I am not a guitar player, but to me Furry Lewis’ technique seems unique. “Kassie Jones” is a song about a conductor, but doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead song of the same — though differently spelled — name. It is quite possible that the later song was a tribute.
Wikipedia notes that Lewis was one of the first of the older African American blues players whose careers were given a second lease on life by the explosion of interest in their music in the 1960s
Smithsonian Folkways has a nice profile of Lewis. Here is the start:
Walter “Furry” Lewis (1893– 1981) personified the relaxed and intimate character of the early blues. A master of multiple guitar techniques, he was most notably an impressive bottleneck guitarist who echoed his vocal phrasings with an expressive set of sliding notes. He was able to give his performances a spontaneity, subtlety, and feeling that made him, in the words of blues historian Sam Charters, one of “only a handful of singers [of his era] with the creative ability to use the blues as an expression of personal emotion.” (Continue Reading…)
Usually, I feature two videos in a post. This post is an exception because of the great video above. In addition to Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman, the conductor is Seiji Ozawa. The three, and the rest of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, team on Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto in D Major for Two Violins and Orchestra.”
This is sort of Clapton and Page playing together, I guess. The comments are funny, because instead of talking about what guitars the stars are using — Stratocasters or Les Pauls — there is a bit of commentary on the violins. Apparently, Perlman is playing a Stradavarius (perhaps he calls it a Strad) and Stern a del Gesù.
It will probably get me kicked out of the bloggers union (now there’s a good idea…a bloggers union), but I am just going to link to information about each of the four principals, without any elaboration:
Stern helped to save Carnegie Hall. From his 1981 obit in The New York Times:
The American classical music world has produced few images as characteristic as that of Mr. Stern, a violin in his hand and a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses perched atop his head. It was the image of a musician at work — typically rehearsing and persuading rather than performing, casual rather than formal, engaged rather than passive. Countless photographs and caricatures, and miles of film and videotape, captured Mr. Stern preparing for concerts, coaching young ensembles during his master classes, or proclaiming the glories of Carnegie Hall, of which he was president. (Continue Reading…)
Perlman was born in Tel Aviv, then British Mandate of Palestine, now Israel. His parents, Chaim and Shoshana Perlman, were natives of Poland and had independently immigrated to Palestine in the mid-1930s before they met and got married. Perlman first became interested in the violin after hearing a classical music performance on the radio. At the age of three, he was denied entrance to the Shulamit Conservatory for being too small to hold a violin. He instead taught himself how to play the instrument using a toy fiddle until he was old enough to study with Rivka Goldgart at the Shulamit Conservatory and at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, where he gave his first recital at age 10, before moving to the United States to study at the Juilliard School with the violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian and his assistant Dorothy DeLay. Perlman contracted polio at age four. He made a good recovery, learning to walk with crutches. Today, he uses crutches or an electric Amigo scooter for mobility and plays the violin while seated. (Continue Reading…)
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo ˈluːtʃo viˈvaldi]; 4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer,Catholic priest, and virtuosoviolinist, born in Venice. Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.(Continue Reading…)
Seiji Ozawa was born on September 1, 1935 to Japanese parents in the city of Mukden, Manchukuo (now Shenyang, China). When his family returned to Japan in 1944, he began studying piano with Noboru Toyomasu, heavily studying the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. After graduating from the Seijo Junior High School in 1950, Ozawa sprained his finger in a rugby game. Unable to continue studying the piano, his teacher at the Toho Gakuen School of Music (Hideo Saito), brought Ozawa to a life-changing performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, which ultimately shifted his musical focus from piano performance to conducting. (Continue Reading…)
Bessie Smith’s death was the result of a car accident outside of Memphis, according to This Day in Music.
Here is more on Smith from The Red Hot Jazz Archieve:
Bessie Smith was a rough, crude, violent woman. She was also the greatest of the classic Blues singers of the 1920s. Bessie started out as a street musician in Chattanooga. In 1912 Bessie joined a traveling show as a dancer and singer. The show featured Pa and Ma Rainey, and Smith developed a friendship with Ma. Ma Rainey was Bessie’s mentor and she stayed with her show until 1915. Bessie then joined the T.O.B.A. vaudeville circuit and gradually built up her own following in the south and along the eastern seaboard. By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville. In 1923 she made her recording debut on Columbia, accompanied by pianist Clarence Williams. They recorded “Gulf Coast Blues” and “Down Hearted Blues.” The record sold more than 750,000 copies that same year, rivaling the success of Blues singer Mamie Smith (no relation). Throughout the 1920s Smith recorded with many of the great Jazz musicians of that era, including Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman and Louis Armstrong. Her rendition of “St. Louis Blues” with Armstrong is considered by most critics to be one of finest recordings of the 1920s. (Continue Reading…)
Smith was 44 years old when she died. Above is a version of St. Louis Blues song without Armstrong.
The Chordettes’ performance on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show that aired on February 22, 1958 — a program hosted by Dick Clark — started with Lollipop, which would become a hit. It is undeniable, however, that Mr. Sandman was The Chordettes signature number. It starts at about the 4 minute mark. Some of the camera work and the creative use of the studio, especially during Clark’s intro and the first number, is remarkable.
This profile of the great guitarist Freddie King seems to have been written by a family member:
Freddie was born in Gilmer Texas on September 3 1934 with the given name of Freddy King to Ella May King and J.T. Christian. My father’s mother told him that her grandfather ( who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. My grandmother and her brother Leon played the guitar. Freddie’s mother recognized early her first born interest in music. She and her brother Leon began teaching him to play rural country blues at the age of six. His early music heroes were Sam Lightnin Hopkins (who he credits his proficiency of the down home thumb-finger picken style) and Louis Jordan (the jump blues saxophonist). He told me that he would play Jordan’s record over and over again until he could match his horn, note for note. This discipline would have a major impact on his phrasing. (Continue Reading…)
The last section is quite interesting:
His spirits was soon lifted with the success of his first overseas tour in 1968. He was originally booked for a month and it was extended to three. He was amazed by his popularity in England, a new generation of young white musicians like Eric Clapton,MickTaylor, and others were trying to emulate Freddie King. In 1969 Freddie hires a new manager Jack Calmes. Jack is young, white and part of the “counter culture” that has discovered the blues. Jack helped orchestrate Freddie’s career into high gear with the 1969 Texas Pop Festival,there he shared billing with Led Zeppelin, Sly and the family stone,Ten years After, B.B. King, among others, ” Led Zeppelin’s guys were standing there watching him perform with their mouth open” Jack said. Calmes secured a contract deal for Freddie with Leon Russell’s new label Shelter Records . Leon had been a fan of Freddie’s sizzling guitar style for years. Leon was now creating the Oklahoma blues culture with the start up of his own label. Leon Russell record label included Joe Cocker and The Nitty Gitty Dirt Band. Leon spared no expense the sessions were top shelf he flew the studio crew to Chicago and recorded the first album “Getting Ready” at the old Chess Records studio. Freddie was allowed to showcase his showmanship, Leon wanted the listening audience to experience the brilliance and raw essences of Freddie King. Shelter was the perfect springbroad for Freddie’s style of blues, hard driving and, in your face. This collaboration put Freddie into the mainstream of the white blues /rock explosion. The release of “Getting Ready” produced Freddie’s signature blues/rock hit “Going Down”. (Continue Reading…)
It’s amazing how much of the great music of the that era somehow involved Leon Russell.
Above is Hideaway, which was a big hit for King. He seems to sample Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn towards the end. Apparently, the band was instructed to not stand still. Below is a blistering version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business, a blues standard most closely associated with Billie Holliday.
I struggled a bit with the names of the pieces. If anyone has more precise titles, please let me know.
The Music Academy Online discusses the importance of Béla Bartók:
Béla Bartók was without a doubt one of the most original and versatile musicians of the twentieth century. He performed as a pianist and had enormous impact as an educator. In addition, he collected folk music from most of Eastern Europe and beyond, making him one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology even though his methods are now seen as outdated. As a composer, Bartók incorporated distinctively Hungarian traits into his own modernist language. As a result, despite his enduring popularity and great significance for many other composers, including Olivier Messiaen, Benjamin Britten, and Aaron Copland, Bartók’s music remains inimitable. (Continue Reading…)
Bartók came to New York City during World War II. According to Wikipedia, he tried to write as much music as possible as he neared death, which came in 1945:
As his body slowly failed, Bartók found more creative energy, and he produced a final set of masterpieces, partly thanks to the violinist Joseph Szigeti and the conductor Fritz Reiner (Reiner had been Bartók’s friend and champion since his days as Bartók’s student at the Royal Academy). Bartók’s last work might well have been the String Quartet No. 6 but for Serge Koussevitzky’s commission for the Concerto for Orchestra. Koussevitsky’s Boston Symphony Orchestra premièred the work in December 1944 to highly positive reviews. Concerto for Orchestra quickly became Bartók’s most popular work, although he did not live to see its full impact. In 1944, he was also commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin to write a Sonata for Solo Violin. In 1945, Bartók composed his Piano Concerto No. 3, a graceful and almost neo-classical work, as a surprise 42nd birthday present for Ditta, but he died just over a month before her birthday, with the scoring not quite finished. He had sketched his Viola Concerto, but had barely started the scoring at his death. (Continue Reading…)
Orquesta Da Vinci plays ”Romanian Folk Dances” above. Below, The New Orchestra of Washington plays Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta, Movement II (Allegro).
ZZ Top was offered $1 million apiece by Gillette to shave their beards for a television commercial in 1984. The good news is that both lead guitarist Billy Gibbons and bass player Dusty Hill refused.
Here is the beginning of the band’s profile at AllMusic:
ZZ Top is an American blues rock band, formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. The band members are Billy Gibbons (vocals and guitar), Dusty Hill (bass guitar and vocals), and Frank Beard (drums). They hold the distinction of being one of the few rock bands still comprised of its original members for over 40 years, and until 2006, with the same manager/producer, Bill Ham. (Continue Reading…)
The story behind I Gotsta Get Paid (above), is interesting because of the involvement of Rick Rubin, who seems to be all over the place. The band seems open to new influences, which may be one reason the same three guys have played together for so long. From Wikipedia:
Entitled La Futura, the album is produced by Rick Rubin. The first single from the album, “I Gotsta Get Paid,” debuted in an advertising campaign for Jeremiah Weed and appears on the soundtrack of the film Battleship. The song itself is an interpretation of “25 Lighters” by Texan hip-hop DJ DMD and rappers Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat. The first four songs from La Futura debuted on June 5, 2012 on an EP called Texicali. DJ Screw was a major influence on the album as well, particularly because Gibbons and Screw both worked with the engineer G.L. Moon during the late 1990s. (Continue Reading…)
Below is La Grange, the band’s biggest hit.