Inquiries into the early years of SJI
Showing posts with label video. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video. Show all posts

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Hot 8 Brass Band (and SJI)

Image from the Hot 8 website http://www.hot8brassband.com/
The Hot 8 Brass Band is a New Orleans staple. They have been playing for twenty years, and have stayed together through tragedies that include Hurricane Katrina, and the shooting deaths of four band-mates. They made their first recording in 2007, and have recently released their fourth album ... which includes a dynamic interpretation of "St. James Infirmary."

The Hot 8 Brass Band have embarked on a European tour which will take them to Germany, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, and the U.K.

There is something special about The Hot 8 Brass Band. You can hear/see this special musicality in the video below.

(YouTube videos on this blog lose the edges, for some reason - double-click to see it in its full size ... or click here.)






Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Orleans country band does SJI


The New Orleans country band Loose Cattle has just released a video of their version of "St. James Infirmary." If you follow this link you can read about this interpretation, and watch the video. The song starts off slowly, and quickly builds, develops a country twang. You will like what you hear.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Silk Road Ensemble, live from Vancouver


Michael Ward-Bergeman in the Purgatory Garden

It might get better than this, but one wonders how.

Friend Michael Ward-Bergeman composed this brilliant interpretation of St. James Infirmary and is also the accordionist in the video. From the Vancouver TED talks in February 2016, the Silk Road Ensemble cooks at a high heat and the vocalist, Rhiannon Giddens, grabs the song impeccably. Together they run through fields and marshes, howl through trees, bend with the wind, fly across oceans and deliver an interpretation of St. James Infirmary that is fit for the world wherever we are.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Simon Prager performs "St. James Infirmary Blues" at the Ye Olde Rose & Crown pub

Image of Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub copied from Google Maps
Ye Olde Rose & Crown, one of London's finest olde pubs, stands at 53 Hoe Street. The Walthamstow Folk Club operates out of the pub's back room/theatre on Sunday evenings. On one of those evenings the London roots musician Simon Prager (who finds inspiration in the music of the Rev. Gary Davis) took the stage. A song from that night was - you guessed it - a stirring rendition of "St. James Infirmary."

(You might have to double-click on the image to view in its intended perspective.)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"This Land is Your Land" - and copyright

Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land is Your Land," has been making the news lately. A class action lawsuit is hoping to bring the song into the public domain.

Guthrie published the song in 1945 (although he wrote it five years earlier). At that time copyright extended for 28 years beyond the date of publication, after which it could be re-registered for a further 28 years. Guthrie did not renew the copyright, and so it should have entered the public domain in 1973. A publishing company, though, registered the song as a new creation in 1956 (eleven years after Guthrie published the song) and renewed it in 1984 - by which time the length of copyright had been extended considerably. Clearly (as with Irving Mills and "St. James Infirmary"), they had no right to ownership of the song.

Guthrie based his melody on earlier songs.

An old turn of the 20th century Baptist hymn called "Oh My Loving Brother":

Which The Carter Family used for their song "Little Darling Pal of Mine," recorded in 1928:
And again for "When the World's on Fire," recorded in 1930:


In this context it is interesting that - as I discuss in "I Went Down to St. James Infirmary" - song publisher Ralph Peer asked the Carters to modify the traditional songs they heard in their native Appalachia in such a way as to allow the songs to move from the public domain into copyrightable material.  Peer then assumed the copyright for his publishing company, and kept the Carters loyal to him by assigning them a
portion of the royalties (which was a better deal than most publishers were offering at the time).

Some writers, such as Barry Mazor in his important (if hagiographic) 2015 biography "Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music," (Chicago Review Press - with a co-copyright credit to Peer's publishing company Southern Music) assert that this is just good business. The reasoning goes that it is the business of song publishing, and the profits that flow from it, that allow these songs to survive and enter public consciousness. In this way capitalism is good for our commonality and for cultural well-being.

More idealistic assertions suggest that song ownership should always reside with the writer, that simply because you have more money does not give you the right to profit excessively from somebody else's work; publishing revenue should be enough. Simply because there is a common practice does not make it a right practice.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Celebration - Another Look Out Mama

I am looking back this evening. Reminiscing.

The final edition of I Went Down to St. James Infirmary was printed in November, 2015, six months ago. A month later Pam and I moved from our acre of land in the village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, to a three-storey walk-up in the metropolis of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Once before - at the New Year of 2013 - I ventured away from the principal theme of this blog to post a song by Look out Mama, the trio I belonged to in Val Marie. We held a very occasional gig at the Val Marie Hotel, attended by tens of people (actually, not a bad audience in a village of a hundred souls).

So, in celebration of the second and final edition of I Went Down to St. James Infirmary, and of (approximately) the eighth anniversary of this blog, I am posting another Look Out Mama performance. James Page on lead guitar, Colleen Watson on rhythm guitar, myself on percussion and lead vocal.

As with the song "Look Out Mama" (not to be confused with the name of our trio, Look Out Mama), I wrote this ditty. The lyric is based upon the initial meetings between the philosophers G. I. Gurdjieff and P. D. Ouspensky in 1914 Moscow. In earlier years Ouspensky (Dan) had experimented with drugs like ether (in the lyric, Esther) and hashish (Mary Jane) - but soon abandoned them. Lots of poetic license here, and apologies to the real world for that.

This was our first performance of the song (it became more nuanced in later versions). Many thanks to Pam Woodland for the video, recorded live at the Val Marie Hotel in 2013. (Double-click on the video the get the full image.)



Dan & Van

Dan had been traveling with Esther and Mary Jane
But one day they left him standing out in the rain
Bells were sounding across the river
Through the mists he could see
That all of this time they'd been moving through the same country
               
Where do you want to go, where are you going to stay           
You know it's all the same 
Place you are in, place with a different name

Van once trained tigers in Turkestan
Herded horses in Montana and Saskatchewan
He'd worked on the trains, drove camels across the plains
Picked grapes from the vines
Dug for coal and gold down in the mines

Where do you want to go, where are you going to stay           
You know it's all the same 
Place you are in, place with a different name

Dan met Van in an ice palace in Rome
Dan said to Van I've been searching for my home
Van told Dan, better sit down here
You've no place left to go
Keep your eyes open for the next hundred years or so
Try to your eyes open for the next hundred years or so
Try to keep your eyes open, you've nowhere left  to go

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A new album to celebrate Groanbox's tenth anniversary!

The roots / world music band, Groanbox, has long been a friend of this blog. If you search through these pages you will find them playing “St. James Infirmary” with flair and authority. You will find (from when they were a duo called “The Goanbox Boys”) a song called “Darling Lou,” which has SJI as its base. You will find Groanbox accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman performing SJI with a gypsy band in Bucharest, and with an experimental classical chamber group in Chicago. And now, Groanbox – grown into a quartet – are celebrating their tenth anniversary with the release of a self-titled CD.

This might be the strangest, the most ambitious of their six releases – and also their most accessible. Two years in the making, it started in 2013 in the forests of Northern Ontario where they found inspiration in the percussive possibilities of fallen trees. “Deep tree diving, oh.” In the echoes of deep bat-rich caves. “Adios Plato.” In the sounds and the quiet of the wild spaces, where a chipmunk took them far from the noise of the Demon Trucks that carry away the harvest of the forest. “Ohhh don’t press your luck, run run away from the demon truck.” In an encounter with a boulder split by the slow-growing root of a tree. “The prisoner of war will break free of the stocks/The root will one day split the rock.” Time spent in an abandoned cabin, said to have once been a hideout for Al Capone. “We’re all dressed in our best luck ... In the older days this room would be filled with smoke ... Ah, I just need a blanket for these bloody finches in my head.” And then into New Orleans earlier this year with its famous ninth ward that is still recovering from catastrophic flooding a decade ago. “Barefoot in the ninth....” With its continuing echoes of Katrina. “Katrina, I wish you’d come and listen to the music coming up through the floor.” That song features guest musician, New Orleans trumpeter Kenneth Terry (written about previously on this blog). Velvet-voiced Venezuelan singer Yulene Velasquez adds vocal flourishes that shape the “The Face That You Deserve” into a sweet exotic charmer. “Each and every drop never stops, till it’s found it’s way/Every single beam finds its meaning in another’s eye.”

There are four instrumental pieces on this album of eleven songs. With titles like “Orchestrated Entropy” and “Graveyard of Pines,” they bristle with original ideas, unusual transitions, atypical harmonies. And with an instrumental arsenal that includes banjo, guitar, assorted hand percussion, accordion, trombone, bells, fife, throat-singing, thumb piano, bird calls, fiddle, piano, and the famous Freedom Boot, these multi-instrumentalists have created a sound that rewards close listening. This is stellar musicianship in which one can hear touches of Eric Satie, gypsy music, African and Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies, blues, New Orleans roustabouts, avant-garde experimentation ... and  much more.

Groanbox took a big risk here. Most of this album was recorded extemporaneously, and the band has rewoven the fabric of their music.

(You can investigate further at the Groanbox site.)


Below, I have been given permission to post an as yet unreleased video about the making of this album. Double-click in order to view it full-frame, or go to YouTube.



Sunday, July 19, 2015

And here is Hairy Holler (from Oshawa, Ontario)

To tell you the truth, I have never thought of Oshawa as a hotbed of musical inspiration. Located about 60 kilometers east of Toronto it has a population of 150,000 - including the eight musicians in Hairy Holler.

They have a rip-roaring version of "St. James Infirmary," which I encourage you to watch. It's a treat. A short and informative article about them, along with the video stream, can be found by clicking here. (excerpt: "Fusing folk, punk, blues, jazz, Roma and swing sounds into their unique music, the new video is an equally celebratory affair.")

It sounds like SJI will be part of their second CD release, later this year. Their first album is sold on the Bandcamp site. You can get a sense of their range by listening to, say, the samples for "Bourbon Blues" followed by "Love Is A Dog From Hell." The video below shows off their enthusiasm and musicianship. (Videos embedded on this site are usually truncated, losing some of the right-side edge. So, you might want to watch it on YouTube or at the Canadian music magazine site, exclaim . . . or, double-click on the video feed below.)

This is exciting. And, you know, they might not be out of place in New Orleans.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ward-Bergeman and eighth blackbird at the Curtis Institute of Music


I know noble accents
And lucid inescapable rhythms:
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

That is the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens' Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

The chamber group, eighth blackbird (lower case is deliberate), are an adventurous sextet with three Grammy trophies who explore the edges of the modern repertoire, from Reich and Lerdahl to, well, "St. James Infirmary." Clarinet, flute, violin, viola, percussion, piano, cello . . . this is a virtuosic ensemble of great depth and feeling.

Recently they met with composer, singer, accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Chicago, for a rendition of a Ward-Bergeman arrangement of SJI. Readers of this blog know of Michael Ward-Bergeman as an accomplished composer of contemporary classical music, as well as a musician deeply committed to roots music, blues, Americana ...

The link below is via YouTube. You can also access this video through Ward-Bergeman's site at http://compmjwb.blogspot.ca/ In fact, he has recently posted the score for this performance on his site. You can read it by clicking here. The performance is eight minutes of stellar musicianship and takes us to many places, including a lively gypsy campfire.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Porter Grainger on film?

Porter Grainger pops up frequently on this blog, partly as the composer of "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," partly because so little is known about him, and I hold hope that someone will come forward with more information.

I am aware of only two photographs of Grainger - in one of them he is part of a large group of black composers in the 1930s, including Jelly Roll Morton and W.C. Handy. It is likely that he also appeared in a short film.

Yesterday I was reading an updated Wikipedia entry on Grainger which included these words: "He was also Mamie Smith's accompanist in the 1929 film short Jailhouse Blues." I found the video on YouTube, as an Italian upload. The pianist is briefly visible at the beginning of the film. So ... what do you think? Is this Porter Grainger?

The film lasts just over one minute. Smith was forty-six when this film was made. She was one of the pioneers of early blues recording; in her heyday she was immensely popular, appearing on stage in extravagant dresses while dancers and acrobats spun around her. Grainger was thirty-eight, and at the height of his career.



Monday, November 18, 2013

A cappella SJI: performance video

A couple of months ago, I posted an article about, and a link to, sheet music for an a cappella version of SJI. The composer, Everett Howe, with the JUUL Tones, recently performed this at a church in San Diego. So, first we had the sheet music, now an actual performance (clicking here will take you directly to the video on YouTube; the embedded version below is unfortunately truncated). Enjoy!