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Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans

GUEST,Alan Whittle 13 Mar 11 - 05:42 PM
Mark Ross 13 Mar 11 - 06:10 PM
Desert Dancer 13 Mar 11 - 06:20 PM
pdq 13 Mar 11 - 06:35 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 13 Mar 11 - 06:38 PM
pdq 13 Mar 11 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 13 Mar 11 - 07:41 PM
pdq 13 Mar 11 - 07:48 PM
Leadfingers 13 Mar 11 - 08:15 PM
BanjoRay 13 Mar 11 - 09:02 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 13 Mar 11 - 09:39 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 13 Mar 11 - 09:49 PM
PHJim 14 Mar 11 - 12:26 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Mar 11 - 12:42 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 14 Mar 11 - 01:03 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Mar 11 - 10:07 AM
bluerabbit10 14 Mar 11 - 11:59 AM
Stringsinger 14 Mar 11 - 02:46 PM
pdq 14 Mar 11 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 14 Mar 11 - 11:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Mar 11 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 15 Mar 11 - 12:00 PM
Stringsinger 15 Mar 11 - 12:45 PM
Chris in Portland 15 Mar 11 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 15 Mar 11 - 03:27 PM
BanjoRay 15 Mar 11 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 15 Mar 11 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,roderick warner 15 Mar 11 - 06:05 PM
BanjoRay 15 Mar 11 - 08:22 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 16 Mar 11 - 06:55 AM
BanjoRay 16 Mar 11 - 11:17 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 16 Mar 11 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 17 Mar 11 - 08:14 AM
BanjoRay 17 Mar 11 - 06:54 PM
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Subject: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 05:42 PM

I'm really into the Mound City Blues Blowers these days. Are there any other fans out there? Not too many I guess - they don't even get a mention on St Louis's website. Which is crazy - a million selling, seminal jazz band named after Mound City itself.

I'd love to share thoughts with anybody on this band that I first heard of in Eddie Condon's autobiography.

I was listening to a jazz band last night and I asked the banjo player how he was tuning his banjo. he said, five string model without the fifth string - then CGBD = which when I thought about it afterwards is 5 string C tuning.

Does anybody know anybody who does this sort of gig - trad jazz banjo player. I'd love to know how they go about it.

You see I've always been a folk finger picker, and its a new world.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Mark Ross
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 06:10 PM

It's called a plectrum banjo.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 06:20 PM

Red McKenzie and His Mound City Blue Blowers
videos of the MCBB
Jack Bland (of MCBB) at www.jazzbanjo.com.

Google results for "jazz banjo", including plenty of contemporary activity and resources.

Have fun!

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: pdq
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 06:35 PM

I believe the banjo actually evolved backwards from what one might expect, with the "5-string, long neck" dating from the early 1800s. It was followed by the "4-string, long neck" about 1900 and the "4-string, short neck" about 1915.

The latter is also called a "tenor banjo" and was a very strummed with a pick. A very important part of traditional Jazz. Johnny St. Cyr is as close to a human metronome as you can get in the Hot Five and Hot Seven featuring Louis Armstrong.

The tenor banjo "standard tuning" was once the same as violin or mandolin.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 06:38 PM

So whats the best axe

a tenor banjo

or a five string with the fifth one taken off

or something else


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: pdq
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 06:53 PM

The tenor banjo has a crisp sound that cuts through the rest of the band so it can be used for keeping time. Not sure how that translates into music for a small folk club, but you can often find a used "entry level" banjo for about $75 USD and find out.

Some of the original 4-string models were ornate, carved wooden parts and even gold-plated metal parts. Some can fetch $10,000 or more. More for art than music value.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 07:41 PM

I'm not sure folk clubs come into the equation. I'm not of these people hung up on the 1954 definition of folk music, but I wouldn't want to upset anybody by playing jug band stuff in a folk club. Certainly can't be arsed to defend it.

I'd love to get that sound down though. Its so damn good. maybe I could play intervals in jazz clubs.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: pdq
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 07:48 PM

But the Kweskin Jug Band, Van Ronk's Jug Stompers, the Even Dozen Jug Band, and others, were hugely popular in folk clubs. That is where they played.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Leadfingers
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 08:15 PM

Jonny St Cyr was known to play a Six String , tuned in standard guitar tuning .
In fact , when I was dabbling in the Trad Jazz scene , a LOT of banjo players were using Tenor Guitar tuning on Banjo


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: BanjoRay
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 09:02 PM

When I used to play trad jazz banjo, I tuned it CGBD. I've done it occasionally recently, when I slackened off my fifth string and pushed it out of the way under a foot of the bridge. You use a plectrum, and you need to learn all the inversions of the major, minor and seventh chords up the neck. The usual keys as I remember them are Bflat, F, Eflat which are the easiest keys for the trumpet, clarinet, trombone. Mostly you play full 4 string chords with sharp, rhythmic downstrokes of the plectrum, with occasional upstrokes on the back beat. The cycle of fifths is very useful for a lot of the typical trad jazz chord sequences - eg Bflat, G, C, F Bflat.

Ray


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 09:39 PM

'But the Kweskin Jug Band, Van Ronk's Jug Stompers, the Even Dozen Jug Band, and others, were hugely popular in folk clubs. That is where they played.'

Yes you're talking about America though, and really you're talking about another era. English folk music nowadays from top to bottom has compulsory Anglicisms in it. I suppose in a way, its become more xenophobic. there are references to other music forms - reggae, bhangra even, jazz even - but there is always this insistence on a baseline of Englishness - and of course with that comes all that bloody class system, and feudalism.

What appeals to me in this music is the edginess. I was at a jazz club last night and I think I was the youngest person there and I'm 62. I had this awful feeling that if Bix had entered that room - he would have thought, my god no! this is not what its about. Whatever else these guys were, they weren't conservatives - they were revolutionaries. like Waylon said about country music, are you sure Hank done it this way?


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 09:49 PM

Thanks Banjo Ray and Leadfingers. i obviously need to look at all these possibilities - your practical words of advice sound great.

I don't want to waste money or time though, I really need to get it as right as possible. is there anybody in England i should be really be checking out.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: PHJim
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 12:26 AM

_The plectrum banjo is the same scale length as a regular 5-string (not a long-neck). It's not a 5-string with the 5th string removed, but a legitimate banjo in its own right. It's often tuned CGBD or DGBD and sometimes DGBE (Chicago tuning). Eddie Condon, although some say he played a tenor guitar, actually played a plectrum guitar, tuned, I believe in Chicago tuning, as did Tiny Grimes.
_The tenor banjo has a shorter scale length and the standard tuning is CGDA. Irish players use what's called "Irish tuning", the one pdq mentioned above, which is GDAE, an octave below the mandolin or violin, very handy for playing fiddle tunes. I've seen tenor banjos tuned Chicago-style, DGBE and ukulele-style GCEA (or gCEA) or standard CGDA, up two frets to DAEB.
_A shorter scale tenor banjo is called a "Tango banjo". It's a couple of frets shorter than a standard tenor and is favoured by Irish players.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 12:42 AM

Mound City? You mean the Mound City in Holt County, NW Missouri, pop 2000 or so? Up near the Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge?

I've been there several times.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 01:03 AM

Thanks PHJim!
Tell me bout the plectrum guitar. there was a guy called Johnny Handle who used to play the English folkscene and he played a four sring guitar. It seemed to have thick strings and he played sort of bass lines on it intersprersed with his chords. I always thought it was perhaps the same thing that Condon played. But I never knew.

Leeneia

Mound City as in

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis,_Missouri#Cityscape

See the second paragraph in the history section.

Red McKenzie was an ex-jockey working as a bell hop at The Claridge Hotel, St Louis. Dick Slevin worked across the street as a soda jerk. Their first record(recorded Feb 23rd 1924 at the Brunswick Studio in Chicago) was Arkansas Blues and it sold a million copies.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 10:07 AM

About the nickname Mound City - I believe you, even though I have lived in the same state for 35 years and have never heard that before.

Of course, St Louis is the location of the remarkable Cahokia Mounds. Ever been there?

By the way, I went to links and enjoyed the music. I can recommend a listen.

Thanks for the info.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: bluerabbit10
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 11:59 AM

There used to be Sammy Gardner and His Mound City Six who were popular in the Gaslite Square(St Louis) era and before and after. He played clarinet; but I don't think he had a banjo in the band, just trumpet, trombone and piano.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Stringsinger
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 02:46 PM

The most significant member in the Blues Blowers band was Eddy Lang (nee Salvatore Massaro) who was the father of the jazz guitar. He developed it further than anyone else at the time. He also played plectrum banjo. He died very young but his influence on jazz guitar was profound upon Django (Venuti and Lang predated Django and Grapelli) and many guitarists that followed. Charlie Christian changed the form with electric lead style jazz guitar but other acoustic jazz players were Dick McDonough and Karl Kress, the latter who tuned his guitar Bb,F,C,G,D,B. The bottom strings are in fifths and the top four are tuned liked the plectrum banjo. The contemporary exponent of this tuning on acoustic jazz guitar in the Kress mode is Marty Grosz, the son of George Grosz, the artist. Marty works without a pickup but goes through his amp with a good mic.

Allen Ruess with Benny Goodman is also a fine acoustic jazz guitarist.

Eddie Condon played tenor guitar tuned like a plectrum banjo, CGBD, not in the guitar-tuned so-called Chicago tuning.

The tenor banjo (called originally the tango banjo based on the 1915 tango craze in the U.S.) was accessible to string players who wanted to play jazz. The tenor banjo is tuned in fifths as is violin, viola, cello.

Johnny St. Cyr of course played the guitar-banjo in rhythm with Lil Hardin in the Hot Five and Hot Seven with Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and "King" Oliver. Django's first instrument was the guitar-banjo used for playing French dance music called "Musettes". Django might have been influenced by St. Cyr. After the caravan fire in which Django was injured, he switched to guitar and changed acoustic guitar forever.
He also learned a lot from Eddy Lang and was friends with his contemporary and equal player, Argentinian, Oscar Aleman.

The Mound City group found that, because they were a small string group suitable for dinner parties and intimate gatherings, they could find work during hard times when the horn bands were not economically viable.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: pdq
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 07:26 PM

Photo of Johnny St. Cyr in 1926...

                                                       playing banjo


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 11:27 PM

Leeneia

Perhaps St Louis isn't called Mound City. Perhaps they all lived in a place where they exercised the elephants from the local zoo. Who knows? Don't worry about it, I don't.

No I've never set foot in America. Or hand. Or anything really.

They once released an LP sampler with one of my songs on it in America, but (oh cruel fate!) no one bought the album. One reviewer said the album took the cause of country music back thirty years, which made me laugh.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 11:47 AM

"Don't worry about it?"

So much for trying to point out the interesting and beautiful features of my (and the band's) homeland.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:00 PM

Well its not that Idon't appreciate your efforts, but you must realise that you're dealing with an ignorant philistine.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:45 PM

I would also like to call your attention to a great recording done by a member of the Kweskin Band, Geoff (Jeff?) Muldaur, "Private Astronomy", a wonderful retrospective of Bix Beiderbecke.
It was elegant.

Eddy Lang played with Bix on Gennett Records in the Twenties on such great tunes as
"I'm Coming Virginia" and others.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: Chris in Portland
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 02:02 PM

When I was a youth in Chicago, and dinosaurs roamed in Lincoln Park, one club on Rush Street had Bob Scobey with the great banjo player Clancy Hayes, playing something close to jug band music, and down the street was the Gate of Horn where Bob Gibson played, backed by jazz bassist, Ray Brown, was creating new folk music. Thus, for a brief moment in time, jazz and folk music may have been coming together. But Mr. Zimmerman and Ms. Baez drove them apart. All it would take is someone with the right interest and talent to try again.
Chris


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 03:27 PM

So - can anyone help?

I'd like to play the banjo in a trad jazz band.

What would be the best sort of banjo to choose?

What would be the best way to tune the banjo?

Is there a tuition dvd or tape - all about playing banjo in a trad jazz band.

is there a book with the chords in with all the standards I am likely to need to be able to play - to sit in?

I have some experience of playing the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: BanjoRay
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:33 PM

Diffferent players are going to tell you different things. I'd say get a plectrum banjo with a resonator on which has lots of volume - you've got to be heard over a pretty meaty bunch of blowers and a loud drum kit and bass - you may not always have a PA, and IMHO bands sound better without them anyway. You can tune it like a plectrum banjo CGBD but you may find it better as a guitar player to tune it DGBE, so you'll know a lot of chords already. You need to play the chord inversions you get further up the neck than most guitar players are used to - the higher pitches up to say the 12th fret tend to penetrate and carry better, while below the fifth fret the chords will vanish under the weight of band.
Start with the key of Bflat, which many tunes use, and learn the 1, 4 and 5 chords and their sevenths for a typical 12 bar blues sequence. Listen to a lot of the old records, try and play along with them. Work out the chord sequences.
Takes a lot of time and concentration, but I don't think you can do it without, unless you can find a teacher.

Good luck with it.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 05:33 PM

Thanks a lot Ray. Some good practical ideas there.
Could you suggest a list of titles. Would you suggest revival bands like Acker Bilk, or the original ones from the 1920's and 30's. Are there any you used to learn to?


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,roderick warner
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 06:05 PM

Hi Al - just a thought - track down any trad jazz sessions round your way and interrogate the banjo player gently for info...


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: BanjoRay
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 08:22 PM

I used to listen to a lot of Bilk, Barber, all the old British trad bands as well as the old classics - Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, Bechet.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 06:55 AM

Bearing in mind your idea Ray about playing high up the neck. Do jazz banjo players ever use a capo - or does the way the music sometimes changes keys or modulates make this impractical in your experience?


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: BanjoRay
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 11:17 AM

You're always playing chords well away from the nut, and moving up and down the neck a lot. You just don't need a capo, and it would only get in the way. You need to learn the full chord shapes and use them everywhere - you very rarely need to use open strings. You don't actually have to learn what the chords are called, just their relationship with each other within the same key, so if the key changes upwards a tone, you move the lot two frets up and play an identical set of shapes. Think 1, 4, 6 rather than G,C and D. Remember where the key chord is on the neck and use that as a base.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 12:04 PM

Cheers mate!


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 17 Mar 11 - 08:14 AM

Can i get in contact with you Ray - have you a website - should I need more help. You have cleared my mind up a lot as to what to do.


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Subject: RE: Mound City Blues Blowers banjo and fans
From: BanjoRay
Date: 17 Mar 11 - 06:54 PM

Sorry Alan - no website. Join the mudcat and PM me any time....


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