The Kingfish Files

Author: host Created: 1/30/2011 12:59 PM
Celebrating the music and musicians of early jazz.
By host on 7/25/2010 3:00 AM
Sunday, July 25, 2010 Louis Armstrong - "If I Could Be With You" - 1930 The song "If I Could Be With You", written by James P. Johnson, was a popular hit long before Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1930. Yet, Louis' recording is just remarkable, not only for his usual musical brilliance, but also for the steamy introduction that only he could deliver. And check out the incredibly modernistic piano intro by Harvey Brooks. I hope you enjoy it. ...
By host on 7/18/2010 3:00 AM
Sunday, July 18, 2010 Mamie Smith - Crazy Blues Starting in the 1920s, record companies issued recordings of black artists on "race records", labels that recorded only black artists. You might think this was just an extension of Jim Crow but, in fact, it was the idea of black musician and promotor Perry Bradford who felt that race labels would give black performers opportunities to record that they would not otherwise have. And he was right, race records were a success not only among blacks but also among whites. Some contend that Bradford put the first brick in a wall separating black and white artists, a wall that would grow to encompass not only musical recordings but also movies well into the 1950s. Others insist that the wall was always there and that race records at least gave blacks a way to record. Bradford hit success on his first...
By host on 7/11/2010 3:00 AM
The Boswell Sisters This week the Kingfish Files offers a video/audio two-fer featuring The Boswell Sisters. The Boswell Sisters -- Connie, Helvetia and Martha -- were one of the most popular recording acts of the early 1930s. But more than that, they were an integral part of the hot jazz scene of the 1920s. Growing up in a musical family in New Orleans, each girl was trained in both classical and popular music. Connie played cello and saxophone, Vet played violin and banjo, and Martha played piano. They counted as friends Louis Prima, Leon Roppolo, Monk Hazel, Tony Parenti and Emmett Hardy. Connie recounted that as a girl she was equally influenced by Enrico Caruso and Mamie Smith -- such were the influences that formed early jazz. And the Boswell's in turn influenced their fellow musicians with their inventive and unconventional vocal arrangements. "An Evening in Caroline" ...
By host on 7/4/2010 3:00 AM
Sunday, July 4, 2010 Dan Levinson - "I Found a New Baby" - Paris, 2010 In some (if not most) jazz circles, traditional jazz is viewed as a quaint vestige of a bygone era, not as a vital and important voice in contemporary music. I would argue that just the opposite is true. Yes, the modernists hold sway in the minds of the critics and the elite jazz clubs, but the continuing popularity of traditional jazz serves as a firm reminder of how this music speaks to the soul. After all, have you ever seen a contemporary jazz player struttin' with some barbecue? I thought not. Among the best of the current traditional players is Dan Levinson whose virtuosity on the clarinet and depth of understanding of the early jazz styles is unmatched. This week's offering is a video taken from a jam session in Paris earlier this year featuring Dan and the Doc Scanlon Trio. Listen and enjoy! ...
By host on 6/29/2010 3:00 AM
Sunday, June 29, 2010 Fats Waller and His Rhythm - "A Sweet Beginning Like This" - 1935 Fats Waller was both a clown and a virtuoso pianist. His sense of humour and joy for life infused every aspect of his performances. Fats shied away from the most popular tunes of the day showing a preference for little heard tunes that virtually nobody else recorded. "A Sweet Beginning Like This" is a good example of his repertoire -- light hearted, bouncy, and clever without being too clever. Regarding his band: The "Rhythm" was primarily a studio band, and recording dates had to be worked into the musicians' different schedules. Waller's genius carried the band, enabling them to record as many as ten sides in a single day, often consisting mainly of new material. Rarely did band members know in advance which tunes they would be recording! It is a testament to the collective musical talent of the group that they managed so well without rehearsal. This chaotic approach succeeded in part because of consistency in core personnel which included Waller, Autrey, Sedric and Casey. The chaos no doubt contributed to the spontaneity which characterizes many of the Rhythm's recordings. ...
By host on 6/20/2010 3:00 AM
Starting around 2005, a number of traditional jazz groups started springing up in NYC. Unlike typical "Dixieland" bands that play a cartoonized version of the music, these newer groups were intent on interpreting the music without the trappings added over the decades. Prominent among these bands is the Cangelosi Cards. While the quality of this video isn't the greatest, I think it captures the essence of great music they produce. The tune they play in this video, Milenberg Joys, is one of the oldest songs in the jazz book having been written by Paul Mares around 1916. Milenberg (actually Milneberg, but the spelling ultimately yielded to the pronunciation) was a resort community on the banks of Lake Ponchartrain where New Orleanians would go on weekends to enjoy the waterside resorts. Music was an essential part of the entertainment and many bands would be playing simultaneously within earshot of each other. Given that almost all...
By host on 6/13/2010 3:00 AM
Sunday, June 13, 2010 Annette Hanshaw - "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" - 1929 This week's installment presents a song recorded by the great Annette Hanshaw in 1930 titled "If I Had a Talking Picture of You". The song was written for one of the earliest talking pictures, "Sunny Side Up", filmed in 1929. The lyrics are wonderful. I especially like the line So the censors won't object, We would kiss with sound effects If I had a talking picture of you. The accompaniment is simple enough, dominated by an anonymous pianist with plenty of flourish. I hope you enjoy it. ...

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