Listening Assignment #1
- These different interpretations of the blues seem connected to the lyrics and contexts of the songs. Strangely, they are all ‘blues’ so they are all basically the same, but they are obviously not. Fred McDowell’s “Death Comes Creepin’ In My Room” seems to be the most personal sounding song. Bessie Smith’s “Back Water Blues” makes me sad because of the lyrics and Bessie Smith’s singing. “Wild Cat Blues” seems to be more like a work song than the others. Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” seems the best song to chase the blues away because of its very bouncy sound and playful solo.
- Bix Beiderbecke’s solo on “Singing on the Blues” is as melodic as Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues”. However, it has much less intensity than Armstrong’s blaring trumpet sound. In terms of lyricism, however, it is difficult to compare both takes because they have their own unique. Nonetheless, Armstrong on “Potato Head Blues” is obviously trying to get away from the chord progressions of the song. He is exploring harmonic and melodic possibilities which were only actualized in the birth of bebop. On the other hand, while Bix Beiderbecke’s solo does not stray away from the chords, he has an interesting command of rhythm, especially in his use of very fast lines and syncopated phrases on the trumpet.
- The Original Dixieland Jass Band’s “Livery Stable Blues” sounds a little bit more marching band-y than Flender Henderson’s Orchestra’s “Hotter Than Ell”. Nonetheless, it has a much more complicated polyphony which was contributed by its interesting use of animal-sounding sounds. There is also an obvious call and response format in the song. On the other hand, Flender Henderson’s Orchestra’s “Hotter Than Ell” is much faster and much simpler in terms of polyphony. This is because it seems more focused on the solos of the instruments. Needless to say, their song has a lot more ‘swing’ because its rhythm is much more syncopated. The solos are also very complicated and ‘jazzy’ sounding.
- Ethel Waters’ “ I Got Rhythm” has a much more ‘jazz’ sounding voice. When I say jazz-sounding, it is much different from the vibratos of classical vocals. Eva Taylor’s “Cake Walking Babies From Home” certainly has a lot more pronounced vibrato. It is also much higher than Waters’ song. In terms of who sounds more like a trumpet, it is kind of obvious that Ethel Waters’ has a much more trumpet-sounding voice. This was displayed at around 1:55 of the song “I Got Rhythm” where she engaged in a brief ‘scatting’ solo. She growled on some of the notes. These growls can only be heard in trumpets. This became much more obvious when she sang together with the trumpet. I personally liked Ethel Waters’ very energetic improvisational singing.
- Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “Stardust” shows his unique trumpet sound and unique voice. In terms of tone, both of his voice and trumpet are relaxed and have a lot of vibrato. However, the signature Armstrong sound can be heard in the use of syncopation. There is a heavy manipulation of rhythm in the song. The mood that was evoked in me is very mellow. It is a very mellow song despite the very playful trumpet solo. Armstrong’s vocals are very soulful and it somehow evoked some sense of romantic desperation. It almost gave tears to my eyes, truth to say.