Monday, December 21, 2009

Let's See If You Believe in Me



The 1920s have always held a certain fascination for me. There seems to have been some sort of culmination going on, the end of a long period of roil and moil where African rhythms appeared slowly in White-People Music -- first inauthentically in the minstrelsy of the 1850s and '60s, and then quite authentically indeed in the ragtime trend of the 1890s and 1900s. Whether you responded positively to jazz, the natural outcome of ragtime, was a good indicator of where you stood on the great questions of the day -- prude or flapper? Traditionalist or modernist?

While that thought was knocking around in my head, Blue Girl gently reminded me that it was time for our wonderful annual X-Muss Collaboration. She suggested "Santa Baby," to which I happily agreed. As I listened to Eartha Kitt's utterly wonderful original take on the song, I realized that, under all the 1952 sex-kitten-with-full-jazz-orchestra trappings, what I was hearing was really not much advanced structurally from a hot-jazz number from 1929. So then I started imagining Bessie Smith, say, and how she'd approach such a song.

But we're not actually in 1929, are we. We passed through the vogue for Twenties nostalgia at least once back in 1968 or so, when "Bonnie and Clyde" put the Depression front and center in our minds. And again, a few years ago, when "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" pulled our attention to the string-band, vocal and religious music from that time. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks -- my first and still favorite exposure to artists playing in their own time what was considered slick and modern in the Depression -- deliberately made themselves sound the way an R. Crumb cartoon looks: the Twenties and Thirties brought forward into 1968's weird temporal ambivalence.

Nostalgia, but expressed in ways that never existed in the period one is nostalgic for.

It is in this spirit, then, that Blue Girl and I present for your pleasure:

Santa Baby

Purely from a production standpoint, I'm particularly proud of this one. I had never played a ukelele in any kind of serious way, and my banjo playing had been limited to the five-string, Earl Scruggs three-finger rolls of bluegrass. I had been aware of what an important rhythmic role the tenor banjo played in a Twenties jazz-band -- the decade that saw the invention of the electric guitar to replace the banjo's somewhat obstreperous plank-a-chank.

But those instruments together -- along with slide guitar, wood upright bass, clarinets and an alto sax -- were a joy to mix. I didn't have to do much to them at all to make them sit well together peacefully. It's like they're made for each other, or something.

All right. Enough blather from me. Enjoy, kids.

Merry Christmas/Holidays/Days of Observance/Days You Completely Ignore!

And Glue Birl? That dress.... It does things for me. Me and my 18-inch legs....

25 comments:

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I love the uke, but as I said elsewhere, I keep hearing it as a mandolin. Maybe it's the mix with the banjo.

But whatever, it's the final sound that is importantly, and you two have delivered.

Neddie said...

Thanks very much, ZRM. Your enthusiastic comments on our previous efforts are much appreciated. You are a zombie of discriminating taste, which I wasn't aware was possible, but there you go.

Short-stringed instruments are hard to tell apart. Remember the uke has nylon strings and the mandy has paired steel ones. Uke: Dark, soft and Island-y. Mandy: Penetrating and bright.

Banjo: Perhaps justifiably hated by a lot of people, but a king-hell rhythm instrument in the right setting. It's a goddamned drum, fer cripesake. And real, real loud.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

Great job!

glue birl said...

Watch it, Tiger.

lol

WV: Swear to God: vocoul

:)

glue birl said...

Also, Jeddie. You rock.

Neddie said...

GB: One endeavors at all times, madame, to rock.

I would rock far harder with longer legs. The poor little things can barely dance a comical, Spinal-Tap-Stonehenge jig.

glue birl said...

It's cartoon Jeddie!

Matt said...

Lovely!

Larry Jones said...

A fine job. Well-imagined (and realized) concept for the arrangement. And I love that slide! It's rolls in like honey, lazy, thick and sweet.

(Not sure how to take this, but my word verification for this is "suctio.")

Kevin Wolf said...

Many thanks, BG and NJ, for this latest holiday treat. My best wishes for the season are hereby sent your way.

Ned, are you aware of the work being done at Dust To Digital? If I had any money I'd own about half their output by now.

WV: avivide! as they say in the French.

glue birl said...

vocoul suctio, avivide!

I'll take that as a compliment.

KevinHayden said...

Standing O. You two are a gift at Christmas... and all year 'round.

Will Divide said...

Best one yet.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! Always look forward to the Xmas special. Thanks, you two. Rudy Valee better watch his back! That was the bees' knees!

Anonymous said...

Neddie, great job! I am always amazed at your musical mixing ability. Enjoy all that snow. With global warming it could be the last great snow fall.
-The Skimmer

Cleveland Bob said...

Nicely done indeed.

And congrats on the new job. Lance Mannion linked toy your post today and it was the first time I had been to the site since Sept.

I'm jobless for two years this week and it's killin' me. Regardless, good on you and welcome back to the blogosphere...

jdmack said...

You're going to think I'm nuts, but this recording sounds very interesting backwards. For one thing, the song still maintains the loping rhythm that it has forwards. But more interestingly, the vocals have a Kate Bush-like quality to them, especially in regards to the melodic contour. It sounds like a melody she might have written for "Hounds of Love."

blue girl said...

jdmack, how can I listen to an mp3 backwards?

rheumablog said...

Absolutely wonderful. It's so nice when talents collide! Thanks, Neddie, thanks Blue Girl... and Merry Christmas!
-Wren

Dr Dave said...

almost as sexy as the original, a tad more innocent.
Here is a nice one I was sent by a friend .... different song but the same spirit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddVZOK_9UUI

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

dmack, how can I listen to an mp3 backwards?

you have to stand on your head.

jdmack said...

blue girl, you have to open the mp3 in an audio editing program such as Adobe Audition, and reverse the file.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

You should still stand on your head though.

James said...

Neddie - love the piece. Only quibble, is my AVG malware detector sez you have a problem - probably not related to microlegs (my problem also).

Jimintampa

Neddie said...

Jim, I think you just said something in Computer... Could you expand on that in email? hbsherwood at mac dot com