Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Early Bud Freeman

Bud Freeman was much-maligned by his Austin High friends when he first began playing the saxophone, often labelled a 'Johnny One-Note' as he had a habit of finding one note that sounded bearable and playing it over and over. He does sound a little raw on his first recordings!

However, he quickly gained confidence and a more complete approach to his instrument - as this fantastic 1928 recording shows. The band (Bud Freeman & His Orchestra) plays with a style typical of the late 1920s Chicago groups. Bud Jacobson sounds like his idol Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa demonstrates how good a driving jazz drummer he was.

The composition itself relies on riffs and fleet-fingered saxophone runs, and in that has much in common with Freeman's other compositions (such as The Eel).

Friday, January 21, 2011

'Who Wouldn't Love' 1920s fashion?

This clip features photos and illustrations of 1925 fashion, accompanied by the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks - an irresistible combination.

Technology often falls well short of making our lives better (as anyone who has sat through an ineffectual PowerPoint presentation will attest), but YouTube videos like this one are especially effective at situating the music we love within its social and historical context. As a musician who knew nothing of the 1920s and 30s when he heard the sounds of early jazz, this is a valuable medium - I can gain an appreciation of 1920s fashion, but also understand a little more about how the world that created 'my' music felt and looked.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grégorology - inspired by Bix and Tram?

I'm back after an extended absence over Christmas while I moved home. Thanks to Michael Steinman for mentioning my blog during that time. If you haven't already done so, visit his exceptional Jazz Lives blog without delay!

I was recently struck by this 1929 homage to Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer, by a French group led by Armenian bandleader Grégor Kelekian. They capture the nostalgic ambiance of the Bix, Tram and Lang recordings of 1927, but add their own musical ideas and gentle romanticism.

I'm fascinated that musicians all around the world were already understanding Bix and Tram's music, and striving to use it as a foundation for their own. Importantly, they are playing their OWN composition, though - something that could be a goal for more recent Bixophiles. New music inspired by old music needn't be a postmodern disaster!

What became of composer/pianist Lucien Moraweck, surely the guiding figure here? What about the saxophonist Edmond Cohanier, with his delicate tone and touch? Philippe Brun is a more well-known name, thanks to recordings with Django Reinhardt and others.

I feel a strong affinity with these musicians. They fulfilled a goal of mine - creating new music drawing upon the work of their heroes.