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Seva Venet - Revisiting New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949

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The following is the introduction to the 16 page booklet (included with the hard copy of the CD) covering the history of string bands in New Orleans: I don't want to recreate the past. I want to bring forward what I believe is important. New Orleans is a special community that has produced (and continues to produce) special people: creators. In our day of social media and high-speed life it is easier than ever to tap into the past: just Google it. But it's increasingly rare for people to take the time to appreciate what gems the past has in store for us. The wealth that these historic gems provide is nothing short of transcendence into a deeper experience of our heritage, culture and role in society. This is my intention. I want to hip people to what is under their noses and has been for well over a century. String bands in America are recognized as being integral to our self-image, hopes and aspirations. From bluegrass to pop and metal bands, guitars and basses along with fiddles, mandolins and banjos are integral to our national musical identity. These days people refer to Django Reinhart as the genius pioneer of early jazz guitar but Django, though a major innovator, led string bands that were riding a crest whose precedence leads directly back to New Orleans circa 1890s. One could say the same for bluegrass and Western swing, even rock-and-roll. Ernie K-Doe's claim: "I'm not sure but I think all music started in New Orleans" comes to mind. Long before the words "bluegrass" or "rock-and-roll" or even "jazz" or "blues" came into common usage there were string bands all across the nation performing popular songs and styles of the day. In Southeast Louisiana these bands were commonly referred to by the appellation "string band." There were many. My quest was to discover what made the string bands in late 19th/early 20th century New Orleans different from string bands in other parts of the country and abroad and to understand how these bands could help to shape the genre of music that would emerge with the 20th century and by 1917 take on the name "jazz." This era of music in New Orleans is especially attractive to me precisely for it's obscurity. With Jim Crow still very much in place there was a large portion of the community that was underserved and under represented for it's contributions and potential. It was a period of social change that included riots, Supreme Court actions, and the formation of social aid and pleasure clubs leading into the dawning era of sound recordings and amplification that served to empower this previously obscured and overlooked creative community. Before I moved to New Orleans, I played in a small New Orleans jazz band in Los Angeles that featured an Albert system clarinetist who played the George Lewis style with a traditional New Orleans repertoire. I had a demanding habit of acquiring music and music books from libraries across L.A. County and a great teacher who, to keep up with, required a lot of practice. This kept me off the streets until I moved to New Orleans in 1999 and shortly after began a residency in Jackson Square with Tuba Fats and His Chosen Few Brass Band busking six to twelve hours a day, often seven days a week, for four years. Eventually I got back into the books, spending time in New Orleans libraries including Tulane's Hogan Jazz Archive and the New Orleans Historic Collection. Currently, I work and travel with some of the greatest practitioners of the New Orleans traditional jazz genre including Dr. Michael White whose "informances" I have been participating in as a banjo accompanist for several years now. This combination of studying, practicing, and performing has helped to shape me into the New Orleans musician I am today. I hope to bring my practical experience into my writing to give readers and listeners a deeper understanding and appreciation of New Orleans music. Of previous authors and historians of New Orleans string bands and traditional New Orleans jazz in the period between 1880 and 1949, I am indebted to many previous researchers, including Dr. Karl Koenig, Lawrence Gushee, and Samuel Charters, and, for studies of dance music from this era, to Thorton Hagart, John F. Szwed and Morton Marks. Elijah Wald has also been helpful for leads and editing including fact checking. Shane Leif has contributed by sharing his unpublished research paper "New Orleans String Bands at the Dawn of Jazz." This project was undertaken as a grant project for Threadhead Records. Threadhead supports artistic work "in the tradition of preserving, promoting and disseminating the cultural heritage of New Orleans and the surrounding area of Louisiana." With the intention to fulfill their mission I have, in addition to this writing, recorded an album of music featuring a variety of string band ensemble configurations and musical styles representative of the period (1880-1949.) Unfortunately, there is far more information unknown than known and to reproduce the sounds of the early string bands is an impossible task but, in trying, I've learned that I am able to abstract certain concepts, ideas, and approaches to the music from my research and experience and bring them forward in recorded performances with some of New Orleans best traditional jazz musicians. These included: a variety of dance music, repertoire, tempos, instrumentation, ensemble varieties, rhythmic foundation principals, harmonic foundation, melodic variety, musical structure (including a variety of blues forms), collective and rhythmic improvisation with string instruments, developing personal expression, developing personal potential though performance in a musically democratic structure, and celebration of community and creators.

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Seva Venet - Revisiting New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949.

1) That's a Plenty
2) Is It Good to You?
3) Canal Street Blues
4) Lorenzo's Blues
5) High Society
6) Medley: Creole Belles Aloha Oe My Bucket's Got a Hole in It
7) St. James Mazurka
8) Quadrille: Call Figure 1 Figure 2 (Lancer)
9) El Zopilote Mojado (The Wet Buzzard)
10) The Beautiful Blue Danube
11) Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor
12) Abide With Me

Revisiting New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949
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Revisiting New Orleans String Bands: 1880-1949 | Seva Venet