Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classic Sounds of New Orleans

Whenever most people discover New Orleans music, they find a level of excitement and feeling that they might never have experienced in any other kind of music. For many, a hunger grows with each visit or listening experience: music from this city is deep in feeling and will move you out of your seat and, if you live in the city, out into the street. If you don't live here, watch out. The newest release by the keeper of America's Americana, the Smithsonian Institute, is full of New Orleans' musical treats discovered by different generations of folklorists, music historians and music lovers who came to the city on a quest to study, listen, feel and move to the music of New Orleans.

The 'Classic Sounds of New Orleans' CD on the Smithsonian Folkways label is due out on July 27th and includes 25 songs culled from recordings that were made in the city originally for Moses Asch's pioneering recording company, Folkways Records. They focus on material recorded by music historians Frederick Ramsey, Jr., and Samuel Barclay Charters, Harvard undergrads David Wyckoff and Alden Ashforth and blues folklorist Harry Oster. The material ranges from sounds of the streets to traditional jazz, blues and sacred music as only New Orleans people make it.

Folkways Records: Moses Asch and His Encyclopedia of Sound First Songs - Recorded By Frederick Ramsey Jr. New Orleans Street Singer

From the streets we have the street cries of fruit vendor Dora Bliggen, a hand and knee slapping performance by an anonymous shoeshine boy, street musician harmonica player, Freddie Small's rendition of "Tiger Rag, the call and response of Mardi Gras Indian gang, Red White and Blue and a street parade by the Eureka Brass Band. We are brought to church by street evangelist Sister Dora Alexander on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter and given an interpretation of "Dark Was the Night," by Rev. Lewis Jackson and Charlotte Rucell, also introduced is the Choir of Pilgrim Baptist Church recorded in 1954. Some of the music found in a traditional jazz funeral as done by the Paulin Brass Band round out the tribute to music in the streets.

The city's blues roots are not left unturned in the 'Classic Sounds of New Orleans.' That part of the tribute starts with Punch Miller's rendition of “Bucket’s Got A Hole in It,” a song that is said to have been in the repertoire of Buddy Bolden. A cut from the classic Folkways recordings of Snooks Eaglin is added as are songs by blues men Champion Jack Dupree, Lonnie Johnson and Roosevelt Sykes.

Traditional jazz musicians that are part of the CD are Emile Barnes, Baby Dodds, Kid Clayton and Billie and De De Pierce. The Six and Seven-Eighths String Band of New Orleans are also part of the recordings as are more musical surprises.

The Smithsonian Folkways 'Classic Sounds of New Orleans' CD has something for everyone and will entertain and educate listeners both in New Orleans and around the world. It's almost like a visit to a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 10 years before it first started.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy 99th Lionel Ferbos

There was a wonderful celebration for the 99th birthday of trumpeter Lionel Ferbos held on the 17th of July at the Palm Court Cafe. Lionel is the oldest active jazz musician in the city and he not only still plays trumpet, he also sings a number or two at every performance.

Ferbos early on played trumpet in New Orleans with bands led by Walter "Fats" Pichon, Harold Dejan and Captain John Handy. He has been a member of the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra since the band was founded by Lars Edegran in 1967.

Happy birthday, Lionel, and many more. Pictures by Don Keller.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Early Jazz and Vaudeville

Early Jass and Vaudeville

New Orleans music created quite a stir in Chicago in 1915 and Joe Frisco was very much behind it. Comic Frisco and his dancing partner/girlfriend Loretta McDermott came to New Orleans in 1914 to perform their dancing and comedy act at a Bourbon Street honky-tonk called the Pink Poodle. After the act bombed, they were left in the city with little money. They decided to explore and found a place called The Creole with a big sign outside announcing "The Dixieland Five." They went in and loved the music so much that they stayed and spent most of their remaining money dancing and drinking. As luck would have it, they found a booking at an Algiers club called The Nemo Theatre for the following weekend, but they were continually drawn back to see "The Dixieland Five" and worked up such great new dances to this exciting new music that the band took notice and the leader, trombonist Tom Brown, bought them a drink. The band and Frisco and Loretta became such buddies that on their last night in town, Joe and Loretta took to the dance floor by themselves and got more applause then they ever had before. Joe, the comic with a stutter, held up his hand and said, "D-D-Don't applaud, folks, just throw mm-money" and they picked up more money off the floor than they had made in their weekend gig across the river.

Dixieland Jazz     Dixieland Favorites    Marching Down Bourbon Street    Pete Fountain Presents the Best of Dixieland

When they got back to Chicago they immediately got a gig at Lamb's Cafe and called the New Orleans band to come up to Chicago. It didn't take long before the cafe was packed night after night, which created quite a bit of jealousy among Chicago musicians, who began trying to discredit the New Orleans band by calling their music "jass." At the time, this might have been considered much more of a slur than a compliment, but it didn't stop audience attendance and the cafe finally capitalized on it by putting a sign out in front of the club announcing "Brown's New Orleans Jass Band."

Pictured below is the band as they posed during a vaudeville routine at Lamb's Cafe, Chicago. The band, initially billed as "The Four or Five Rubes of Vaudeville," featured left to right: Unidentified drummer, Tom Brown (trombone), Joe Frisco (dancer), Raymond Lopez (cornet), Larry Shields (clarinet) and Arnold Loyocano (piano). Costumes and vaudeville sketches changed with the 1915 show. In other pictures of the group, they wear long coats and sport beards.

They were so successful that even Chicago mobster Al Capone wanted his picture taken with the band. Below is a picture from that era with Capone holding Tom Brown's trombone case while Frisco dances.

About a year and a half later, in 1917 , the first jazz recording was made by the Original Dixieland Jass Band and jazz would soon be heard around the world. Joe Frisco went to perform at the Ziegfeld Follies and, later, at the epitome of vaudeville stages: The Palace. Below is a piece of sheet music from 1918 called "Frisco's Kitchen Stove Rag," featuring cigar-smoking Frisco billed as the Creator of the Jazz Dance.

Frisco became well known for his jazz dance and had a long career appearing on stages as a comic and dancer across America before eventually moved to Los Angeles where he performed his act in a number of movies. He always loved the horse races where he hung out with Hollywood  friends including Bing Crosby. His wit was so admired and loved that stories of his one liners continued long after his passing. A book was written about Frisco's life in 1999.