Saturday, November 7, 2015

Listening Journal, Week 3

This week's listening journal focused on the time period beginning with the Great Depression (1929) and ending with the conclusion of World War II (1945).  Through this time period, there were great advancements in jazz, including blues, country blues, swing, cowboy swing, and a few other styles.  Listed below are songs that I chose to write about, which come from a long list of literature choices from this era.  I tried to select songs that differ from each other.

St. Louis Blues is an interesting piece in that it has all of the heart and soul of modern day blues (in terms of lyrics).  However, the piece lacks the swing and style of today's blues music. Louis Armstrong's trumpet playing is such a unique style with the wide and quickly moving vibrato.  The accompanying organ is very odd sounding, but works in that it does not cover the vocalist.  As the piece progresses, the mood changes and picks up momentum with the quarter note harmonies.  The Tom Rushen Blues is much different sounding than the St. Louis Blues, mainly because of it's folksy style. The rhythm is very straight forward (no swing).  The guitar playing by Charlie Patton is very different sounding, both in style and in timbre, making me wonder what kind of guitar he was using.  I also found it interesting through the reading that Patton used encoding, much like slaves would in the 19th century.  Robert Johnson's guitar techniques in Cross Road Blues are certainly groundbreaking in that it sounds like something a blues artist would play today.  I especially like the way he used a glissando technique. 

Jimmie Rodgers' performance of the Blue Yodel No. 2 reminds me of some of Hank Willams Sr.'s music.  Rodgers' way of moving to falsetto is seamless.  He makes it sound so easy and effortless. I found it interesting that Rodgers would throw in an extra beat here and there.  It breaks the monotony of hearing the same rhythm over and over. 

As we enter the swing era, I begin with  Wrappin' it Up by Fletcher Henderson.  This song is odd in that it moves back and forth between a swing style and straight style.  While there are solos in the trumpet, alto saxophone, and clarinet, most of the song is ensemble playing.  It is a very enjoyable piece to listen to, but certainly a transition song leading into the swing era.  Taking a Chance on Love is performed by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, but features the vocalist (Helen Forest) more so than Goodman.  This piece is in the swing style all the way through, but is slower than Wrappin' It Up. I have always enjoyed Goodman's use of vibrato, which is quite challenging to perfect on a clarinet.  Count' Basie's One O'Clock Jump defines the boogie woogie style from the beginning with the left hand piano playing (repetitive notes and rhythms),  The piece changes key as the tenor saxophone begins it's solo.  I like the use of tremolos in the piano, which substitute for the instrument's inability to use vibrato.  The trombone solo mimics this technique with a lip trill during the solo.  

In the Mood is a song that I have heard the most and also performed the most from the swing era.  It is a fun piece to play, while it is certainly repetitive.  I can speak from personal experience that the solos were written out and not improvised.  I like Miller's use of the full ensemble for the majority of the piece.  The vocal solo at the beginning of Paper Doll is absolutely stunning.  The voice is so pure and sweet sounding.  Even more impressive is the way that the other voices blend with the soloist later in the song.  The harmonies remind me of that of a barbershop quartet.  The tempo change in the middle of the song is a nice surprise to the listener. 

New San Antonio Rise is a song that does not match up with any previously listed piece.  For lack of a better word, I find the song hokey.  It sounds like something that one might hear at a sing-along from the 1950's or 1960's.  The "hi-ho" at the beginning is odd and does not seem to fit with the song.  Like One O'Clock Jump, the piece changes key right before the main theme of the song.         

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