Archive for August, 2007

Blogging Pause

August 27, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Because of a heavy workload and the need to also care about the other blog I am involved in, I won’t blog anything on this blog for the next two weeks. See you again in mid-September.

John Lennon: Charlie Christian Fan

August 25, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Yes, according to the good folks at Gibson. Check Lennon’s Les Paul Junior with a CC pickup. BTW, Lennon also said nice things of Barney Kessel (who of course also used the CC pickup).

Barney the Hardbopper

August 24, 2007

Nicolai Foss

In my post below on hardbop I listed Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery and George Benson as the quintessential hardbop guitarists. I am certainly not the first one to do so; this is pretty much conventional wisdom. However, I forgot one: Barney Kessel!

To claim that Barney belongs to the hardbopping crowd surely is not conventional wisdom; he is usually thought of (correctly) as an early bebopper. In fact, he (along with Herb Ellis) has sometimes been talked about as somebody who is somehow in between swing and bebop, supposedly meaning that he never fully absorbed the bebop language (which I think is wrong).

Specifically, the claim here is that some of Kessel’s 1960s albums lie clearly within the hardbop approach. The first indication of the style in his playing may be the last of the Pollwinners’ abums, Exploring the Scene, where his playing on, e.g., Ray Bryant’s “Little Susie” is so bluesy and hard-driving that Bobby Timmons or Lee Morgan seem like softies in comparison. His 1961 album, “Workin’ Out” (even the title sounds hard-boppish) also exemplifies the approach with even more earthy and bluesy performances.

In general, there was a more stomping, funky and harder dimension to Kessel’s playing in the 1960s than to his 1950s playing. While it is tempting to attribute this to the influence of rock (and Kessel’s studio work), it may well be that was primarily a matter of the influence from the hard bop movement.

Scotty Moore’s Archtops

August 23, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here they are. Check out what Scotty did to that 1938 Epi Spartan.

Snoozer Quinn

August 23, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here are some takes with the mysterious Snoozer Quinn (1906-1952), recorded when Snoozer was fatally ill and hospitalized. His style is rough (even accounting for the bad recording), and sort of pre-Langean.

Buffalo Bros. and Epiphone

August 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Buffalo Bros. seems on their way to beating as the premier dealer of vintage Epis. Not only do they offer a stunning Emperor, they also offer a beautiful Broadway. Wow!


August 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

“Hardbop” is the term for the funky and soulful — and in some ways simplified — offspring of bebop that crystallized in the mid-1950, and is epitomized by the combos led by Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson may be thought of as hard bop guitarists.

At the moment, I am reading the late David Rosenthal’s excellent Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965 . It is scholarly, without being pedantic. Among other things Rosenthal explains how hard bop became formulaic and predictable and had basically run out of steam at the time the book ends, the exact same time when listeners migrated en masse to rock, rhythm’n blues, etc.

Wes Montgomery’s “commercialism” which began ca. 1965 is entirely understandable in this light; the hard bop scene (and perhaps the whole jazz scene) was simply collapsing, and “crossing-over” may simply have been a survival strategy (particularly for somebody with a large family, as was the case with Wes). Grant Green also tried to pursue such a strategy, but with much less success. The ultimate cross-over guitarist is, of course, George Benson, but his switch occurred much later. I think that what Rosenthal says of the hard bop movement fundamentally exhausting its potential and growing tired may also be said of particularly Green’s playing, at least to a certain extent. His stuff from about the mid-1960s doesn’t seem to me to have the freshness of the Green work from the beginning of the 1960s.

Here is nice site dedicated to hard bop musicians. Includes brief bios on Green, Benson, Burrell and Montgomery.

On German Ebay

August 21, 2007

Nicolai Foss

German Ebay is always interesting to check out:

Here is one of the those characteristically over the top, German 1950s archtops.

This is a strange case: The label inside the guitar says “Selmer, Paris”. The sales text does not explicitly say that this is a Selmer (in which case one would expect the “Startpreis” to be many times higher). Hmmm ….

But there are no bargains this time. In fact, there seldom are, consistent with the finding that most stuff on Ebay sells for more than what it sells for in the stores.

Eddie Lang Bleg

August 21, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is an Eddie Lang tribute page, apparently unfinished. And here is the page on Eddie. Here is the Wiki on Eddie. And here he is with Bing. Apparently, there has just been an Eddie Lang, sorry, Salvatore Massaro, Festival (“XVII Edizione”) in Italy.

Where is (are) Eddie’s L5(s — he had at least two when he died)?

Who today (apart from Marty Grosz and, to a smaller extent Bucky Pizzarelli) play in the Lang (Kress, McDonough) style?

How much of Eddie did Django Reinhardt know? Are there any indications in Django’s recorded output that he learned from Lang?

Freddie Green

August 20, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I have never met a jazz guitarist or lover of jazz guitar who didn’t admire Freddie Green. Here is an excellent Freddie tribute site. Here is some info on Bucky Pizzarelli’s new tribute album, “5 for Freddie.”

A general problem for us Freddie admirers is actually hearing, rather than sensing, Freddie doing his thing. Some of the best and clearest examples of Freddie’s playing can be found on a DVD, namely the excellent Count Basie — Live in ’62, which I strongly recommend not just because Freddie can be heard, but because the performances are just fantastic (in particular, Thad Jones and Sonny Payne shine here).