For enthusiasts of early banjo
For more information go to www.palouserivermusic.com. This is a performance by Paul Ely Smith on fretless gourd banjo of his "back-engineered" ver...
Wow, interesting thread! Thanks Mara and Paul for bringing it back again.
First, Paul you are a terrific player and musician. To qualify- I am no music scholar and will never be able to play half as well as you, so not sure I should even comment on this. You did a great job bringing this challenging composition to life.
That said, I saw the thread pop up due to Mara's comment, and I watched the video before I read any of the comments, not knowing anything about any of it. My uninformed impression was that here was a modern jazz improvisation of a piano version of Oh Susannah. lol! Those clomping-along piano chord runs remind me so much of how pianists play for contra dances! I think it's a typical style for pianos playing for dances.
And I never would have guessed when this was written- it's so 'modern jazzy' ! Maybe the black turtleneck had something to do with this impression though...my own twisted mental associations. ;D
I enjoyed listening, and reading about this, and I learned a few things too.
Paul- sorry about the turtleneck confusion... thought maybe you were part of the Beat Generation. ;D
It really is funny that this piece is indeed full of musical genre 'cliches'...ironic because they were not even cliches yet back then!
I guess maybe the 'jazzy sound' I'm hearing is the syncopated swing-y stuff going on, and the kinda wild improvisational quality to it. Also when the little "Oh I come from 'ouisiana"...snippet from Oh Susannah pops in there at 3:00min, like they do in jazz. It wouldn't have surprised me to hear the classic snatch from Rhapsody in Blue at some point after that. -But all this was before I read anything about the piece- I thought you were just inventing the whole thing on the fly in a flurry of creative genius caught on video! :)
I'd never heard Gottschalk before, and found "The Banjo" played as a quartet piece on youtube. Not great acoustics-- but at least I can hear the basic structural elements that you're recreating. Its a very contemporary project taking into account all the filters that have brought you to this "state" (if I may use some artist printmaking terminology!). I always struggle with the illogical musical mentality that I have which is very anal and preservationist, and which for me always contradicts the spirit of 'folk' music. For instnace I often find myself memorizing phrases of songs which were originally improvised. I like this piece of music here that you've done because its hyper historically aware and true on many levels, and yet it also acknowledges your contemporaneity.
I want to add one more piece of praise--- I really appreciate the integration of the 'cora' picking as you called it, because it recalls Uncle Dave Macon's and Gus Cannon's playing in the way that they interrupt their right hand techniques to add texture. Both of those players are so cleverly improvisational and to me endlessly entertaining. (You just need to ditch the turtle neck, get some overalls and add some irrational yelling into this.... I'm telling ya-- you'll be right there!)
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