Friday, September 3, 2010

Music -- the boogie and rock revolution 7

Boogie Woogie began as dance hall music in the 1920s.  It almost died out in the early thirties, but a few bands picked it up, especially the new big bands, and it was featured in a few musicals of the late 1930s.  That caused it to catch fire, get a lot of radio air play, and become a popular alternative to big band music and new jazz forms like bebop.

Boogie Woogie with lyrics sung along (in a hiccouphy way with pauses in the vocals -- not traditional on-going words like the Andrews Sisters singing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy') arrived in 1949 with a great boogie piano player, "Fats" Domino, who also had a soft yet distinct voice, perfect for radio.  Rock and roll was born.

Below is my review of a four-CD, 103-cut compilation called "Bands that Can Boogie Woogie":

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This review is from: Bands That Can Boogie Woogie [ORIGINAL RECORDINGS REMASTERED] (Audio CD)

Boogie woogie is an acquired taste. I have some advice: "Aquire it." This CD collection, all by itself, can accomplish that for you.

Rock and roll has taken over the world. Anywhere on the planet, a city without rock and roll on the radio is, I guarantee you, a dictatorship. Where did this triumphant form of jazz come from?

Rock, at least "classic rock," is boogie woogie with lyrics.

But there is more to boogie woogie than its historical place as the father of rock and roll. Boogie woogie has a peculiar, originally a secret, ethical code. I sensed this from my father, who taught me boogie woogie as he had learned it --from jazz masters Muggsy Spanier and Jelly Roll Morton. Once I listened to Bands That Can Boogie Woogie, a personal greed came over me to get a good fake book, one that contained additional left hand rhythm patterns beyond what I already knew. That book was "Boogie Woogie for Beginners: A Piano Method by Frank Paparelli." Paparelli has cracked the secret ethical code.

Paparelli's first suggestion: "Before you can attempt to play Boogie Woogie learn how to get the most out of listening to it." He then suggests that you not apply concepts like "beautiful" or "clinging" or "sweet" to boogie woogie. Why? Such concepts are "hopelessly out of taste" because "corny."

A boogie woogie pianist must not and dare not bore nor condescend to his (originally, a dancing) audience by manipulating their sentiments. Corniness is forbidden.

Fluctuations in timing ("rubato") are forbidden, Paparelli tells us.

Minor key and even clashing chromatic tones are not wrong notes in boogie, they give color and embellish (rather than corny emotional tricks). Boogie woogie, Paparelli tells us,. is playing "into the keys" with a firm touch. Against a rock steady left hand, the right hand, which performs the melody, "swings."

All 103 selections of "Bands that can Boogie Woogie" obey these rules. The result is to transport the listener to a fascinating, rocking, sexy world where nothing is boring and where an oddly calm trust develops between the listener and the performing musicians. The listener begins to tap his feet and nod his head. Smiling is involuntary. There is a need for motion. The listening begins to walk, then pace to the beat.

Classicly-trained Carmen Cavallaro (the flashiest of the cocktail pianists) plays a boogie on Edvard Grieg's "Anitra's Dance." Jack Fina takes Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and turns it into "Bumble Boogie." Perhaps the best boogie jazz pianist of all, Albert Ammons, has five selections in this set. The major boogie talents are all here in this collection except Meade Lux Lewis, Jimmy Yancey and "Pinetop" Smith, who died in 1929.

And that's where it came from -- abandoned dance halls with a busted piano in the 1920's, a piano so out of tune and out of repair that most music sounded laughable on it. But boogie woogie worked anyway on such dilapidated equipment. Listeners got up on their feet and danced. There's another worthwhile CD collection that focuses on these earliest boogie woogies, including selections from Lewis, Smith and Yancey: "A Jazz Hour with The Boogie Woogie Giants." I recommend that collection as background for "Bands That Can Boogie Woogie."

The genre almost died in the early 30s, but, later in the decade, big bands picked up on it. Radio spread the word, and boogie woogie stayed hip until the end of the 40s, when the vocal rhythm and blues offshoot took off with "Fats" Domino's "Fat Man" in 1949. Rock and roll was born.

But it's fun to go back before rock era and boogie along with its roots. You won't be bored. A world without corniness is a world worth knowing.
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Boogie Woogie fathered rock and roll, a revolutionary form of jazz that became the preferred type of pop music in the world for over fifty years.
This emerging genre caused a second stage of quiddity evoking music among instrumental music, leading to a dominance of soundtracks among instrumentals.  The next posting will be about the forefront of instrumental rock and roll (Les and Larry Elgart's "Bandstand Boogie") and the development of this style in the work of  Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Shifirin, and, especially, Henry Mancini and John Barry.

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