-_Cap_2176-10.mid

                  The fine pianist Nathan Bello has transcribed the above roll into sheet music, and you can hear him play it, note-for-note, on his CD "Windy City Blues" (along with many other Columbia and Capitol blues roll arrangements, mainly by James Blythe and Clarence Johnson) [note: on this CD, the tune is called "Mahalia's Blues", and it is track 9]:

                  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/NathanBello5

                  As a pianist, I can play pretty much everything Mr. Johnson plays on the Edna Taylor record (although I certainly couldn't play it several years ago!).

                  However, it will take me some time to transcribe these two sides into sheet music. As soon as I do so, I promise to scan and post the transcriptions to this group for your perusal.

                  I have, however, copied a few licks straight off of the records, just to double-check for verification purposes.

                  For the musicians, "Good Man Blues" AKA "My Good Man's Blues" seems to be in Bb major, while "Jelly's Blues" seems to be in F major.

                  This is a really interesting record for two reasons:

                  1. As I mentioned above, what Johnson plays on "Jelly's Blues" is almost note-for-note what he plays on his QRS roll, in certain places!

                  2. As you mention, Clarence Johnson doubles the melody for most of "Good Man Blues", which seems superfluous to me, since Edna Taylor is singing it extremely well, and the cornet player (who is he?) seems to also be doing a good job.

                  Perhaps Johnson was nervous before the session about the two other musicians playing and singing this song correctly, and so he decided to keep the melody strong throughout? It is obvious today (and probably also to all three musicians, when the record was finally issued) that he needn't have worried or adhered so closely to the melody!

                  I find this interesting because he doesn't stick particularly close to the melody on most of his other recordings (mainly with Lizzie Miles and Edna Hicks). I would guess he was much more comfortable working with these other singers, and may have had extensive experience playing with them in clubs, and possibly on tour, before he recorded with them, and that is possibly why he decides to play mostly a counter melody part to the vocalists on those records, as compared with this one.

                  HOWEVER, as a musician, I would like to point out that Clarence Johnson's right hand is by no means "only on the strong beats".
                  His right hand is playing quite a lot of syncopation over his left (which of course, has the function of delineating the strong beats). I listened carefully, and it is quite obvious to me that he is playing with the same exact swing (which, by the way, is a kind of musical fingerprint) and using generally the same rhythms he uses on his other, previously verified, records.
                  If you listen again, you will hear that he is actually laying back and playing the off-beats (when he plays syncopation) so far back in the beat that they are _almost_ on the next beat!

                  However, Clarence Johnson's style (just like ANYONE'S piano style) is far more complicated than just rhythmic motifs.

                  In those days (the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s), every single pianist had their own characteristic ornamental devices and breaks that they would use, and apply to every tune they played, regardless of the composer.

                  Of course Jelly Roll Morton is quite well known for this today, since relatively few people (at least, few people who got to record) back in the old days were able to successfully copy his devices, since they were quite complicated and musically sophisticated. Thus, Jelly Roll Morton sounds unique compared to most other pianists of the period.

                  HOWEVER, even lesser-known (today) pianists such as Clarence Johnson had an entire arsenal of devices and breaks which they used.

                  Especially in the African-American jazz community, this can be considered a form of "signifying" (or, in modern slang, "representing") from one musician to another, or even from one region to another.

                  When you hear something strange, or (seemingly) musically inexplicable on these recordings, it is probably one pianist "signifying" to others via the medium of audio recordings or piano rolls.

                  Of course the general public, and most white musicians of the period, probably would not have understood this, but many of the African-American pianists of the time would have recognized this, and gotten what is essentially a kind of musical inside joke or "shout-out" to their local region.

                  Excellent examples of this musical "signifying" are the numerous bizarre codas found on a great many of the piano rolls and audio recordings made by James Blythe and Lemuel Fowler, (and occasionally, Clarence Johnson... these two recordings are excellent examples of this!) especially between 1923 and 1925.

                  Sometimes these pianists will simply end a tune on a regular tonic chord (or "I" chord), but with the dominant seventh AND ninth added, a really "cool" chord in 1923, which still sounds hip today. This kind of ending was also used by Fats Waller around the same time period, although his mentor James P. Johnson generally preferred "perfect" endings without any strange stuff at the end.

                  However, far better examples of "signifying" were some of the strange endings favored by James Blythe, Lemuel Fowler, and Jimmy Yancey. Blythe sometimes liked to end on a chord with the dominant seventh and ninth, but it was not always the tonic. On some of his recordings, he ends on the IV chord!!! [and some other like-minded blues musicians would even end on the bVII chord, for example, a Bb major chord in the key of C major!]

                  On other recordings and piano rolls, he ends on an Eb chord, no matter the key of the original piece or relationship of the Eb chord to the tonic. This seems to be an obvious shout-out to Jimmy Yancey, who Blythe must have known in Chicago.

                  Although Blythe was a more schooled pianist than Yancey, and had more technique, I would wager he probably learned the figure from Yancey, since Yancey was older (born 1894) and was known to have been highly influential on other Chicago blues pianists in general.

                  [I must add that I am in no way trying to denigrate Mr. Yancey or Mr. Blythe... I think they were both marvelous musicians who could play with great emotional depth when they wanted to.
                  The "more technique" thing is not really important except as an aid to identifying pianists on old records, and also attempting to play like them in modern times.
                  For example, I would recommend a beginning or intermediate pianist try to play like Jimmy Yancey BEFORE they try to play like James Blythe.]

                  Clarence Johnson plays in what used to be called (in the 1920s, by James P. Johnson, J. Lawrence Cook, and others) a "Chicago" piano style.

                  Of course, it is his own personal style, but nonetheless it contains many elements used by many other pianists who spent a lot of time in Chicago, such as James Blythe, Lemuel Fowler, Mel Stitzel, and several others.

                  What is interesting is that (contrary to what was happening with many New York horn players being influenced by jazz musicians from Chicago and/or New Orleans at the same time), many (though certainly not all) of these Chicago piano players were being influenced by players from the East coast, notably James P. Johnson.

                  Clarence Johnson must have been one of James P. Johnson's biggest fans in the 1920s, since, even more so than Johnson's own pupil Fats Waller, he copied many of James P. Johnson's own characteristic devices note-for-note, either from the records or from the piano rolls. Clarence Johnson, after learning these devices, applied them frequently (and quite well and appropriately, I might add!) in his own arrangements of popular songs and blues, on piano rolls and recordings.

                  I should also add that by no means was Clarence Johnson's own "bag of tricks" limited merely to stuff that James P. Johnson played once or twice on a record or piano roll (and then never again, I might add!).

                  He had many other devices, some of which he learned from his friend James Blythe (or which Blythe learned from him... the chronology is now confused, since both gentlemen passed away decades before they could be interviewed).

                  Some (by no means all!) other possible influences on Clarence Johnson were:

                  Clarence M. Jones (Blythe's piano teacher; a classically-trained jazz pianist from Ohio who made some of the earliest hand-played blues piano rolls, and who thus can be considered a pioneer in both recorded blues music and what was once called a "modern" piano style).

                  Clarence Williams, whose own piano playing was more widely imitated than is generally credited today, judging from existing audio recordings (and who co-composed several tunes with Johnson in Chicago before Williams' departure for New York)

                  and

                  Lloyd Smith, who (as I've already mentioned earlier in this thread) ran a music store with his brother Warren, and co-wrote and published many tunes with Johnson.

                  I have not yet attempted to really analyze the influences of these three people on Clarence Johnson's piano style, but you can hear Clarence Williams' piano playing on probably over a thousand recordings (I particularly like his stuff with Sara Martin).

                  You can hear many of Clarence M. Jones' remarkable piano rolls here:

                  http://www.frankhimpslarchive.com/Page_3.html

                  [the Wurlitzer Rolla Artis rolls were issued from 1915-1918, the Vocalstyle rolls in the 1920s (since Vocalstyle purchased the roll-recording equipment from Wurlitzer, and, I think, was located in the Wurlitzer building in Cincinnati for a while), the Columbia and Capitol rolls from c. 1923-1926, and the quite remarkable and forward-looking Imperial rolls from c. 1917(?)-1921 (my friends doing the Imperial and Vocalstyle rollographies would have the exact release dates handy)]

                  You can hear Lloyd Smith's 1923 Columbia roll of "I'm Goin' Away..." (which he probably made in Chicago while Clarence Johnson was on his 1923 New York trip making the same tune for QRS) here:

                  http://www.frankhimpslarchive.com/uploads/I_m_Goin__Away_To_Wear_You_Off_My_Mind_-_COL_A-1741-9.mid

                  and this page also contains some of his exceedingly scarce late-1920s and early-1930s Capitol rolls (which were also issued on the American and Supertone labels):

                  http://www.frankhimpslarchive.com/Page_6.html

                  You can hear him actually play with his band, Lloyd Smith's Gut-Bucketeers, here:

                  http://www.redhotjazz.com/gut.html

                  More on Clarence Johnson later.

                  I hope to post some videos on Youtube of me demonstrating some of his characteristic figures, hopefully within a few months.

                  enjoy!
                  Andrew E. Barrett



                  --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "Patrice Champarou" <patrice.champarou@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Many, many thanks, Andrew, for such comprehensive information (and quite
                  > probably, for the time it took to gather all these data in two documents)
                  > I have mp3 samples of the Edna Taylor recordings (Jelly's Blues and Good Man
                  > Blues) but I seriously doubt this could be Johnson - the pianist has some
                  > interesting licks, but he insistantly plays on the strong beats and mainly
                  > follows the melody...
                  > Since this is only a first impression, and I am used to be proved wrong with
                  > such appreciations, I will upload these to the group's files section later
                  > in the afternoon - I have not checked if you had a Yahoo account, but of
                  > course I can also email them to you if you like.
                  >
                  > Thanks again,
                  >
                  > Patrice
                  >
                • ROBERT R. CALDER
                  While I would sincerely doubt the advisability of trying to play like Jimmy Yancey before trying to play like Jimmy Blythe,  I do take Andrew s point, which
                  Message 8 of 13 , Dec 31, 2012
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                    While I would sincerely doubt the advisability of trying to play like Jimmy Yancey before trying to play like Jimmy Blythe,  I do take Andrew's point, which is that according to report (and what my hearing tells me) Jimmy Blythe was a gifted and notably idiomatic barrelhouse pianist who with benefit of tuition (Clarence Jones, I think) was able to extend his range and repertoire
                    I mean that he did not undergo a deformation of his original fingerings into an orthodoxy which diminished or did away with his expressive capacities --
                    If you want to go in the other direction, toward playing in a decent barrelhouse style after having had standard training, you do need to clear up various habits which come with legit. or orthodox training.  The piano teacher who can have nothing but a complete fresh start is just not asking what the pianist wants to learn.
                    One extremely capable blues and boogie player of my acquaintance was working for a while in proximity to a legit.-trained jazz player and asked about getting some assistance -- and the teacher was so thoroughly musical he refused.
                    A few people can play almost anything
                    Rather too many can almost play an enormous range of work without ever managing to play anything/
                    It's where you put the almost, and where and when the player puts the fingers.  And Jimmy Yancey was entirely special and singular. 

                    and I shall now think myself in E-Flat to end

                    Robert R. Calder

                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • ikey100
                    While Andrew s remarks about pianists signature endings are interesting to consider, I must say that I ve always thought Yancey s Eflat endings might be a
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jan 3, 2013
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                      While Andrew's remarks about pianists' signature endings are interesting to consider, I must say that I've always thought Yancey's Eflat endings might be a sort of "rehoming" of his ear at the end of a piece. That is, consciously returning his ear/mind to a prefered tonal center before stopping. Not in a superstitious way or anything, but just in the way that a largely self taught brain might have become habituated to doing. Just a thought...

                      Warren

                      --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "ROBERT R. CALDER" wrote:

                      > and I shall now think myself in E-Flat to end
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