Archive for the ‘New Orleans String Bands’ Category

Storyville Stringband

April 2, 2015

1010

edited review by Seva Benet (http://sevavenet.com):

The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans: My Bayou Home (cdbaby.com)

When one thinks of a string band performing jazz what will readily come to mind will probably be an ensemble modeled after a Django Reinhardt band. There is, however, an exciting string jazz ensemble that predates the Hot-clubs: the New Orleans string bands that were swinging hot when Louis Armstrong was still in short pants.

Edmond “Doc” Souchon’s band, the 6 7/8 string band of New Orleans. formed around 1911 and modeled itself after the string bands the members heard around New Orleans, especially around the Storyville district where Armstrong delivered coal, sold papers and got his first professional gig subbing for Joe “King” Oliver.

The Storyville Stringband has been picking its way into the 21st century carrying a torch that was reduced to embers after the passing of Souchon in the late 1960’s.  On their 2nd CD “My Bayou Home”, the Storyville Stringband plays all acoustic mostly vintage string instruments including a 1929 National triolian steel guitar, a 1937 Gibson L7, a 2011 Deering V-6 Senator 6 string banjo, a 1927 Vega Little wonder banjo mandolin, a 1930 Martin, 1937 National triolian tenor guitar, violin, mandolin, and upright bass.

The CD was recorded live in two sessions featuring different configurations of the above instrumentation with half the songs featuring a four piece combo of bass, rhythm guitar, mandolin or violin, and lead acoustic guitar or “Hawaiian” style slide. The other half of the CD features, instead of mandolin and violin, a mandolin banjo and/or a tenor guitar. Also, the 6 string banjo is featured on two songs.

“My Bayou Home” is a collection of mostly original tunes that delve deep into New Orleans traditional roots music. Though any one of these songs would be perfect for a complete jazz ensemble, they are presented here in two configurations of string ensembles loosely modeled after the early string bands of New Orleans (most notably the exciting 6 7/8 string band).
“My Bayou Home” includes instrumental and vocal songs tastefully influenced by Jelly Roll Morton, Ragtime (there are three rags here), traditional spiritual hymns (the George Lewis inspired title track), New Orleans string bands (with a vocal feature by the rhythm guitarist John Parker whose grandfather was the leader and founder of the 6 7/8 string band), a celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (aptly titled “Celebrate!” and building on the popular latin cinquillo rhythm) as well as two Hawaiian numbers, including the popular Louis Armstrong hit “Song of the Islands.”

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New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949

March 19, 2015

seva-venet-revisiting--300x300

(http://www.offbeat.com):

Seva Venet, Revisiting New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949 (Threadhead Records)

In addition to playing hundreds of gigs in his 15 years in the Crescent City, guitarist/banjoist Seva Venet has done some serious study of the early string bands of New Orleans.

Like the mandolin orchestras which used to populate the land, this is a nearly extinct genre: How often today do you hear, for instance, a quartet of mandolin, fiddle, banjo and upright bass playing ragtime and early jazz?

For this listener, the disc is most exciting when it touches on music that’s tangential to what we usually consider the prime elements that made up early jazz. These include “El Zopilote Mojado” (a Mexican Polka), which clarinetist James Evans, violinist Matt Rhody and Venet pull off with a superb brio; and the medley of “Creole Belles/Aloha Oe/My Bucket’s Got a Hole in it.”

It’s great fun to hear “Belles” played with a tango rhythm (as it undoubtedly could’ve been back in the day) and to realize that “Aloha Oe” (the “Saints” of Hawaiian music) was part of the New Orleans mix in 1884.

This disc also presents Seva’s reimagining of what a quadrille might have sounded like by an 1880s New Orleans string band—an ambitious undertaking. By taking on this project, Venet has delved into areas where not many musicologists have wandered (though at the same time he gives credit to those who’ve done important research).

Fifteen pages of notes accompany the CD, and Emilie Rhys’ beautiful translation of a photo of an old-time trio into her singular ink-drawing style is the icing on this cake.

New Orleans String Bands at the Turn of the Century

March 14, 2015

New Orleans String Band. From Left: Youman Jacob, Coochie Martin, Unidentified, Wendell McNeil. Photo from University of Connecticut.

From Left: Youman Jacob, Coochie Martin, Unidentified, Wendell McNeil. Photo courtesy of Samuel and Ann Charters Archives, University of Connecticut.

edited from  Seva Venet (www.offbeat.com):

During the last two decades of the 19th Century, string bands with skilled Creole musicians were in high demand all around New Orleans. They performed at various functions, including picnics, parlor room parties and balls. Between 1884 and 1917 there were major changes in how the music was played, brought on by the changing demands of dancers and the changing attitudes in response to the implementation of the Black Codes (U.S. laws limiting civil liberties of blacks) in the late 1800s.

There were three main types of ensemble performing around New Orleans from the 1880s to 1917: brass bands (for funerals), society orchestras and string bands. Being smaller and in demand in more diverse settings, the string ensembles had more flexibility and were expected to entertain with up-to-date songs and dancing music.

In 1897, the Storyville District opened, and at Tom Anderson’s Annex on the corner of Basin Street and Canal there was a string band that played every night that, over the decades, featured musicians such as Wendell McNeil (pictured above), Bill Johnson and, probably, Lorenzo Tio, Jr. The location of this venue, at the border of the uptown and downtown areas, is highly symbolic, as pioneers of the new musical concepts arose from the cultural interaction between uptown and downtown groups.

The concept of a swinging ensemble dominated by a rhythm section of strings was picked up in the 1920s by the Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and his peers. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Western Swing bands and Bill Monroe’s bluegrass groups followed suit in string bands tinged with New Orleans jazz.

It isn’t until the late 1940s that we have recordings of a New Orleans string band, a quartet formed around 1910 and modeled after the bands the players had heard in Anderson’s Annex. This band, Edmond “Doc” Souchon’s 6 7/8 String Band, with rhythm guitar, mandolin, “Hawaiian” slide guitar and bass, may be the best surviving evidence of a string band in the style of collective improvisation on early ragtime, society, pop and novelty tunes played around the turn of the century.

Six and Seven Eight String Band

March 22, 2013

6 7:8 photo

from notes to “The Six and Seven-Eight String Band of New Orleans” (Folkways 2671) by Samuel Charters:

Dr. Edmond Souchon, the guitarist, is a prominent New Orleans surgeon; the mandolin player, Bill Kleppinger, is customs inspector of the Port of New Orleans; the string bass man, “Red” Mackie, is head of a pine oil manufacturing firm; the steel guitarist, Bernie Shields, heads a department of a large ship- ping concern. Their music-making has been a hobby, pursued with all the devotion and consuming all the time that only very busy men can find for such things.
Undoubtedly, there were other groups of southern musicians who transposed their impressions of jazz and folk strains for performance in small string bands.  Remnants of the tradition have been found in other areas (see “Music from the South,” Volume 5, Folkways FP 654), and the folksinger, Leadbelly, has said that he played with a small string band that roamed the streets of Dallas, in 1910. In this group, he played guitar, accordion, mandolin, mouth harp and string bass, – as required by changing personnel.
But the lives of all the early Negro string bands that roamed the South were short, and none of these bands, whose musicians underwent a variety of adventures, ever achieved any historical continuity.
This is a blank that has been filled in by the members of the Six and Seven-Eights group, whose more fortunate position has enabled them to stay with music over a longer period of time. How long the period has been can be imagined by Dr. Souchon’s recollections of some of the first guitar-mandolin music he knew, on hearing string duets in Volume 5 of “Music from the South:”

 

 

“… the mandolin-guitar duets brought back many fond memories, for I used to pay a Negro mandolin and guitar player 25¢ an hour to let me come over to his cabin, back of Pass Christian, and play along with him. He taught me much, and a great deal of his style was exactly as these two players on the record. ”

 

 

Six and Seven-Eight String Band plays “The Original Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step”: