Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Entertainer - HAMADA Takasi, Contemporary Ragtime Guitarist

Sheet music front page
Ragtime dawned in the USA in the late 19th Century as a style of popular music influenced by European classical tradition as well as African rhythm. One of the trademarks of ragtime is syncopation, a characteristic 'delay' in the rhythm pattern generating a certain pulse to the melody line, which is a normal feature in African music - and in jazz. Ragtime was primarily composed by piano players, and today ragtime music is best remembered through the works of ragtime composer-pianists like Scott Joplin, James Scott, Arthur Marshall, Joseph Lamb a.o. - pioneers of the classic ragtime repertoire.

At a time before gramophones, records, radio and modern mass media ragtime became popular in the public through published sheet music scores designated for piano players and home entertainment, however, ragtime was also often performed by brass bands performing in street parades, at sport games and other public events. A branch of ragtime performance was offered by virtuosic banjo players, who played classic ragtime pieces on 5-string banjo in concert, and stringbands composed of various string instruments also performed ragtime music in tent shows and at private parties helping to spread the music to a broad audience and making ragtime a hype that put the swing to things in the era before The Jazz Age of the 1920s.

The public taste gradually changed after WW 1 with the emergence of jazz and other popular genres, however, ragtime never disappeared, but was rediscovered from time to time during the 20th Century. In the 1970s, a very popular movie, 'The Sting', used music by Scott Joplin in the soundtrack and generated a renewed interest for Joplin and ragtime. This time guitar players were also attracted to the music and a selection of the classic rags by Joplin and other ragtime composers were transcribed for solo guitar and mostly performed in the folk club circuit and released on LP records. Ragtime played on solo guitar is a challenging experience and demands great technical skills  - a contemporary master of ragtime guitar shows off the needed dexterity in a performance of Scott Joplin's popular rag, 'The Entertainer'


The featured guitarist in the video is HAMADA Takasi, a Japanese guitar player (b.1964) from Otaru City, Hokkaido Island, Japan. He has specialized in ragtime and ragtime influenced music, and he has transcribed both classic ragtime compositions by Scott Joplin and others for solo guitar and furthermore contributed with several of his own compositions in the ragtime genre. His guitar style is quite unique. He can play in standard tuning, but more often he plays in a special "Otarunay-Tuning" (EbAbCFCEb : 6 to 1) that fits well for arranging piano rags for solo guitar. More info on HAMADA Takasi at his website in English, here

HAMADA Takasi (source: YouTube)
HAMADA Takasi has released several CDs since 1992 featuring both own compositions and compositions by well known American ragtime artists, a selection of his CDs are available for purchase here . - Below I'll insert more examples of his magnificent playing from the videos he has uploaded at YouTube. 

Here is first HAMADA Takasi playing a popular, modern ragtime piece composed by David Thomas Roberts - 'Roberto Clemente'


Last year HAMADA Takasi released his latest CD, Tanne Nay, containing sixteen compositions of solo guitar pieces, from original ragtime to tango, blues, ballad, caprice, including 2 rag-medleys by Blind Boone.

CD front: Tanne Nay (Otarunay Records, OTR-033)
One of the featured original ragtime compositions on the Tanne Nay CD is 'Merry's Fish Market', here performed live in a video recording

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If you like contemporary solo guitar playing of high standard, I recommend HAMADA Takasi's recordings, his skills both as a composer and as a musician are unique. To end this small presentation, I'll insert the uploaded audio track of the title composition from 'Tanne Nay' - a modern classic rag by HAMADA Takasi   


The Tanne Nay CD is available for purchase here

---
Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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Monday, November 10, 2014

Louis Vola Del Quinteto Del Hot Club De Francia (1944-46)

Louis Vola
Louis Vola (1902-1990) was a French double-bassist famous for his work with the Quintette du Hot Club de France featuring the star soloists Django Reinhardt (g) and Stéphane Grappelli (violin). According to some sources, Louis Vola discovered Django and his brother Joseph in Toulon, France early 1930s at the time he led his own orchestra in Cannes. Vola invited them to sit in with his band, however, the co-work with Dango and his brother was not a big success, as the brothers had troubles keeping up with appointments. Then another co-work with Django in 1934 was more successful. At that time Vola led his orchestra in a distinguished hotel in Paris, and members of the band comprised both Django Reinhardt (g) and Stéphane Grappelli (violin). During intermission of performance in the hotel Django and Grappelli had fun in a stage room playing together for themselves, later bandleader and bassist Vola joined them together with guitarist Roger Chaput and encouraged the quartet to work out arrangements for an all-strings jazz ensemble. Django demanded that his brother Joseph, who was used to accompany him, joined the group and this was the birth and original formation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, which had this name thanks to Charles Delaunay, who engaged the quintet as the house orchestra of the Hot Club de France organisation and later arranged numerous recording sessions, performances and tours promoting the first ever European string swing jazz ensemble.

The original Quintette du Hot Club de France
The original Quintette du Hot Club de France (- including changing members of the rhythm section from time to time) had success all over Europe until the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, when the group dissolved and the members of the ensemble went for a career in other combinations. Louis Vola had been a stable member of the group most of its time, but he had also participated in various other bands featuring both French and foreign musicians on the Parisian music scene. You can read more about his engagements outside the QHCF in a previous article by Georg Lankester, here.

In 1940, Vola had joined Ray Ventura's orchestra and went with the band in exile on its tour of South America the next year. Recently Georg Lankester has given an account of the career of Ray Ventura in two published articles, the second has info on Ventura's tour of South America and is accessible here.

Ray Ventura and band members with guitarist Henri Salvador ( Buenos Aires) ( 1943)
Ray Ventura's orchestra had success in Rio de Janeiro, the first destination of the South American tour, and when the band arrived in Buenos Aires in July 1942, the sucess continued with both live performance and recordings for the Odeon label. In between contracted performances with the Ventura orchestra members of the band were free to establish contacts with other musicians and the local music scene to support expenses of living in exile. On these conditions Louis Vola formated a group similar to the Quintette du Hot Club de France late 1942 or early 1943.

Hernán Oliva
Among others, the ensemble comprised guitarist Henri Salvador, who also was a member of the Ventura orchestra, and the Chilean violinist Hernán Oliva, who had been a member of Oscar Alemán's first Quinteto de Swing 1941-42, but by then had abandoned further cooperation with Alemán due to an incompatibility of tempers. Together with two local rhythm guitarists this group named Louis Vola del Quinteto del Hot Club de Francia recorded four (test-)sides for the small, local Sincopa y Ritmo label, which never were issued (- according to discographical info by Tom Lord, the four recorded titles  were 'Viper's Dream', 'Mabel', 'Stardust' and 'Rosetta' with the mx-numbers from BAVE2720-BAVE2723, all well known tunes from the repertoire of the original QHCF).

Excerpt of Tom Lord's discographical info (click to enlarge)
As the stay in Buenos Aires was extended because of WW2 that prevented the Ray Ventura orchestra to return to Europe, Louis Vola continued his own musical project with a new formation of the quintet, which had a recording contract with the Argentine division of Victor records. The first session recorded for Victor was made in October 1943 accompanying a vocal ensemble named The Blackbirds and resulted in two sides. According to Tom Lord's discography, the two titles recorded were 'For Me And My Gal' and 'I'm Old Fashioned' (issued on Vic 60-0282). The quintet now comprised Hernán Oliva (violin), Luis Silva, Musco Milton, Hector Condro (guitar) and Louis Vola (ldr, bass).

The Victor recordings 1944-46 (source: VirgilJazz CD 111)
Louis Vola stayed in Argentina until 1948 and thus did not leave the country together with Ventura, who headed for the U.S.A. in 1945 after WW2 had ended and then returned to France to continue his career. From September 1944 to April/May 1946 Vola continued recording with his quintet in Buenos Aires. Twenty four sides were cut for the Victor label during this period as shown in the listing above. There was some changes of personnel in the quintet from time to time, however, Hernán Oliva had a leading instrumental voice in the ensemble and he is featured on all listed sides. As the quintet emulated the sound of the original QHCF, the choice of a lead guitarist to perform the 
guitar solos also was crucial. The first eight sides as shown feature Luis Silva as lead guitarist in the ensemble with remaining personnel as listed in Tom Lords discography for the October 1943 session.

Luis Silva
Luis Silva (1915-1987) was a Chilean guitarist, who had started his career playing jazz in his homeland in the 1930s and further had founded the QUINTETO SWING HOT DE CHILE after discovering Django Reinhardt. He made some records with this combination in Chile 1943-44, and according to the scarce discografical info the 1943 sides also comprised Hernán Oliva on violin. Silva might have come to Buenos Aires in 1944 at the request of Hernán Oliva, but info on the circumstances of his involvment with Vola's quintet is not available. Fact is, however, that Silva had the  guitar solo part in the eight sides with Vola's quintet for Victor recorded from September to December 1944. 

Silva's technique is well developed and he has some great solo spots (- very different from Django) as well as competent interplay with Oliva and the rhythm section on the eight sides with Vola's quintet. Here is an example of Silva's fretwork in the recording of 'The Sheik of Araby' from September 1944.


After Luis Silva left Vola, he returned to Chile and gave up playing jazz continueing his career in Chilean folk music. You have the opportunity to read more about Luis Silva in an article in Spanish published here.

Henri Salvador
 The March-April 1945 sessions have changes in personnel, another lead guitarist named A.Rivera of whom no info is available takes over Luis Silva's chair, and there is added vocal by a female singer named Alice Burton, who contributes the lyrics in English on 'Undecided'. Alice Burton may be a stage name for a local artist, again no info is to be found, however, she also contributes with her vocal on a few more sides of the remaining Victor recordings by Louis Vola's quintet. 

The May-June and August 1945 sessions reunite Henri Salvador with the quintet, he is now featured as the lead solo guitarist and contributes with some noteworthy solo spots, i.e. in the recording of 'Django Blue(s)'


Henri Salvador (1917-2008) was a member of Ray Ventrua's orchestra like Louis Vola and had embarked on the tour of South America with the band, where he both had vocal spots and played the guitar. The career of Henri Salvador is too extensive to refer here, enough to tell that he had learned guitar from his brother, Tony Salvador, and that he knew Django and had recorded with him in France before the war in the orchestra of Fred Adison

His style of playing the guitar is more modern than Luis Silva's and he is said to have prefered chord solo contributions instead of single string. However, his playing on the shown 'Django Blue(s)' has fine examples of single string playing, and the same technique is used in one of the highlights of the Victor recordings by the Louis Vola's quintet - 'Tiger Rag' - a show piece for Hernán Oliva's violin


The last four recordings for Victor April-May 1946 again have a change of personnel. Henri Salvador had left Buenos Aires at the end of the war in August '45 together with Ventura, as replacement his brother Tony Salvador sat in with the quintet in three of the sides as a piano player. Further, Oscar Alemán's rhythm guitarist of his first quintet, Dario 'Johnny' Quaglia, also is featured and female vocalist Alice Burton again contributes with lyrics in English. The last recording, 'You Never Say Yes...', replaces Tony Salvador with Jorge Curutchet on el-guitar.

Private issue (Virgil Jazz, CD 111)
The Victor recordings by Louis Vola's quintet (1944-46) have never been reissued by an ordinary company, however, private collectors in Argentina of the original discs have released  the 24 sides on a CD, which may be hard to find outside Argentina. The shown CD from Virgil Jazz (CD 111) is an example of such a collection. A similar collection was also issued by the Buenos Aires Tango Club (CD Jazz 8004). 

Nevertheless, these recordings are of historic importance and document the direct influence of the original QHCF in 
Argentina by one of its founding members, double-bassist Louis Vola.


---
Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Apanhei-te Cavaquinho

Cavaquinho
The title of this entry refers to a famous choro tune composed by Ernesto Nazareth in 1914, since then a standard tune among choro musicians and recorded by numerous artists. However, the title of Apanhei-te Cavaquinho (- which in English means 'I got you, cavaquinho', refering to the friendly 'cutting contests' among choro musicians in rodas de choro meetings) is also the title of a four part filmed documentary of the story of the cavaquinho.

Cavaquinho ace and historian Henrique Cazes and producer Ivan Dias produced a documentary in four parts on the origins and circulation of the cavaquinho recorded on location in Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, Cabo Verde and Hawaii to cast some light upon the story of this fascinating instrument. The film was shown on TV in Brazil and has now been uploaded on YouTube, more than four hours documentation featuring Henrique Cazes as the guide interviewing key persons at the mentioned locations. As may be expected, the speak is in Portuguese most of the time (- except through some of the interviews recorded in Hawaii) and there are not added English subtitles in the YouTube version. However, even though you do not speak or understand the Portuguese language, this filmed documentary is entertaining and moreover has great photography by Carlos Mendes Pereira creating an authentic atmosphere of the locations and supporting the interviews well. You have the opportunity to watch all four parts following this link

CD front: Uma História do Cavaquinho Brasileiro (independent, 2012)
As a follow-up to the mentioned film, Henrique Cazes recorded and produced the shown CD in 2012 featuring fourteen tracks of compositions documentating the importance of the cavaquinho in popular Brazilian instrumental music, in particular choro. Of course,  Ernesto Nazareth's 'Apanhei-te Cavaquinho' is featured on the CD in a new arrangement also used in the soundtrack of the film mentioned above, and there are more tunes by choro pioneers like 'Cruzes, Minha Prima!' by Joaquin Callado, 'Roceira' by Mário Álvares da Conceição (- an early master of the cavaquinho known as Mário Cavaquinho) and 'Não Pode Ser!' by Nelson Alves (- another pioneer of the cavaquinho known as Nelson Cavaquinho). Late 1940s, Waldir Azevedo made the cavaquinho popular as a solo voice in choro and related genres, and four of his compositions are featured in new arrangements by Henrique Cazes and Beto Cazes - besides the smash hits 'Brasileirinho' and 'Delicado' you have new versions of 'Brincando Com O Cavaquinho' and the beautiful 'Eterna Melodia'. From the same period there is also a new arrangement of Garoto's 'Meu Cavaquinho', further a version of 'Gingando' (- a popular tune composed by Dino 7 Cordas while being a stable member of cavaquinista Canhoto e seu Regional, the ensemble which later became the backing ensemble of Jacob do Bandolim). Modern tradition of the cavaquinho is represented by an arrangement of Radamés Gnattali's 'Variações Sem Tema', here performed in a duet interplay with pianist Cliff Korman, and further there is a version of Paulinho da Viola's melodious 'Beliscando'. Finally, two contemporary compositions by Henrique Cazes, 'Real Grandeza' (- a choro dedicated to Paulinho da Viola and his farther, Cesar Faria, violanista and founder of the famous Epoca de Ouro choro ensemble) and the double tune 'Dois Estudos Nº 6 E Nº 7' (- dedicated to bandolinista Joel de Nasciemento and Hamilton de Holanda respectively). - Henrique Cazes plays the cavaquinho in all fourteen tracks (- and doubles on violão tenor in some tunes), and he is accompanied by a backing ensemble consisting of 7 string acoustic guitar, double bass, percussion and in some tracks an accordion is also added. More info on participating musicians and tracks available here 

Henrique Cazes
Henrique Cazes is a modern master and virtuoso of the cavaquinho as a solo voice in Brazilian popular music, and the shown CD is a marvelous example of his mastery of the instrument in a repertoire of delightful compositions reflecting the story of the cavaquinho and its importance in choro and related instrumental genres. The CD is highly recommended, if you like Brazilian instrumental popular music of high quality and further are keen on exploring the cavaquinho as played by a modern master. The CD is available at Itunes and various streaming audio services, and a mp3 download version is available for purchase at Amazon, here

The CD was presented in a TV program by TV Cultura in Brazil, and I'll insert a couple of fragments from the program below uploaded at YouTube. - Here's is first Henrique Cazes playing his arrangement of Waldir Azevedo's 'Brincando com o Cavaquinho'



To end this small review, here's is Henrique Cazes in his own composition 'Real Grandeza'


Friday, October 24, 2014

Philip Catherine & Martin Wind - A New CD And Live Performance in Porgy en Bess, October 2014

Philip Catherine (photo by Hans Koert)
Regular readers of this blog will already know that Hans Koert - the originator, founder and main editor of the Keep Swinging website including underwebs and blogs - appreciated the Belgian jazz guitarist Philip Catherine  - both as a musician and as a person. You can still read Hans Koert's devoted and affecionate reviews of some of Philip Catherine's previous recordings and live performances by following the links collected at this page, and you also have the opportunity to enjoy some of Hans' great photos featuring Philip Catherine by clicking here.

The last review by Hans Koert of a Philip Catherine album and a live performance by Catherine and his quartet was published last year, here, a follow-up to the celebration of Catherine's 70 years with the release of the CD titled Côté Jardin and the presentation in a concert at Porgy en Bess (Terneuzen). On October 19th this year, Philip Catherine again performed in Porgy en Bess, this time in a duo setting, and the current background of this performance was part of the presentaion tour of a new CD featuring Catherine and bassist Martin Wind, New Folks, released earlier this year by the German ACT label.

CD front: New Folks, ACT 9621-2 (Cover Art by Philip Taaffe)
The CD was recorded in April last year and features thirteen tracks including four compositions by Catherine, among them 'Hello George (for George Shearing)' and 'L'Eternel Désir', two by Martin Wind: 'Song For D' and 'Standing At The Window Wawing Goodbye', the remaining titles are modern jazz standards and there are further  new arrangements of Willard Robinson's 'Old Folks', Paul McCartney's 'Jenny Wren', Irving Berlin's 'How Deep Is The Ocean' and Carmichael's 'Winter Moon' - more info including tracklist and audio clips available here 

Philip Catherine & Martin Wind (photo courtesy by Dean Bennici/ACT music)
All tracks of the CD are splendid examples of Philip Catherine's mature and lyrical guitar work, and bassist Martin Wind contributes with solid support and excellent solo spots throughout. Martin Wind is a young, German bassist with a career in  the USA and also leading his own ensembles besides contributing his skills both as a bassist and composer in various other settings, learn more at his official web, here. -  The duo was brought together by producer Siggi Loch of the ACT label, and judging from the music at the New Folks CD, the co-work between Catherine and Martin Wind has been fruitful and the benefits of their interplay outstanding. - From a live-performance in Dortmund, Germany earlier this year was recorded a short fragment in rather bad footage and uploaded at YouTube, however, I'll insert it here to give you an impression of the interplay between Catherine and Martin Wind



As mentioned above, on Sunday October 19th this year the Catherine-Wind duo performed in Porgy en Bess presenting music from the New Folks CD. The concert was attended by members of Hans Koert's family and friends a.o., and Peter Koert, Hans' younger brother, sent me his impressions from the concert, which I'll insert below.

Philip Catherine and Martin Wind in Porgy en Bess
by
Peter Koert  

Last Sunday 19th October 2014 there was a great concert of the fabulous duo Philip Catherine (guitar) and Martin Wind (bass) at the great Jazz stage Porgy en Bess in Terneuzen, The Netherlands.
Caterine/Wind in Porgy en Bess (photo by Jaap Sonnevijlle)
The relaxed duo played a number of their own tunes of the superb new album "New Folks", for instance "Hello George", written by Philip Catherine and "Song for D" written by Martin Wind.

The modest and tuneful  played "Old Folks" was personally dedicated with affection by Philip Catherine to Hans Koert who passed away last month and wrote so many passionated reviews in this blog.
Dedication to Hans Koert
Thank you Philip, Martin and friends of Porgy en Bess for this touching moment!
Philip Catherine (photo by Jaap Sonnevijlle)
Peter Koert
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Thank you, Peter, for sharing these impressions from a special live-performance featuring Philip Catherine and Martin Wind.
---
Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com 


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso - Segunda Vez

Mike Marshall
Mike Marshall (b.1957) is an American mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist. He has performed and recorded with
many musicians in a variety of styles, including bluegrass, classical, jazz and Brazilian music. In addition to several instruments within the mandolin family, Marshall also plays the guitar and violin. - Mike Marshall is also a partner in the music label, Adventure Music, which is dedicated to releasing music from Brazil.  Adventure Music has released Serenata, a duet recording  with pianist Jovino Santos Neto featuring the compositions of Hermeto Pascoal (2003), Brazil Duets (2005) featuring various musicians, New Words (Novas Palavras) (2006) a co-work with Hamilton de Holanda and further the debut recording by Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso (2004). Recently the second CD by Marshall and Choro Famoso also was released by Adventure Music, Segunda Vez, which is shown below.

CD front: Segunda Vez, Adventure Music, AM 1090 2 (2014)
Choro Famoso is: Mike Marshall( mandolin), Andy Connell (clarinet, soprano sax), Colin Walker (7-string guitar) and Brian Rice (pandeiro). 

Choro Famoso
The new CD has seventeen tracks and the repertoire consists of both classic and modern choro compositions. There is classic pieces by famous Brazilian chorões such as Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Nelson Alves, Luiz Americano, Jacob do Bandolim, Waldir Azevedo, Heitor Avena de Castro, Orlando Silveira, Esmeraldinho Salles and K-Ximbinho. The more contemporary choro repertoire is represented by music composed by Moacir Santos, Mauricio Carrilho, and Guinga. The performance by the Choro Famoso quartet is excellent, well balanced and with a convincing and deep understanding of the spirit of choro in both the classic and modern examples of choro featured at the disc. Highly recommended! - The CD has extensive notes about the music and is available for purchase here 

Choro Famoso in live performance
To give you an impression of Mike Marshall and Choro Famoso in live performance, I'll insert two uploaded video fragments from a concert recorded in 2010. Here is first the quartet's version of a choro titled 'Luis Americano Na Pre 3'



To end this small review, here's Choro Famoso's rendition of 'Evocação de Jacob' by H.Avena de Castro

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seger Ellis - A Forgotten Pianist And Vocalist

Retrieval, RTR 79074
While listening to one of the CDs in Retrieval's excellent series of 'Unissued on 78s' (RTR 79074 - more info available here) I was amazed to find out that Seger Ellis, a male vocalist star of the 1920s, actually started his career as a piano player, moreover a decent one. The Retrieval CD has four (unissued) piano solos by Ellis, three of them recorded in August 1925 and one untitled in 1928, and he is further featured as a piano player with Lloyd Finlay and his Orchestra in seven recordings from March 1925, his debut as a recording artist. - A YouTube video has the audio of one of the 1925 unissued piano solos as featured on the mentioned CD - 'Freight Yard Blues', recorded August 10, 1925



Seger Ellis (1904-1995)
Seger Ellis (1904-1995)  was a pianist and vocalist from Houston, Texas. He began his career in 1921 when a radio station in Houston hired him to broadcast a weekly show of solo piano music. In 1925, Victor Records came to Houston to record the Lloyd Finlay Orchestra. They wanted to record eight sides, however, Finlay had only four original songs. The Victor representative had brought two new songs with him and to fill in the remaining sides, Finlay suggested Seger Ellis to be brought in to record with the band. His two songs so impressed the Victor management that they brought him to their Camden recording studios in August 1925 to record fourteen piano solos, which were among the first Victor recordings made using an electric microphone. Although only four sides were released, two became hit records, 'Prairie Blues' and 'Sentimental Blues'.


Prairie Blues, piano solo by Seger Ellis
Shortly after returning to Texas, Columbia asked Ellis to make his first vocal recording for the company's OKeh label. He moved to New York and eventually became OKeh records most popular male vocalist in second half of the 1920s, in fact so much so that OKeh gave him his own silver and black picture label, a rare honor.

The special label used by OKeh  for Seger Ellis records
Many of his OKeh recordings feature jazz arrangements with studio groups that included Eddie Lang, Mugsy Spanier, Tommy Dorsey, Mannie Klein, Joe Venuti and even Louis Armstrong a.o.. - Below I'll insert some examples of Ellis' popular vocal recordings from the OKeh/Columbia period.

From May 1928, here's Seger Ellis' version of 'Sweet Sue, Just You'
Next a 1929 recording of 'Ain't Misbehavin' featuring Louis Armstrong on trumpet



From December 1930, here's Seeger Ellis' version of 'Cheerful Little Earful'



In 1928, Ellis toured England as a soloist and following a meeting with the popular vocal group the Mills Brothers in Cincinatti in 1930, he became the manager of this group for a few years while continuing to perform as a soloist through the '30s. His vocal contributions were in high demand and he had guest appearance with the Paul Whiteman orchestra, recorded with Frankie Trumbauer and further participated in a 1934 Hollywood film, 'One Rainy Afternoon'. Beginning in 1935, Seger spent nearly a year creating music with a group he called the Brass Choir, then assembled something of a more normal instrumental big-band line-up for another group under his leadership in 1939. - Here's an example of Ellis' big band from this period



Ellis disbanded in 1941 and enlisted in the Army-Air Force in 1942 for some time. After moving back to Texas he began to be less active as a performer and more involved in songwriting. Among his many compositions are "My Beloved Is Rugged" and "11:60PM" (both recorded by Harry James), "Gene's Boogie" (recorded by Gene Krupa), and "Little Jack Frost, Get Lost" and "You're All I Want For Christmas" (both recorded by Bing Crosby). "December" was recorded by Count Basie with a Mills Brothers vocal. The Seger Ellis songwriting catalog also includes "No Baby, Nobody But You" and "You Be You but Let Me Be Me". - Seger Ellis gradually retired and took up residence in Houston where he died in a retirement home on September 29, 1995.

CD front: Jazz in a Sentimental Mood (The Old Masters)
The above info is excerpted from a couple of articles collected here,  a more detailed career profile is available here and an extensive collection of Ellis' recordings made between 1925-1935 is free available in streaming audio and mp3 format here. The shown CD from the Old Masters with extensive notes by Allan Dodge released 2001 is still available and contains 26 tracks recorded late 1920s and early 1930s, for purchase here .
---
Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

Seger Ellis is an almost forgotten vocalist, who started his career as a solo pianist and was later hired by Columbia records as a vocalist. He was featured on Columbia's OKeh label and had success with his small band recordings featuring the cream of New York's musicians of the time. Later he formed his own big band and then concentrated on songwriting before retiring to his home town, Houston, where he died in September 1995. The above entry gives a short review of his career.






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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book of Rhapsodies

CD front: Accurate Records, CD c-7866edc (2013)
The late 1930s and early 1940s were the highlight of swing jazz in the U.S.A. and the big band was considered the essential combination for creating and performing elaborate arrangements of swing music. Bandleaders like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie among many others had success with their orchestras' formula of swing, however, if the big band version of swing jazz had become mainstream, the development and renewal of jazz was assigned to smaller ensembles. Such an ensemble was bassist John Kirby' Sextet which performed highly elaborate arrangements of swing jazz by very skilled musicians.

The John Kirby Sextet
The Sextet resided and performed at the Onyx Club in New York and released many records of high musical standard from 1937 to 1942. John Kirby and his men were popular with both the public and critics, the orchestra was often promoted as 'the biggest little band in the land', probably to match the general demand for big band swing music. The musical arrangements of the ensemble were mostly prepared by the trumpet player of the group, Charlie Shavers, who also composed one of the sextet's popular hits, 'Undecided', since then a part of the swing standard book.


Charlie Shavers
Charlie Shavers' skills as a musician, arranger and composer helped extending his outlook into other areas than jazz and popular music at the time. He made new arrangements of themes from classical music and incoporated them in the repertoire of the sextet's performance and recordings, well-developed examples of what has been called 'chamber jazz'. Some of this more experimental work by Shavers is almost forgotten today, however, there are three examples in new arrangements for big band included on the shown CD above by Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra. The CD further includes music by three other extraordinary composers and arrangers, who experimented with influences from other sources than jazz in the late 1930s - they are Raymond Scott, Alec Wilder and Reignald Foresythe. - Here's an
example of The Ghost Train Orchestra's version of one of Charlie Shavers'classical inspired tunes featured on the CD -


The Ghost Train Orchestra was founded in 2006 by Brian Carpenter , who is a composer, arranger, producer, engineer, singer/songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Brian Carpenter is the trumpeter, arranger and director of the Ghost Train Orchestra, a New York based big band featuring four reed players, three brass (trumpet, trombone and tuba), violin and viola, guitar, double bass and drums - more about the musicians of the orchestra, here

Brian Carpenter conducting The Ghost Train Orchestra (photo by Peter Ganushkin)
The Ghost Train Orchestra released its first CD in 2011 on the Accurate Records label, the CD was titled Hot House Stomp and contained new arrangements of mostly forgotten jazz compositions from the 1920s originally played by Chicago or Harlem based big bands like Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra, and Tiny Parham and His Musicians
CD front: Hot House Stomp, Accurate Records (2011)
The CD was well received by both critics and the public and has contributed to a renewed interest in research of unexpected great music of the past that otherwise would have been left to oblivion or the dusty shelves of excentric collectors of 78 rpm records.

In 2013 The Ghost Train Orchestra released its second CD, the above shown Book of Rhapsodies containing Brian Carpenter’s arrangements and modernistic reimaginings of four unusual ensembles from the late 1930s: The Alec Wilder Octet, The John Kirby Sextet, The Raymond Scott Quintette, and Reginald Foresythe and His New Music. The orchestra has been enlarged with a six-piece choir in some of the tracks, and Brian Carpenter explains his idea with the project this way: " On the surface, this project is about rescuing some long forgotten compositions from the late 1930s on 78s and rearranging them for performance and recording in the present. But it goes beyond that into interpretation and improvisation and in some cases, radical re-imagining. The whole project started when I came across the surreal and beautiful late 1930s chamber jazz of Alec Wilder. I started collecting the original 78s and became a Wilder evangelist, telling everyone I knew about him. From there I found four other bandleaders active during that time who were working in a similar vein (unusual instrumentation, hybrid between jazz and classical.)"

Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder (1907-1980) was an American composer, largely self taught and writing popular songs like "I'll Be Around" (a hit for the Mills Brothers), "While We're Young" (recorded by Peggy Lee and many others), "Blackberry Winter", "Where Do You Go?" (recorded by Frank Sinatra) and "It's So Peaceful in the Country". In addition to writing popular songs, Wilder also composed classical pieces for exotic combinations of orchestral instruments. The Alec Wilder Octet, including Mitch Miller on oboe, recorded several of his originals for Brunswick Records in 1938-40. More info on Alec Wilder including music examples at this website - There are four examples of Wilder's strange music with funny and surreal titles included on The Ghost Train Orchestra's Book of Rhapsodies. I'll insert an example of the Wilder Octet's recording of his composition titled 'Her Old Man Was Suspicious' from 1941, and then the version by Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra 



Here is the version of the same tune as played by The Ghost Train Orchestra and featured on the Book of Rhapsodies CD



Among the twelve tracks of the CD there are also three compositions by Raymond Scott (1908-1994), another excentric composer and bandleader, who excelled in both jazz and popular music besides being a producer and sound engineer. His music has been rediscovered and recorded in later years by the Dutch Beau Hunks orchestra, and the Ghost Train Orchestra contributes with excellent re-arrangements of Scott's 'At An Arabian House Party', 'The Happy Farmer' and the futuristic 'Celebration on the Planet Mars' originally recorded by Raymond Scott's Quintette late 1930s - here's the version of the last mentioned by The Ghost Train Orchestra as recorded on the Book of Rhapsodies CD



There are further two compositions by Reignald Forsythe (1907-1958) featured on the Book of Rhapsodies CD.

Reignald Foresythe
Reignald Foresythe was a British jazz pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader who spent part of his career in the U.S.A.. In the second half of the 1920s he played piano in Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders in California, he wrote songs as well and one of them, 'Deep Forest', was arranged for and recorded by Earl Hines' orchestra. Foresythe also arranged scores for Paul Whiteman and recorded with Benny Goodman, John Kirby, and Gene Krupa. In Britain he spent much of his career on the dance band scene but he also assembled a studio recording group called "The New Music Of Reginald Foresythe". Between 1933-1936 he recorded for UK Columbia and UK Decca, usually spotlighting his own unusual jazzy tone poems. Among the more well known were "Serenade To A Wealthy Widow," "Garden Of Weed," "Dodging a Divorcee," and "Revolt Of The Yes-Men." His recordings featured reeds and sax, but no horns. 

Reignald Foresythe may be forgotten today, but Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra relcorded two of his characteristic compositions from the 'New Music' ensemble - 'Volcanic (Eruption for Orchestra)' and 'Revolt of the Yes Men'. Together with the remaining material on the CD this music sets spotlight on some unusual contributions to jazz and popular music of the late 1930s, here excellently performed by the skilled musicians featured in The Ghost Train Orchestra guided by Brian Carpenter. The title of the CD points to a musical form not in vogue in contemporary music, however, the musical rhapsody defined as an episodic instrumental composition of indefinite form fits well with the contents of the CD, I think.
---
Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


The Book of Rhapsodies is the second CD from Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra and released in 2013. The music contained in the twelve tracks of the CD features compositions from the repertoire of four unusual ensembles from the late 1930s: John Kirby's Sextet, Raymond Scott's Quintette, Alec Wilder's Octet and Reignald Foresythe's 'New Music' ensemble, everything arranged for The Ghost Train Orchestra by Brian Carpenter and excellently performed. - The CD may need a couple of listening through to get used to the music, but repeated listening definitly is rewarding. The CD is an example of contemporary music with roots in a branch of unusual music that otherwise would have been expelled to the growing field of oblivion - and a guideline to the possible development of future projects in jazz.- The CD is available for purchase at the website of the Ghost Train Orchestra.


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