Saturday, April 06, 2002

Not much playing, trying to catch up on sleep from the work week, and what playing I did have was not too bright.

Still, I've been able to focus on klezmer tunes and get them rollicking, despite the mental lapses. Tomorrow there's a workshop with Michael Alpert at Boaz Accordions. For some reason I'm timid with klezmer... maybe it's because I see how much work people have put into studying it, learning from older players, restoring documents and recordings, and I feel like a dilettante. On the other hand, people have come to klezmer from a lot of places, and they've bent it in various ways. Still, it would be nice to get a "yeah, go ahead and do that" from someone who has sweated for it.

Have also been reading through ragtime and Tin Pan Alley scores, without instrument.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Not much practice... heavy work week. Got just a few tunes when arriving home and before falling out last night, and none this morning.

But an interesting thing happened on last night's late session. I've been listening to James P Johnson the last two days, and I had "Old Fashioned Love" on my brain. These changes had tripped me up in the past, but last night I heard them, and it was almost like I couldn't play them wrong... it was the first time that "couldn't play it wrong" groove came back.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Chris Smith's 1998 guide to setting up an Irish slow session. Contains material on how to teach, how to learn, how to approach it, more. (I picked up the link from the Irish Traditional Music mailing list, IRTRAD-L.)
Short sleep, quick orienting session in the morning. Tried No Vacancy in D, but didn't remember the words. A few Irish tunes, and getting reacquainted with some Klezmer tunes, Tashlikh Freylach and Skyliner Khosidl from Stacy Phillips' tunebook. I like these tunes, they're rollicking, but I hope to take a session with Michael Alpert Sunday at Boaz Accordions and get some type of sense of how I can fit this in with the rest of my life.

Listening to a James P. Johnson disc from Living Era, solos, backing up Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, others.
Two sessions with others this evening. First was a quick session with Pete Grant on resophonic guitar before the user forum... had about 40 minutes playing tunes while waiting, then 15-20 minutes together. Played through "Original Rags" from memory... had some snags, but remembered each voicing. Together we played a fast Boys from Bluehill, then one slower with more bounce, the difference between bluegrass style and hornpipe style. We tried Maggie, but I had zero projection.

Then I went to the Plough & Stars on Clement for a bluegrass jam. It was a smaller crowd, good vibe. Played some non-bluegrass stuff... Jeanie chose "Bei Mir Mist du Schoen" and I could see she had fun with it. I sang Eight More Miles to Louisville and Trouble In Mind, and we caught Fishers Hornpipe in D, as a real hornpipe... the rhythmic difference was palpable. I was off on Blackberry Blossom, which was at a fast tempo with flat separation between notes. My fingers went down towards the end, silly mistakes. Fun, though.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Late-night playing was about 40 minutes of tunes, but I didn't have my best focus. This morning started with Darktown Strutters Ball from the sheet music... there were some passing chords that I don't usually hear. Then got into Salt Creek, Cherokee Shuffle, Ten Pound Float and Cuckoo's Hornpipe, but my fingers weren't quite together.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Disc of the day is "Turk Murphy Favorites", apparently two LPs records in 1949-51. Super stuff, these guys know melody, can play with it, toss it up and catch it. In the trio work the trumpet plays the melody, the trombone sets up the chord progression, and the clarinet responds to the melody above. I wonder what would have happened if Bill Monroe could have listened to this stuff at the end of the 1930s...?

Playing in the evening was minimal, but satisfying... "Trouble in Mind" in D seems to stretch from a low D to a high F#, which seems out of my range so I'm probably missing something... ran through a few fiddle tunes and a first pass through "Saratoga Hornpipe" from Howe's. I see sheet music for "Swingin' On a Gate", but I don't trust it, need to hear it from a few people to get a real sense of it.
A good morning session... not playing the evening before gave it a little more pungency. Started with Kid on the Mountain, an Em slip jig.

Went with "Maggie" for the first time without glancing at a lyric sheet... high notes are hard to hit in the morning. I'm not sure of the feel, the backup was almost honkytonk-piano style... will it have any blue notes? Still, it's a step forward to remember the words.... ;-)

Checked that I had retained Miss Monaghan and Love at the Endings, particularly in series because they're both in D and learned at the same time, but I got each. Still had some fingering glitches on the latter though.

Closed with Bohemia Rag, Ham And!, and the musette waltz "Espoir Perdu" in Dm/F.

Monday, April 01, 2002

Listened through the day through radio transcriptions from Merle Travis, and Louis Armstrong on RCA in the late 40s. Merle had a great personality, would be good to watch how he performed. I put "No Vacancy" and "Divorce Me C.O.D." on repeat to get the lyrics. The Louis Armstrong material did sound different than the early 30s material, but the duets with Jack Teagarden were a revelation, very relaxed, both strongly melodic and attentive.

In the early evening I browsed through Dover books of sheet music from the turn of the century which I picked up from the Public Domain Info site. There's lots of good material in there, from the verse melody to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Rose Room", much more.
Had a short session last night, just enough to keep my head in. This morning had tunes like Rights of Man, Golden Eagle Hornpipe, Beeswing Hornpipe, trying to get good bounce and separation. Got into Arkansas Traveller in D for awhile, playing it like a hornpipe instead of a reel, going for variations. Main session was the rags "Ham And!" and "Bohemia", may be able to memorize them by end of week.

Listening to John Whelan, Irish accordionist, on a crossover album. I like how the accordion sounds with Dobro, and percussion works too.

Sunday, March 31, 2002

I did manage to play along with a Conjunto Bernal recording in the afternoon. I rarely play with CDs, but this was useful to confirm keys, progressions, and melodies. Mostly they play in the flat keys, up through Ab, although one tune was in D, and one tune was a bit sharper than concert. I'm not sure what I picked up from Paulino Bernal's style, although I guess this is a necessary step in learning the tools in order to listen to his playing in a more informed manner.

Later I worked on "When You and I Were Young Maggie"... a beautiful tune, which most people have heard but never play. I got turned on to it awhile back from someone (Maura Connell?) singing in De Danaan or the Bothy Band, I forget who... great, hair-raising singing, although I couldn't make out what she was saying. The lyrics have been difficult to lock down... there are some copies out there that are long and don't mean much to me. I'm using the two verses found in J. Murray Neil's "The Scots Fiddle" vol2. I had always wondered how someone could sing that he had gone to the hill and seen the rusty mill and all... why didn't he take Maggie along? Turns out that the author had lost his wife to illness after a few months of marriage, and the song really means that he has seen her go, seen the town go, seen everyone regard him as different, but he still sees her as he knew her fifty years ago, and that beauty never fades. A deep feeling like that can mirror many things for many people.

Can pretty much go through Original Rags and Maple Leaf without checking the score. Not smooth yet, but I've broken the reliance on the visuals, and can now take it to the next step.

Now listening to Leon McAuliffe's Cimarron Boys... yes, it's accomplished, but nothing has reached me yet, I'm not sure I hear a person in there yet. Read a little in the afternoon on Kentucky fiddling and western swing steel.

Worked online late last night, but managed to get in a half-hour of playing before sleeping. Don't even remember what tunes I played, just tried to enter that state of concentration where you can't remember what else had happened.... ;-)

Work up this morning with Louis Armstrong's "That's For Me" on my head, and managed to sound it out in the initial session. Beautiful tune, and although I've sung it before I don't think I've ever backed it up with an instrument... it's got an odd structure, modulates from GM to BbM where you might see a bridge. Haven't heard anyone local play it before.

Moved from that into Blackberry Blossom. In college I thought I had learned this tune, then I heard people play it in many different ways. There are some phrasings that don't come naturally to me, such as "GABF GAEF | GDEF bage...", so those are the ones I've been trying to practice the most. Most bluegrass folks I hear try for speed with it, and they often flatten the spaces between the notes, no bounce... sometimes it's hard for me to get in synch with their rhythm/tempo on it. I followed it with another tune called "Blackberry Blossom', the Gm one from Buddy Thomas. I haven't heard others play it, got it while browsing in Stacy Phillips' big book and I believe it's in that recent book on Kentucky fiddlers too.

Last night I listened to that Karen Tweed CD twice, and could get a sense of where she was going, seeing how that type of precision could fit in with the Kalaniemi influence. I wondered how she would do on a blues. Also listened to the first disc of four in the RCA-Victor set of Louis Armstrong. These recordings start in 1932, so I guess he was on another label immediately after the Hot5/7 groups. Need to check discographies. It's amazing how he brings things forth while playing.

Hope to get some time playing accordion to a Conjunto Bernal CD in early afternoon, some rags later, and with luck some lap steel by the end of the day.