Tag Archives: fandom

Rhythm Choruses, “For You,” by Buster Bailey

About ten dollars and eleven pages worth of bookshelf space is a small price for pedagogy by one of your favorite musicians. So I didn’t hesitate to grab my credit card when I saw Buster Bailey’s edition of the Feist All-Star Series of Modern Rhythm Choruses on eBay:Cover

The same friend who revealed the availability of this volume also explained how Feist would invite some of the biggest names in popular music of the swing era to perform Feist-owned tunes at their studio, then transcribe those solos for young fans who were eager to play like the pros. A glance at the back cover and some help from Google revealed the wide selection of instructional legends-to-be offered by Feist:more other editions

Initially I planned on doing copious research to find out more about when these books were printed, how Feist selected and transcribed the solos, what the musicians may have thought about the work and whether any of their solos could be found on other recordings.

Then, it occurred to me: since most of the original purchasers were probably geeking out at the thought of owning something straight from the minds and fingers of Bunny, Hawk, Pee Wee and others, why not stay historically accurate and take a moment to gawk at what Buster Bailey made?Ja-Da

ForewordThe publishers describe Bailey’s tone and technique as “academic,” referring to Bailey’s extensive classical schooling. Critics would later dismiss Bailey as “academic” in the sense of studied and impractical, calling him a skilled technician unsuited to the serious expressive work of jazz music. Yet after reading this foreword, and holding a published set of transcriptions by none other than Bailey himself, that particular criticism seems stranger than ever when applied to a musician who remained steadily employed with some of the most influential names in jazz over a fifty-year career.chinaboy

I haven’t had a chance to run through these solos to see how they compare to the sound of Bailey on record. There’s nothing notationally strange on paper, which suits Bailey’s clean, transparent style. The seesawing lines and sudden upper-register syncopations look like they’re part of his aesthetic. Yet transcription can be a difficult process, which even in its most precise moments might still miss the personal inflections and rhythmic nuances that make a jazz solo distinct. Besides that, who knows if Bailey was phoning it in to make a quick buck?

For me, even Bailey trying to make a buck is worth a listen. Whether it’s for educational or commercial purposes, prepackaged or woodshedded, transcription always comes down to hero worship. That’s probably why the Feist series started in the first place, or why Charlie Parker Omnibooks are still selling and Jamey Aebersold is so busy. Overtly this was an educational purchase, but the truth is, I’m a fan. Yet that’s okay, because Buster Bailey knew that and left something for his fans.  Buster
Sure, why not?

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Celebrating Bob Crosby’s Birthday and His Big Band with a Lesser Known Number

In honor of Bob Crosby‘s birthday, here’s a side that’s probably not as familiar as “South Rampart Street Parade,” “Big Noise from Winnetka” or other tunes usually associated with his band:

At a time when most big bands were taking their cues from Harlem, Bob Crosby and His Orchestra found inspiration by looking a little further back to Chicago and New Orleans. The band was fairly popular during the swing era despite (or maybe because of) their allegiances to earlier repertoire and styles, yet this side is an intriguing hybrid. The tune was written by Jimmy McHugh for a New York revue and primarily associated with Duke Ellington. The arrangement includes riff choruses, which were more prevalent in charts by Crosby’s more “modern” contemporaries, as well as a lowdown, killer-diller feel vaguely reminiscent of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Goodman’s famous recording had been released a little over a year earlier. The Crosby band might have been trying to cash in on the continued success of similar numbers.

Whatever influences were at work, Crosby’s ensemble keeps its identity with deliciously reedy textures, a powerful but warm trumpet section and the outstanding rhythm team of bassist/arranger Bob Haggart and drummer Ray Bauduc laying down a beat that’s nothing like Goodman, Basie or any of their contemporaries. Solos from Warren Smith’s blistering trombone and Bob Zurke’s labyrinthine piano, as well as a typically liquid reflection from clarinetist Irving Fazola and criminally underrated tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller wailing away also make this an utterly Crosbyesque performance. Perhaps most importantly, it swings like crazy!

There’s too much here for me to capture in any cogent fashion.  Enjoy the music.

Big_Band_Awards_For_Bob_Crosby_Glen_Gray_and_Duke_Ellington

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