I have been listening to much Cow Cow Davenport records recently, and have found some fascinating stylings of his that sound like a little someone I mention often on this blog.
Yep. That chap.
I am comparing the thought to have been impossible to!
Comparing the great Cow Cow Davenport:
with that lily white piano man who worked at Columbia in 1898. It's something that would be considered heinous to most boogie pianists, as well as Rag-Time purists. But here's the point, the style that Davenport had was nothing new to the United States in the 1920's and 30's, it was a style that was just a little more structured before it was recorded regularly, and sounded a little differently. But not much differently. Now here's the first thing about the earliest "boogie-ish" playing, it was all left hand doing that rhythm and style that we all know of. It was a style that married rugged walking octaves with quick Rag-Time melodies in the right hand.
Now, for the most obvious and clear comparison of these seemingly different styles, listen to this here:
Hope you've taken a good listen, because here are a few Columbia's with Hylands playing similar sorts of things:
Once Collins gets to the chorus, that's when the boogie like playing comes in, where the walking octaves are very clearly heard, and these are paired with a very blues-like improvisation in the right hand.
Now this one is a little harder to pull apart. Now the main thing that this one contains that is at all similar to how Davenport played is that one weird thing that Hylands plays in that solo at about 50 seconds in. The thing that he plays in his left hand is something that unaware Rag-Time enthusiasts would he shocked by to hear so early on. It's not a pattern that was written in Rag-Time and Jazz until the late-1910's or early 20's, which is odd , because it certainly had been around for a while!
Much of the octaves, broken, walking, or not, that you hear Davenport play in the late-1920's is actually what Hylands was playing on Rag-Time records in the late-1890's. It's essentially the same thing, even if it may not sound at all the same to many. Really ponder it for a moment, of how similar the style was, how much of the same sort of rhythmic patterns dominated the left hand notes. Now this next cylinder clearly illustrates the left hand playing I mean:
Now the bass notes were much better recorded on this one for some reason, but it really helps when trying to understand Hylands' craziness in the left hand.
here's another Davenport recording from 1929:
It's an amazingly hot recording! Love it!
Now again, it really isn't all that different from what Hylands was playing almost thirty years before that. Listen to that thing at about 2:54 to 3:00 where Davenport plays the lower inversion of the F and C7 chord with the low octaves, that's something that Hylands not only played in his improvisations, but that was actually printed in his early music! In Hylands' arrangement of "Honey Come and See Me" from 1896, there are a few of those patterns actually written! Amazing isn't it.
Really anything you hear from the hands of a boogie pianist stems directly from the ways of a very select few pianists in the 1890's. It may be played a little differently, but it's really just the same thing.The methods of recording in the 1890's could not exactly catch all the stylings that went into these style of Fred Hylands and Frank Banta Sr., it's also that if they actually recorded some of these songs as piano solos, we would all have a very different view on the early history of Rag-Time and even Jazz.
Think back to the things I have said about Gottschalk, it's just a very early mix of everything that the early Rag-Time pianists played, and some of the Creole rhythms stemmed more off to Jazz than Rag-Time, even if the craze of "west-Indian" tangos and danzas was very much prominent in the 1890's and 1900's.
Here's something to consider, in some newspaper articles from the late-1880's, they were already saying things like, Gottschalks' Bamboula is still played to-day well, running with the powerful dynamics, and the ragged rhythms. Yes, indeed, they were already using "Ragged" as a term for exactly what we Rag-Time nerds know so well. Imagine what those people who heard Fred Hylands play in mid-1890's Chicago said about his playing! They might have said that his playing was "Ragged", but then they might not have exactly understood what he was trying to play, as there are some cylinders where I am not really sure what he'd trying to play. One of them is this the first 45 seconds of this cylinder here. Heh? How? Wha... It's really weird, right? Every time I sit at the piano and try to play along with what he's playing here, I always stop in the middle of it because it's so confusing and quick. This little thing he plays at the beginning can be related back to the boogie/blues playing somewhat, as he's playing a very quick left hand pattern that is a little bit like something I 've heard some boogie pianists do before.
Now this is exactly why publishers very often turned away Hylands' music, because it was too complicated and unable to be read by most people who bought sheet music. The ability for most people to read the music was very important for the big publishers, and with Hylands, this was just not possible. This is why he self-published most of his music, because no one else would really want to. It's really funny in some ways, but it does make sense.
Well, that's all I have at the moment, but I will get more into this soon. I won't be posting until maybe early next week because I'll be at the first annual Santa Cruz Ragtime festival this weekend!
I hope you enjoyed this!