Friday, May 11, 2012

I thought perhaps since it's a blog, I should blog, perhaps a bit about some of the songs we play. Why not? I've been practicing "My Gal's The Town Talk" by Ernest Hogan, it's a 1903 tune that we have because it was published in the San Francisco Examiner as a Sunday Supplement, lyrics are essentially, "My Girl always wins the cake walk so she's the talk of the town" which was sort of a big deal back then. Hogan was a vaudeville performer, perhaps the most famous and at the time one of America's most famous African-American composers. He's often thought of as the "father of Ragtime." MGTTT seems like a pretty simple tune, but it's not, the piano part, unlike a lot of pop music, don't just follow along with the vocal, there's a few runs and other interesting chords. Every Ernest Hogan song seems to have a I-iii progression in it somewhere, there's a couple odd 7th chords too, that could be typos. Plus, given the racism in music of the day, I've rewritten the lyrics slightly. In order to be successful many African American performers had to play into racial stereotypes; my theory is we can enjoy the music and appreciate the difficulties those performers must have had... actually Hogan's lyrics are often much better than others of his day, there's a certain ease about them that other writers don't have. So I tried to keep the first chorus simple in the arrangement, then in the repeat gave the sax the melody and the clarinet a ragtime type of accompaniment. On my end, I'm learning to write parts in these songs that are more independent of the piano sheet music. I can do it in my own song, but I was a little more afraid to do it in the songs by others. In any case, it's nice to be able to revive a piece like that that usually is heard only through midi reproduction. When you play it with some spirit, it's comes to life really nice Once I saw a college paper online where someone compared the lyrics in this song to a rap tune and how both songs had a positive view of women. We'll be at the Halfway Haus in St. Louis on Saturday May 12, 9 PM. 7900 Michigan. That's tomorrow... so maybe you'll win a cake.

Friday, May 4, 2012

OMG it's been wayyy too long. So thanks for keeping up with us... what's new? Or semi-new... we had a great time playing in Des Moines at Gas Lamp. Like awesome, thanks so much folks for coming out during a tornado weekend! We're working on a new CD, first the "EP" will have Memphis Blues, What Kind of Love, and Love is a Word. Memphis Blues is an early piece by W.C. Handy, though some say he more appropriated a popular tune, either way, it's fab, we are doing an original version...i.e. not the one that was written after someone tricked him into selling the copyrights. I put together a really nice arrangement based on a lead sheet, it gets folks up to dance all the time, so I'm lookin' forward to putting it out on the street... next What Kind of Love is from a musical I wrote called Green Fence; what does it feel like to love someone who probably can't love you back, or won't love you back, or either way... it's never a great feeling to have so much emotion put into something that can only take... it features some nice wind duos/solos and a "bello" which is a cello strung like a bass. and Love is a Word, old style country from a play called Love of Last Resort. we'll be heading back to Iowa to play live in KRUI, a radio station at the U of Iowa, and then up to Minneapolis to play at the Twin Cities Deep Roots Rock & Blues Festival. We've been fortunate to walk into a few high profile gigs, plus get a good reputation for playing ragtime and music of that era... original music and obscure rag tunes can be a hard sell, so I am grateful for the reception. So our EP release party is June 30 at Stone Spiral. see ya there! or somewhere.... or just keep listening, thanks for your support!!