Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jazz Piano Aces from the 1950's

The decade of the 1950's saw profound changes in the forms of American roots music that have been discussed here. Jazz was no exception. By 1950, as Bebop began to take hold and become more mainstream, there was a decisive shift away from the big band format. In its place emerged smaller combos, quartets and above all, the trio. Most smaller jazz combos retained the piano as an anchor, and in most trios it was always present. This greater emphasis on on piano gave rise to some magnificent players during the decade, some of whom became leading innovators in the contemporary jazz scene. Stylistically, these players possessed fluency in all the primary modes of expression in fifties jazz: bebop, hard bop, ballads, pop arrangements as well as R&B based material. Most of the players highlighted here went recorded extensively in the 1950's on the 33 rpm disc, on labels like Verve, Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside and Savoy, and a lot of these recording are pure treasures of American small combo jazz. Also, most all of these players went on to enjoy continued success, and a couple are still performing live today. Since the 1950's are featured in this post, I have attempted to include recordings from the period, there are a few exceptions, McCoy Tyner for one. The order of the pianists included here is in no way hierarchical, it's random. Finally, many thanks again to all the collectors at youtube who have made these recordings accessible to all of us.

1) Hampton Hawes: Hawes is rooted in bop but is very comfortable in all the idioms of the period. Check out "Walkin," recorded with his trio in 1955. Excellent.

2) Bill Evans: 1950's association with Miles Davis and Charles Mingus earn Evans a highly respected position in this group. Check out this 1950's composition of the classic ballad "My Foolish Heart" for a dose of Bill's measured, ethereal style.

3) Thelonious Monk: Monk is a veritable jazz icon and Bebop pioneer who was a tenacious innovator in style throughout the decade. Check out his trio doing "Blue Monk" from 1958.

4) Hank Jones: Hank is one of the true patriarchs, having studied with the legendary Art Tatum and played with virtually everyone, including Coleman Hawkins, Billy Eckstine and Charles Mingus. Hank is over 90 years old and still performing today. Check out this live trio recording with Buddy Rich and Ray Brown from the 1950 entitled "Ad Lib." Hank really shows his stuff here.

5) Tommy Flanagan: Another of the living patriarchs, Tommy is best known for his work on two historically monumental saxophone albums of the 1950's: John Coltrane's Giant Steps and Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus. Check out Tommy in a trio setting here with Elvin Jones on drums and Wilbur Little on bass from 1957 doing "Eclypso." Outstanding.

6) Red Garland: Garland performed with the giants of the 1940's: Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge, and this experience served him well as he emerges as a top post bop performer in the 1950's, recording solo for Prestige and also extensively with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Jimmy Forrest. Check out "Billy Boy" by Red and his trio from 1958. Very smooth.

7) Oscar Peterson: One of the all time greats, the Canadien Peterson was just getting started in the 1950's as he forged his longstanding relation with bass legend Ray Brown. This fascinating recording from the late 1950's is entitled "Cubano Chant," and demonstrates the influence of Cuban rhythms in this trio setting, with Brown and Ed Thigpen. Incredible playing.

8) Horace Silver: A prolific composer, Silver was a mainstay with the Blue Note label throughout the fifties, recording primarily hard bop, R& B flavored material and some ballads. Check out this Latin influenced composition; "Senor Blues" from 1959.

9) Milt Buckner: Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Milt was also an organ player, and is primarily known for his "block chord" innovations on piano. Check out this organ/piano arrangement of "The Beast," from the 1960's, a composition chosen by Angelo Badalamenti to be used in David Lynch's neo-noir film Mulholland Drive.

10) McCoy Tyner: Having seen Tyner perform with his own ensemble in 1973, I will always be a huge fan of this incredibly talented player. This early example of Tyner's prowess, recorded with John Coltrane from 1959, is entitled "One in Four" and is astonishingly good, listen for Tyner's solo at 4:30. McCoy is still going strong today, and has just released a new album.

11) Ahmad Jamal: Another exquisite player who emerges in the 1950's, Jamal flourished in the all popular trio setting of the decade. Give a listen to this live performance of "Darn That Dream" from 1959. Sublime.

12) Randy Weston: Born in New York and of Jamaican origin, Weston recorded extensively in the 1950's for Riverside. Randy enjoyed association with jump blues, jazz and R&B musicians alike. In the 1960's he recorded with many of the avant garde greats. This fascinating tune, "Little Niles" from his 1956 Riverside LP "With These Hands," is extraordinary and seems to anticipate the more experimental sounds to follow in the 1960's.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jump Blues Kings

The rise in popularity of "Jump Blues" after World War II is related as much to societal changes as to those that took place in the music industry itself. The role that record companies, radio stations and the proliferation of smaller clubs all favored the splintering of the traditional instrumental big bands as musical tastes in African American urban communities began to favor urban blues delivered with electric instruments. Another offshoot of these trends was the Jump Blues, whose smaller combos combined elements of jazz instrumentation, ( and many fine jazz musicians) and boogie woogie based rhythms with fascinating lyrics to provide an upbeat style whose purpose was to promote club dancing. Almost all Jump Blues recordings are characterized by a wild saxophone solos after the second verse. Jump Blues lyrics, which exalt alcohol consumption, conviviality and erotic pleasure more explicitly than those of white musicians at the time, contribute to the festive, raucous atmosphere the music creates.

Another important fact about Jump blues is that the style really is the crucial transition not only to rock n' roll but also to rockabilly. Both are greatly indebted to the new ground Jump Blues prepared, and draw from songs and stylistics of Jump Blues. And while most would not agree with hugely influential Jump Blues bandleader Louis Jordan's claim that rock n' roll was nothing more than white musicians playing rhythm and blues, it is really undeniable that both rockabilly and rock n' roll would not have developed in the same way without the groundwork established by Jump Blues in the 1940's. While the list of Jump Blues artists listed below is by no means exhaustive, it does provide a pretty representative sampling of most of the major artists. Thanks again to the generous collectors on youtube who have been gracious enough to share these treasures of American Roots Music with us.

Louis Jordan: Louis, from Brinkley, Arkansas, provides both the vocals and the sax solo on "Let the Good Times Roll," a song he performs live with his Tympany Five. This one is a prototype of jump blues from the mid to late 1940's that demonstrates the jazz influence on the genre.

Calvin Boze: Calvin's highly influential "Safronia B" is often cited as a bridge piece that anticipates the advent of rock n' roll. That said, it is classic jump blues with a nice sax and trumpet solo by Calvin himself. Great dance tune.

Wynonie Harris: Perhaps more than others here, the very talented and prolific Harris embodies the spirit of Jump Blues. Check out his fabulous vocals on "Loving Machine." Simply fantastic music with a great band behind him.

Lucky Millinder: Lucky had one of the best Jump Blues bands from the early 1940's on. Check out his wonderful "Chew Tobacco Rag." Great sax solo on this classic dance number.

Tiny Bradshaw: Hugely influential, Tiny also sported one of the finest bands on the Jump Blues touring circuit. Best known for penning the famous "The Train Kept a Rollin," check out the quality of Tiny's band on "The Bradsahw Boogie." Superb.

Jimmy Liggins
: Jimmy also had an outstanding smaller combo and an outstanding rhythm and blues voice. Check out his wonderful "I Ain't Drunk" from 1950.

Bull Moose Jackson: Jackson is best known for his frothy double entendre songs in a great Jump Blues format. Best known is the famous "Big Ten Inch" but his "Nosey Joe" from 1949 is also superb. Great band and vocals, and sax solo.

Floyd Dixon
: Texas born, Floyd is not as well known as some of the others on the list here, but he was a superb pianist and had a very tight west coast band that could really lay it down. Check out his "Roll Baby Roll."

Roy Brown: One of the most prolific and intriguing musicians of the 1950's, Brown worked in several genres and is known for his voice and versatility. His "Good Rockin Tonight" which so many have covered is performed with a band in a jump blues format. Wonderful sax break.

Jackie Brenston: It would be difficult to leave out Jackie's classic 1951 recording "Rocket 88" which Sam Phillips claimed to be the first rock n' roll song ever recorded. In any event it's a true jump blues classic, recorded with Ike Turner's band. Vocals and sax by Jackie.

Big Joe Turner
: This classic blues shouter recorded some wonderful jump blues material in the forties and fifties. Check out this this live performance of "If You Remember" at the Apollo Theater in New York from 1955. Outstanding.

Rudy Green: Rudy is not well known and there is scarce bio information available, but his "It's You I Love" is a fantastic jump blues number with excellent guitar and sax solos.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rest in Peace Mike Seeger

I realize that this comes about a week late, yet I firmly believe Mike's contributions to American roots music are more than worthy of mention here. Mike Seeger was the half brother of the legendary Pete Seeger and emerged as a player in the folk music revival scene that developed in the late 1950's. Instead of following a "Bluegrass" path, Mike became devoted to "old time" southern music, whose traditions stretch back to the early nineteenth century. In 1958 he formed The New Lost City Ramblers, a string group which not only explored traditional southern music as they heard it played on recordings from the 1920's and 30's but also the origins and development of banjo and guitar picking techniques in the "old timey" style. Mike's legacy is far reaching, in many ways the explosion of interest in Bluegrass and old-timey music which accelerated in the 1960's and 70's can be related to Mike work with The New Lost City Ramblers, heard here. Rest in peace Mike Seeger, and thanks for all the great music you left us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Latin Rhythms in American Rockabilly?

While reading an essay by Paul Clifford recently on the birth of rockabilly, I was struck by an assertion I had never considered. Rockabilly musicians of the 1950's, while searching for "exotic beats and rhythms" to integrate into the fresh style, willingly infused some of their material with Latin based rhythms without realizing their origins. Since syncopated percussion in rockabilly constitutes a major shift from the "drumless" country music groups of the 1940's and 50's, these rhythms are often heard in drum acompaniments. Also, Clifford notes that rockabilly musicians used "hybrid guitar lines" that accentuated certain notes of a boogie- woogie line, creating the unique feature of rockabilly rhythms. Clifford also offers interesting examples of this same phenomenon in the left hand piano work on Fat's Domino's "Blue Monday" and the saxophone sections of Little Richard's 1956 recording "Slippin and a Slidin."

Musicologist Roy Brewer's concise definition of American rockabilly; "the hybrid of blues and country that became rock& roll," does seem to capture the essence of this unique 1950's music style. Interestingly, Brewer goes a step further to assert that rockabilly musicians, much like most all African American music forms, incorporate the "habanera rhythm" into their music while remaining unaware that it is of Afro Cuban origin and comes into American rhythm and blues through jump blues and New Orleans style dance bands. Brewer goes on to offer fascinating examples of the "habanera rhythm" in American rockabilly such as the famous and very controversial Elvis performance of "Hound Dog" on the Milton Berle show from June of 1956. The famous Elvis gyrations scandalized many, and Scotty Moore and D.J Fontana do actually slow the cadence of the song to allow Elvis more wiggle room. Due to the controversial nature of this television performance, Brewer also notes that "Presley's producers did not exploit the habanera pattern with his subsequent releases regardless of the overwhelming success of "Houndog." According to Brewer another good example of the habanera rhythm can be heard on Scotty Moore's guitar introduction to "Don't be Cruel, " and on "I'm Left, Your Right, She's Gone." A close examination of the many lesser known rockabilly recordings from the period would undoubtedly reveal that this is not an isolated tendency. With the demise of rockabilly by around 1961, habanera rhythms disappear from the scene.

Clifford cites a few other interesting examples of the obvious use of the habanera rhythm technique in music of the period. Some of the most interesting are Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock," and "Teenage Partner" by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, which demonstrate hybrid guitar lines with unique accentuation of notes. On the Cochran classic the "habanera rhythm" is used on by the guitar and bass during the verses, imbuing the song with it's unique feeling, a feeling that is one of the central differentiating features between rockabilly and country music. Unfortunately, as Brewer points out, this original and distinguishing trait of 1950's rockabilly was lost to the revivalists who helped resurrect the music in the 1980's.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One of the Kings is Gone: Rest in Peace Les Paul

In spite of the fact that his enthronement in the pantheon of great American musicians was secured decades ago, he continued to play, to do that which he loved most of all. Monday nights at the at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York belonged to Les and he continued to play all the way up to late this spring, astonishing those who came to see the legend and his assortment of jazz, pop and guitar wizardry that he pioneered himself back in the 1930's, listening to Eddie Lang and Django Reinehardt. Les Paul was the indisputable patriarch not only of jazz guitar, but also of the electric guitar in general, and Les and George Barnes are generally credited as being the pioneers of electric jazz guitar. His influence is recognized by all electric guitar players. Although more press and attention has been given to the rock musicians like Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and Jimmy Page who cite his imprint and signature guitar, I believe there were other guitarists who absorbed some of his vaunted techniques and built them into their own style. Among these I would mention Phil Baugh, Jimmy Bryant, Danny Gatton, Tommy Emanuel, Bucky Barret and John Jorgenson. Give a listen to one of Paul's early recordings, "Lover," featuring multi-tracking, one of his technical innovations. Also, "How High the Moon" with Mary Ford is a must. Rest in peace Les, you will be sorely missed but your legacy will continue to grow with time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Few More Roots Favorites

As a monthly interlude between more focused posts I have been including "Roots Favorites" as a way to post and briefly discuss a few great roots tunes that to date have not fallen neatly into other posts. I generally choose two or three representative songs from the different genres and briefly comment on them. I spent a good deal of time pouring over youtube looking for cuts I consider to be of high quality and believe me, I listen to a whole lot of material that is quite good but the ones I include here are some of the finest I have heard. It's remarkable how much new material is being put up on a daily basis on youtube, but there continue to be gaps. While there is a noticeable scarcity of urban blues records (78's and 45's) from the fifties, rockabilly, early rock n' roll and country swing material seems to grow daily. There probably is a good reason for this. Quite a few of the selctions here are from artists I have yet to mention on this blog, others are more familiar names.

Country Blues: I have been a fan of Piedmont Blues guitarist Blind Boy Fuller for years, and his classic "Step it up and Go" from 1940 is a tune often covered by country musicians such as Big Jeff, here. Also, Elizabeth Cotton and her unique left-handed approach are a genuine national treasure. Her "Wilson Rag" is preceded by an interview with Pete Seeger.

Urban Blues: Magic Sam's well known "21 Days in Jail" on the Cobra label from 1958 is indicative of the new trends in Chicago blues during the late 1950's. Outstanding vocals and guitar. Texas born, Pee Wee Crayton makes a name for himself in California in the 1940's and 50's, following the lead of T- Bone Walker. This recording "Do Unto Others" from 1954 on Imperial is outstanding and showcases his talent as a guitarist and vocalist. Great backup band.

Rhythm And Blues: Junior Parker's recording with Sun date to the earliest years of Sam's empire. This 1957 Sun recording, "Next Time You See Me" is a fantastically conceived R&B tune with an outstanding supporting cast. Memphis Slim's "Got To Find My Baby " is a blues number with an R&B feel, outstanding vocals and sax solo. Finally, a jump blues classic by Jimmy Liggins and his band from 1954: "Boogie Woogie King." Superb.

Rockabilly: After listening to many hundreds of rockabilly recordings over the years this one just sticks in my mind as one of the very, very finest. Sid King's 1956 recording "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight" is early rockabilly before the echo craze but man this one has a natural backbeat that won't quit and Sid's voice is unmatched. Another favorite is Bill Mack's 1956 "Cat Just Got in Town," which is full of the attitude, symbols and language so representative of a rockabilly musician in 1956. Finally this incredible cut by Louisiana cat Tommy Blake: "All Night Long" from 1958. This one has a distinctly Louisiana feel and some wonderful guitar work.

Western Swing: Some would classify these cuts as rockabilly but for me they are really more akin to Country Swing. "Whoa Boy" was recorded by Luke McDaniel before he signed on with Sun to record some great rockabilly. Red Smith does a very nice cover of the same song here. Also check out the incredible "Country Cattin" by Jimmy Swan. Finally, in a bit more of a boogie vein is Tommy Sosebee's "All Nite Boogie." Very nice guitar and pedal steel work here.

Jazz: Tenor sax ace Don Byas is one of those players who lived through the transition from swing to Bebop and on into modern jazz. It's often forgotten just how many great jazz musicians came out of Oklahoma. Don's "One O'clock Jump" from the late 1940's is classic bop and Erroll Garner's piano work is sublime, as is Byas. Superb. Also very impressive is Ahmad Jamal's ethereal rendition of "Darn Tha Dream" from 1959. Extra cool and smooth.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Red Hot Missouri Rockabilly: The 1950's

In previous posts I have discussed the regional nature of the rockabilly phenomenon at the state level, specifically Texas and Arkansas. While Missouri usually doesn't come to mind when one thinks of 1950's rockabilly, the state did produce more than its share of top flight rockabilly recordings during the decade of the fifties. In many ways this is not at all surprising. Red Foley's hugely popular television program Ozark Jubilee and Porter Wagoner's Ozark Jamboree, both originating out of Springfield, helped promote both country and rockabilly musicians during the decade, and probably have quite a bit to do with the the commercial success of Branson today. At the time the Jubilee was rivaled only by the Louisiana Hayride and and Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, and an appearance on these shows could literally launch a successful career, as evidenced by some of the cases outlined below.

Due to its proximity to Memphis and eastern Arkansas, most Missouri rockabilly musicians hailed from the southern half of the state. Also significant are Elvis Presley's initial visits to the state, both to the Sikeston and Popular Bluff in the Missouri Bootheel. In 1956, Elvis also performs live at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, consolidating his musical influence on the southern section of the state. In a general sense, Springfield becomes the epicenter of rockabilly in Missouri, continuing the groundwork which had been established by the Jubilee.

The transitional rockabilly related recordings to emerge from Missouri are those of Chandos Mcrill and Lee Finn. These recording are demonstrative of the transition from"hillbilly boogie" or traditional country to rockabilly, and lack the style and technique of other recordings from the later 1950's. Check out Mcrill's Poor Me from 1959 for a taste of this style. Finn, from Kansas City, also works in the transitional format with the "High Class Feeling" whose message of class awareness is a recurring one in rockabilly recordings. Lee Ebert's "Let's Jive It" on the Rocket label from 1958 is another good example of transitional rockabilly.

Just as rockabilly had a hierarchy of musicians based on popularity on a national level, Missouri's recording artists can also be categorized in a similar way. The indisputable king of Missouri rockabilly was Ronnie Self from Tin Town, who worked out of Springfield. In my opinion, Ronnie was a remarkable talent comparable to greats like Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent. He wrote some incredible songs, including Brenda Lee's huge hit "I'm Sorry" as well as her more rockabillyesque "Sweet Nothing's" . Just for a taste of what Ronnie could do, I include his classic "Big Town" and the fascinating "Ain't I a Dog" which enjoyed regional popularity in the south. We also have "Flame of Love," and "Big Fool," both great tunes Ronnie recorded for the Columbia label in 1957 with an all star band backing him, Grady Martin and Hank Garland on guitar. Simply outstanding. Great vocals on both and Martin's guitar lead and comping are magical. While Ronnie is largely forgotten to most here in the states, his stature in Europe continues to grow where he is a veritable legend.

Close behind Ronnie are Glen Glenn from Joplin and Don Woody from Tuscumbia in central Missouri. After working with Porter Wagoner Glenn gets swept into the Elvis vortex and becomes a "cat," moving to California. Glenn's "Blue Jeans and a Boy's Shirt" from 1958 showcase his lilting vocal style and has become an iconic rockabilly tune. Also check out "I'm Glad My Baby's Gone Away" and "Everybody's Movin," both are quintessential rockabilly, simply timeless. Don Woody is another fascinating story. He got off the ground by associating with the Ozarks Jubilee and writes a song for Brenda Lee which he eventually parlays into a record deal with Decca and a recording session in Nashville with the premiere rockabilly guitarist of the time, Grady Martin. Don's "Bird Dog" and "Barking Up the Wrong Tree" from 1958 are brilliantly conceived and Martin is in top form on guitar. Fantastic stuff.

I have compiled a rather long list of additional Missouri rockabilly/rock n' roll recordings with commentary on each. Most of these musicians enjoyed limited success in their time and have since fallen into almost complete obscurity. Nonetheless, many of these recording are excellent, and thanks to the collectors on youtube, we have access to them.

Jim Lowe: Also from Springfield, his song "The Green Door" became a huge hit in 1956. For me, his "The Crossing" is a fascinating rockabilly recording from 1958 in the tradition of Ramblin' Jimmy Dolan's and Arkie Shibley's Hot Rod Race. Great guitar solo on "The Crossing."

Bill Duniven: Bill is from Steele in southeastern Missouri. "Knockin on the Back Side of Your Heart" is more akin to rock n' roll piano based composition on the Vaden label out of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Bo Davis: From Advance, Missouri, "Let's Coast Awhile" is another auto tune that features Eddie Cochran on guitar. Very nice recording from 1956.

Rusty Draper: Draper is from Kirksville also has early association with the Ozark Jubilee. Rusty is generally associated with more pop related material. Nonetheless, his 1956 cover of the Sammy Masters classic "Pink Cadillac" is pure rockabilly, and well done.

Jimmy Edwards: From the small town of Senath in the Bootheel, Jimmy's Love Bug Crawl is a nice recording from 1957. Classic rockabilly sound.

Herbie Duncan: I'm pretty sure Herbie is from St. Louis, where he recorded "Hot Lips Baby" for the MarVel Label in 1958.

Maynard Horlick: Also from St. Louis, and totally obscure. "Love and Lost" is from 1958 on the ST. Louis VIR label.

Gene Mckown: From Kansas City, Gene's "Rockabilly Rhythm" from 1958 is an excellent anthem that exalts the origins, novelty and power of the genre. Very nice guitar.

Lee Dresser and the Krazy Cats: Lee's combo hails from Moberly in northern Missouri and is stylistically closer to rock ' roll but also has distinct rockabilly elements. "Wiggly Little Mama" from 1959 is a perfect example. Very nice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Covering a Classic: Harlem Nocturne

It seems improbable: Earl Hagen, whose productivity gravitated to film scores and theme songs for television programs like the Andy Griffith Show, pens a piece in 1939 to honor Duke Ellington and his silky smooth alto sax player Johnny Hodges that ends up becoming almost a standard of the 1950's to be covered by R&B and jazz musicians alike. Hagen's piece "Harlem Nocturne" emerges out of his association with the English bandleader Ray Noble Orchestra of the 1930' and seems to nod, if not in title alone, to the predominance of African American musicians involved in the jazz scene of the period. Favored by saxophonists, Harlem Nocturne is a composition whose popularity almost seems to transcend time and space. Its association with pulp fiction and film noir based scores is later affirmed by its adoption as the theme song for Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer film which was released in 1984.

Unfortunately, not all the renditions of Harlem Nocturne are available on youtube to examine in this post. What is very interesting is the way each musician's approach to the song differs. I have tried to arrange the covers in chronological order so as to highlight the differences in arrangement and approach can be appreciated.

Stan Kenton: Kenton's marvelously arranged interpretation here probably dates to the late 1940's, wonderful use of dynamics in a big band setting.

Les Brown: This sounds like a fifties or early sixties arrangement to me even though the claim is that it dates to the 1940's. Very nice alto solo.

Johnny Otis: Although recorded with Johnny's Big Band, this version moves to a more R&B based feeling and format. Predictably, alto sax is featured, nicely done.

Sam the Man Taylor: Sam's haunting version here really captures the R&B essence of the song. Superb phrasing by the player who helped shape jump blues and later rock n' roll sax during the 1950's.

Earl Bostic: Earl was a genuine horn Einstein and his breadth and fluency really show here up on a piece like Harlem Nocturne. Superb playing.

Les and Larry Elgart: This is a very smooth and tight arrangement by the brothers known for their ecclectic range of material related to pop and jazz. Probably from the 1960's

King Curtis: The King injects a bit of soulish groovin into this unique and quite polished arrangement from the early 1960's. Wonderful tone and phrasing by the King in this unfortunately truncated version.

The Viscounts: This excellent version charted for this combo in 1959 and then again in 1966.

Danny Gatton: Guitar virtuoso Gatton had a penchant for elaborate arrangements of well known standards that captured the feel of a period; his covers of Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" and "Tragedy" by Thomas Wayne are good examples. This version of Harlem Nocturne, although not his best, is one of his signature pieces. It is unique in that he adapts an arrangement set for big band saxophone to the guitar. Mid 1980's. Fascinating.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Billy Lee Riley: Rest in Peace

One of the founding fathers of American rockabilly and legendary Sun recording artist Billy Lee Riley passed away last night in his home state of Arkansas. Billy was loved by fans and musicians alike and did so much to promote the music that he created and that has become legendary all over the world. With his death, the almost mythical sounds that emanated from the road-houses along Highway 67 in northern Arkansas back in the 1950's take on a ghostly resonance, for one of their primary creators has passed on. Rest in peace Billy Lee Riley.