Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Classic Banjo

Hans Koert (1951-2014)
It has now been a year since my good friend and originator of the Keep(it)swinging website, underwebs and blogs, Hans Koert, passed away on September 4th, 2014. Before it was too late, Hans asked me to take over and continue his work, which I promissed and am honored to do although it has been quite a challenge to cope with Hans' tempo and enormous knowledge about the music and related subjects he loved and was always willing to share his experience of with others, who had the same interests. The regular visitors and readers of the Keep(it)swinging domain know what I am referring to and new readers have the opportunity to explore the many articles and blog entries that Hans published using this survey of accessible subjects, here

CD front, Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways (SFW 40209)
Among the many subjects and items I had the opportunity to share with Hans was the shown anthology CD from Smithsonian/Folkways released in 2013 (- more info here).  This great compilation of American banjo recordings has many fine examples of the various styles attributed to the term The classic banjo from recordings in the Smithsoninan/Folkways archive and the album was also well received by both connoisseurs and critics (- a review is accessible here). However, by setting focus on the classic banjo I was disappointed to learn that the anthology primarily presented examples of American styles rooted in regional folkmusic, while the popular repertoire represented by the great ragtime banjo players like Vess L. Ossman and Fred Van Eps a.o. was not covered by this CD. Moreover, the term Classic Banjo seems to be limited to American musicians and tradition by the producers of the CD although there exists a tradition outside the USA and talented players from other regions of the world, who also should be acknowledged for evolving the classic banjo playing. - Here I'll insert some examples from the compositions by Joe Morley to extend the picture.
Joe Morley (1867-1937)
From a short profile at the Classic Banjo website, the following is stated about Joe Morley (1867-1937):

"While the banjo is acknowledged to be an American instrument, it took the British to write some of the best music for it. Without argument, Joe Morley was not only the most famous finger-style player but also one of the most prolific of composers, having published nearly 200 pieces in his lifetime. His compositional style ranges from delicate gavottes to rollicking, banjo-swinging romps. He toured widely and played regularly on BBC radio. His distinct style is marked by the constant use of triplet figures and often driving, syncopated rhythms. Unfortunately for Morley, he sold many of his manuscripts for paltry sums of money to help finance his gambling habit. He was virtually penniless when he died." 
A website devoted solely to the life and legacy of Joe Morley is available here 
William J. Ball (1915-2000)
Fellow countryman William J. Ball is considered one of the finest interpreters of Joe Morley's compositions. Learn more about William J. Ball here.  YouTube has several examples of Mr. Ball playing compositions by Joe Morley, below I'll insert some of them. - Here is first William J. Ball performing Morley's Palladium Rag 

Next, here is a performance of Joe Morley's Mr. Punch 

The following is William J. Ball's performance of Joe Morley's Freckles 

Finally, to end this small contribution on Classic Banjo, here is William J. Ball's version of Joe Morley's London Club Parade - enjoy!

More info on the Classic Banjo tradition in Great Britain is available here  

Retrospect Keep Swinging (old) Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions

No comments:

Post a Comment