Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ossman's "Peaceful Henry" and the Slow Speed Phenomenon

Recently, I have been digging through much of Hylands' later recordings for Zon-O-Phone, Columbia, and Leeds, and from this I have found a much clearer way to identify that it's surely Hylands. Whenever I listen to many of those 1902-05 Columbia and Zon-O-Phone's, I ofttimes have the itching feeling at the back of my mind that the pianist might not be Hylands, though after doing some close listening this evening, I am very certain on many of the records. 
Before I get into that, I must share the transfer I did of Ossman playing:
(from Professor Bill's Website)
Ossman was known to have been the only one who recorded this piece of classic Rag-Time, and as far as I have found, this claim has stayed put. Anyhow, here's that slower transfer:
On the album, the record was transferred at the written key of C, which does make sense, but according to the announcement, and the speed that Ossman plays it at, this would not be logical. So the new key is a B flat, though I wanted to make it just a trifle slower, so the key could be absolutely even, but my machine would not allow for it. This was a very strange thing, but it sounded great after I messed around with the speed. 

Now this brings me to the second part of this post, the slow speed phenomenon. Simply, this is a very strange effect of when playing acoustic records slow(much slower than one usually would). The effect of this is that notes deep in the bass that aren't heard when played at normal speed cannot be heard, can be heard played very slow. This is a bizarre effect that no one can understand why it is so. The primary example I have for this theory is a recording by: 
Bob Roberts 
Fred Hylands.
Anyhow, here's a much slower version of Bill Bailey by Hylands and Roberts, recorded in c.late-1902:

It's the most bizarre thing I tell you! Notes deep in the bass can be very well heard, more so than at normal speed. None of the smartest record collectors I know have any clue as to why this happens at a slower speed. I played all of my Hylands accompanied records very slow this evening, and found an amazing new stylistic attribute to Hylands' playing. It is an attribute that many have been associating with Ben Harney for decades, which is the deep single bass notes in the left hand, which, to many, is a far-off anticipation of "stride". This similarity to Harney makes full sense, as Hylands was a distant acquaintance of his in 1896 to 1900, and certainly would have played in a similar way to Harney, as they hailed from neighboring states. Any recording(especially with piano accompaniment), of the acoustic era will sound purer and darker if played much slower. When I say this, I mean playing the records slower than the usual speed they are meant to be played at, to where an even and reasonable key can be ascertained. 

Another record slowly played record that has this bizarre thing is the transfer of "She is More to be Pitied than Censured" by J. W. Myers: 
Yes indeed. Just to refresh, here's that transfer:
This one is not really in the same state as the record of "Bill Bailey" that I have, as it doesn't actually sound very decent at the speed it's played at. The transfer I made of "Bill Bailey" sounded halfway decent, which was surprising, as usually I cannot stand records played too slow. Actually, if that speed I played it at is the correct speed, I would not really be too surprised, as it doesn't sound too far off from Roberts' true vocal range. For a good indicator, here's a record of Roberts where he sounds similar:
Hmm. Maybe F is the right key for Roberts' "Bill Bailey"... It does make sense, because that's the key that most Jazz bands play it in, and Arthur Collins used to sing it in E(a half-step down from F). 

Sorry to get a little side-tracked, back to Mister Myers. I was actually listening to the one Myers record I have last evening using the same slow speed technique, and found some fascinating little observations. I am fully against playing Myers' records too slow, as he was the best of all the 1890's recording stars, with the best sense of pitch and rhythm, it's very uncommon to hear him hit a wrong note. I listened to a record by Myers I hadn't heard in long while recently, and found that he doesn't sing very well on it. This does not come up very much with Myers, and it really surprised me. Enough talk, here's that record: 
For a long time I had assumed that the singer was Dan W. Quinn, but after listening very closely to how certain words were annunciated, I found that it had to be Myers. The only other reason I assumed it was Quinn was because of the off-key singing at the chorus, which was solely a Quinn characteristic. I was referring to how Quinn sang on his Berliner of "And the Band played On" with Fred Gaisberg from 1895, but I found that the singing styles were not a match. It had to be Myers, I could just hear the Welsh. 

Now to get into something a little different, I had a short e-mail conversation with my dearest friend Craig this past week or so, and he mentioned that he noticed on many of his Zon-O-Phones, that the pianist sounds like at least three different pianists. Craig has at least hundreds of these 9-inch Zon-O-phones with piano accompaniment, much like this red hot piece of Rag-Time. There's a reason why they are valued to pianist-mad collectors like Craig, Ryan Wishner and I. Zon-O-Phone's are more mysterious than Victors with piano accompaniment, as there are not any ledgers whatsoever that survive from this company's earliest six or so years, which could be classified as the second half of the piano accompaniment era(1899-1905). Craig had told me that he knows which pianist is Hylands on those 9-inchers, and he could distinguish a few different styles, hence a few sitting pianists. 
I have not heard enough of these Zono's to be able to fully catch the differences, but I have noticed at least two different styles from the ones I have heard. The record in the link just above is one that had Hylands on piano for certain, as it's almost identical to the 1902 record of it by Roberts I have in my collection. I own no piano accompanied Zono's, but I want a haul of them terribly, the piano is just too good to pass by. 
Now to share many of the piano-accompanied Zon-O-Phone's I have heard, and let's see if some differences can be caught. 
I think I know who's on this one behind Collins. This one sounds an awful lot like Banta, and not very much like Hylands. The left hand's swiftness is a little misleading though. The fifths in the left hand though indicate a more Banta approach to the style. This is the very reason why Zon-O-Phone's are the worst when it comes to pianist identification. 
This next Zono is another Collins one, this time from 1902, and played far too fast, but has very unusual accompaniment to it:
This one has got me stumped, and it has for a while, as I have never really known who to lean more to here, Hylands or Banta, or maybe someone else? I now think of leaning more toward Hylands on this one, as the syncopation isn't really as jagged and jarring as Banta's. The left hand sounds strong and anxious like Hylands', which is immediately the first thing that is a red flag that the pianist is Hylands, this is a great indicator more than anything else. I am only saying that because Hylands didn't always play those broken walking octaves, but he always played that type of left hand I just explained. Another obvious indicator of Hylands is the fact that at the end of the introduction at the beginning, middle interlude, and ending solo, he plays a high trill with a large tenth/twelfth chord in the left hand, and this is something that Banta NEVER  did, and probably couldn't do, as his hands were not able to reach a tenth very well. 
Now those earliest Zon-O-Phone's are a little less diverse with piano accompaniment, as most of them sounded uniform in that way. These are a little harder though when it comes to identification of pianists. Here are a few early Zono's:
(these are all from 1900-1901)
(this one is obviously Hylands, as I used this cylinder here for a stylistic comparison)

This one is very hard to tell, but I am leaning far toward an obviously tipsy Hylands. Most attributes of Banta can be debunked here. This record is pretty wild! 

The piano accompaniment is far too showy and attention-eager for it to be frugal Frank, so it would probably be flamboyant Fred. 

I am about 95% sure that Hylands is on this one, because I heard a different recording of this tune by Dan Quinn on a very obscure disc label in 1899 where that same strange left hand pattern at the chorus is played, that I don't think Banta would be so reckless as to play a left hand style that strange and hard to play. Also, the fast playing of the solo at the end is very much like Hylands on all those Columbia's. That same anxious and strong left hand is also very prominent more so toward the end of the record. Now I'm very aware of the fact that Hylands seems to be on all of these Zon-O-Phone's, but here's the thing, I have actually heard a Zono from 1901 that has a much more Banta style to the piano accompaniment, which indicates accompaniment diversity. 

The two I'm the most on-the-fence about are these two here:
(that's a strange one!)

I am very unsure on this one, as there's an awful lot of fifths in the left hand, but I do know for sure that Banta played those often. Many of those fifths can be heard on his late-1890's Edison cylinders. 

Sorry about not posting in so many days, it's been hard to conjure a single subject to speak of, as so many ideas have come to mind within the last week. 
Hope you enjoyed this! 

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