The Blues and his unsung heroes

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With the great migration, from 1910 to 1970, lots of African Americans left the south of the USA, where racial prejudice and discrimination were still present in society,  in order to go to the North. They searched for a job in cities such as Chicago, New York, Detroit and Philadelphia and an outcome of this movement was the Harlem Renaissance.

This was a literary, artistic, and musical movement that arose a new black cultural identity and  took its name from Harlem, which is a district of New York where it started and then branched out in USA. This Renaissance bring the idea of the “New Negro”, whereby a person could overwhelm racism trough the artistic production.

Blues is a kind of music that remembers the hard times of African Americans, indeed its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves: African American sharecroppers who sang while they worked in the cotton and vegetable fields. Lots of blues artists were common people so they remain unknown until now even if they have been playing music for all their life.

For example the song Everyday I have the blues was first sung by B.B. King but probably people know it because it was sung for over  50 years  by lots of artists: the first one was Joe Williams, then blues artists such as Johnnie Ray, James Brown; rock artists like Carlos Santana, Lou Rawls, The Marshall Tucker Band, Elton John and nowadays artists like John Mayer and many others.

The lyrics are brief but they say: “Yes I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line where there ain’t nobody worried and there ain’t nobody crying”, so maybe it hides the idea of this movement from south to north America, where they think they would have found comfort and no racial prejudice.

Another bluesman that has an unordinary history is Robert Brown, better known as Washboard Sam, because of his talent in playing this instrument, a drums’ ancestor. His songs were written to fight against discrimination and injustice and he became rapidly famous thanks to his strong and wonderful voice. With electric blues his blues appears antiquate, then has again a little bit of fame with famous groups such as the Rolling Stones and Animals who brought back again the real blues but he soon died. Washboard Sam was buried anonymously, only years after big artists of this genre decided to raise funds to give a respectable burial to one of the most important bluesmen.

After all this words spent about this guy if you want to discover him there’s a playlist dedicate to him where you can finally listen to his beautiful voice.

Martina Rappa (VF)

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Annunci

Everyday I have the Blues

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In 1865 Abraham Lincoln promoted the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude and with the 13th amendment proclamed in december 1865 (after he was murdered), thus millions of black slaves had been declared free and at the same time started moving to the North, hoping in better living conditions. This huge migration was called The great migration. However white men didn’t change mind only with an amendment and continued to discriminate black people, considering them inferior. Indeed Afroamerican (black people are called so to underline their african origins) were relegated in cities’ ghettos (like Harlem in New York) and had difficulty to find a job and to see their rights recognized. But on the one hand the Afroamerican community remained isolated from the white society, on the other it grew up and created a movement of Afroamerican accomplishments that involved art, literature, and music. In particular music was an instrument  to share their moods, sad and depressed, and for this reason was called Blues (the word Blues  comes from the expression “to have the blue devils” with the meaning of  “being sad”).This genre resulted from the spiritual, the music of slaves in plantations, used in order not to think how hard was their job. At first the musicians sang their stories of slavery accompanied by music. Afterwards the music started to have that protest’s feature, which is characteristic of the successive genres. For example in Every day I have the blues the author, B. B. King, underlines how “Oh nobody loves me, nobody seems to care / Yes nobody loves me, nobody seems to care” and after “I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line”. In conclusion Blues was the first instrument of Afroamericans to share their common story of slavery and discrimination, but at the same time a way to relax after a week of hard work.

Guglielmo Novelli (VD)

B.B. King, Everyday I have the Blues

Everyday I have the Blues

Everyday, everyday I have the blues
Everyday, everyday I have the blues
When you see me worried baby
Because it’s you I hate to lose
Oh nobody loves me, nobody seems to care
Yes nobody loves me, nobody seems to care
Speaking of bad luck and trouble
Well you know I had my share
I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Yes I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Where there ain’t nobody worried
And there ain’t nobody crying

nast

Un percorso CLIL nella storia sociale e musicale afroamericana – A CLIL introduction to afroamerican social and music history

SELMA

Ho il piacere di inaugurare con questo post un nuovo progetto scolastico, organizzato con la collaborazione degli studenti delle classi quinte dell’Istituto di Istruzione Superiore Cremona di Milano.

Qui di seguito una breve presentazione dei materiali e degli argomenti che verranno utilizzati e discussi durante il modulo CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), a beneficio degli studenti interessati.

A seguire pubblicheremo dei brevi articoli di approfondimento, frutto del lavoro cooperativo docente-studenti.

Vi aspetto nel laboratorio di storia!

🙂

index

_____________________________

PLAYLIST

CHRONOLOGY

  • GOSPEL/SPIRITUAL: End of the Nineteenth century
  • BLUES: Beginning of the Twentieth century
  • JAZZ: ’20s-’30s
  • RHYTHM AND BLUES: ’40s-’50s
  • SOUL: ’60s
  • FUNKY: ’70s
  • HIP HOP: ’80s-’90s

LYRICS

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory, Hallelujah

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes
I’m down, ohh, yes Lord
Sometimes I’m almost
To the ground, oh yes, Lord

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Anybody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory, Hallelujah

If you got there before
I do, oh yes Lord
Tell all my friends, I’m
Coming too, oh yes Lord

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory, Hallelujah

Although you see me
Goin’ on so, oh yes
I have my trials, here below
Ohh yes, Lord

Oh, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory, Hallelujah
Ohh, glory, Hallelujah

Everyday I have the Blues

Everyday, everyday I have the blues
Everyday, everyday I have the blues
When you see me worried baby
Because it’s you I hate to lose
Oh nobody loves me, nobody seems to care
Yes nobody loves me, nobody seems to care
Speaking of bad luck and trouble
Well you know I had my share
I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Yes I’m gonna pack my suitcase, move on down the line
Where there ain’t nobody worried
And there ain’t nobody crying

Strange fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

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Shake rattle and roll

Get outta that bed
Wash your face and hands
Get outta that bed
Wash your face and hands
Well, you get in that kitchen
Make some noise with the pots and pans

Way you wear those dresses
The sun comes shinin’ through
Way you wear those dresses
The sun comes shinin’ through
I can’t believe my eyes
All that mess belongs to you

I believe to the soul
You’re the devil and now I know
I believe to the soul
You’re the devil and now I know
Well, the more I work
The faster my money goes

I said shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll
Shake, rattle and roll
Well, you won’t do right
To save your doggone soul
Yeah, blow, Joe

Revolution will not be televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and
skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Mendel Rivers to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Soul power

Know we need it, soul power
We got to have it, soul power
Know we want it, soul power
Got to have it, soul power
Give it to me, soul power
We need it, soul power, we need it, soul power
We got to have it, soul power
I want to get under your skin
If I get there, i’ve got to win
You need some soul, come on get some
And then you’ll know, where I’m comin’ from
I may lay in the cut and go along
And I’m still on the case and my rap is strong
Huh huh, hey
Go jump on my train, when I’m outta sight
Just check yourself, huh, and say, yeah you’re right
Huh, hit me, give me, put it there, huh
Love me tender, and love me slow
If that don’t get it, jump back for more
We gottagottagotta, get in the bracket
Brother, if you fall on the ground
Remember you’ve got to get down, down downdown…
Huh, say it again, say it
If that don’t get it, jump back for more
Huh, come on, if that don’t get it, jump back for more

Fight the power

1989 the number another summer (get down)
Sound of the funky drummer
Music hitting your heart cause I know you got soul
(Brothers and sisters, hey)
Listen if you’re missing y’all
Swinging while I’m singing
Giving whatcha getting
Knowing what I know
While the Black bands sweating
And the rhythm rhymes rolling
Got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power
Fight the power
We’ve got to fight the powers that be
As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
From the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothing’s strange
People, people we are the same
No we’re not the same
Cause we don’t know the game
What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness
(Yo) bum rush the show
You gotta go for what you know
Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and John Wayne
Cause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Right on, c’mon
What we got to say
Power to the people no delay
To make everybody see
In order to fight the powers that be

THEMES

EXTRA LINKS

  • Barack Obama (Selma’s anniversary speech, 2015)
    • We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

      We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

  • Blog:

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Quello che dice il Jazz – There’s one and only Jazz

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PLEASE FIND ENGLISH VERSION BELOW

Visto che mi piace ogni tanto scompigliare un po’ le carte, prima di fare il punto sugli anni dello Swing dal punto di vista storico (mi pare ci sia infatti qualche confusione in merito nella nostra scena Lindy Hop), vorrei aprire l’anno con un album che apparentemente non appartiene al campo d’indagine e ricerca di questo blog. Ma come ho già avuto modo di argomentare in precedenza, ad esempio a proposito del grande Thelonious Monk, il concetto di swing è qualcosa di ampio e inclusivo e soprattutto il Jazz è una forma musicale che ha avuto diverse correnti e incarnazioni, sempre però accomunate da alcuni tratti comuni.

Tra questi mi piace sottolineare soprattutto l’elemento ritmico oscillante garantito dalla sezione composta da batteria-basso-piano (e spesso chitarra ritmica), in altre parole lo swing (con la minuscola, per distinguerlo dalla definizione più ristretta della musica delle big band jazz degli anni ’30 e ’40), e la componente sperimentale che propone sempre nuovi incroci e nuove miscele sonore, al di là delle categorie, un mix unico che guarda sempre avanti in termini di qualità musicale.

Entrambi questi tratti sono presenti nell’album che vi propongo per cominciare bene questo 2016: Saying Somethin’! del Gigi Gryce Quintet (New Jazz, 1960).

Cominciamo dal titolo: il Jazz dice sempre qualcosa, è musica comunicativa che attraversa definizioni e generazioni. Se dovessimo ad esempio incasellare in un manuale questo album del quintetto capitanato da Gryce, dovremmo parlare di Hard Bop, ma come dimenticare la componente blues che è alla base di quasi tutti i brani (3 composizioni originali di Gryce, mentre gli altri 3 sono di autori e musicisti jazz importanti come Hank Jones e Curtis Fuller) e l’oscillazione swing della sezione ritmica che rende almeno un paio di brani ballabili anche da chi ama il Lindy (oltre ad almeno 2 brani che potrebbero essere assai apprezzati anche da chi balla il Blues).

Mi piace dedicare attenzione e tempo agli artisti meno immediati e famosi, come in questo caso Gigi Gryce. Un altosassofonista che ha suonato con grandi del calibro di Horace Silver, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, Howard McGhee, Quincy Jones. Ma anche componente dell’orchestra Swing diretta da Lionel Hampton, in compagnia del fraterno amico e incomparabile trombettista Clifford Brown. Compositore di alcuni standard, oltre che musicista e sindacalista che lottò per i diritti dei musicisti (neri e non), decise ad un certo punto della sua vita di lasciare la scena jazz per dedicarsi all’insegnamento in una scuola pubblica del Bronx, dove mi piace pensare che tra i suoi studenti ci furono alcuni dei giovani ispanici e afroamericani che crearono il movimento culturale hip hop.

Non mi resta che augurare un buon anno nuovo a tutti e lasciarvi alla buona musica di questo album, non prima però di avervi segnalato i componenti del quintetto:

Gigi Gryce – alto saxophone
Richard Williams – trumpet
Richard Wyands – piano
Reggie Workman – bass
Mickey Roker – drums

Buon 2016 con tanto Jazz!

🙂

Mazz Jazz (aka Professor Bop)

_______________________________

Well, this album apparently doesn’t belong to this blog, because of its period and style. But, as I already wrote in former posts about Thelonious Monk and other musicians, the concept of swing is wide and inclusive and most of all Jazz is a music with different categories that always share some common points.

I like to mention here a couple of them: what we call swing (with no capital letter, in order to not confuse it with the big bands jazz music of the ’30s and ’40s), the constant rhythm provided by bass-piano-drums (and often rhythm guitar) and the experimental mix that this quality music always search, connecting different styles and origins beyond definitions and categories.

And we can find all of this in this album: Saying Somethin’! by the Gigi Gryce Quintet (New Jazz, 1960).

Let’s start from the title: Jazz always says something, it’s a communicative form of art that crosses generations. If we should choose a category for this music and time, we should talk about Hard Bop, but how could we forget the strong blues structure of these tunes (3 original compositions by Gryce, other 3 from important musicians and composer such as Hank Jones and Curtis Fuller) and the swing that creates a couple of tunes danceable even for lindyhoppers (plus at least 2 tracks pretty much appreciable by those who like Blues Dance).

I like to read and talk about artists that are not so famous and obvious and Gigi Gryce was one of them. An alto saxohone player together with great artists like Horace Silver, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, Howard McGhee, Quincy Jones. But also member of the Swing orchestra lead by Lionel Hampton, together with his dear friend and magic trumpet player Clifford Brown. Composer and also musician and advocate for musicians’ rights (both for black people and white people), he decided then to quit with the music scene and to become a public school teacher in the Bronx, where I like to imagine that some of his students were latinos or afroamerican protagonist of the hip hop cultural movement.

So, time to wish the best new year to all of you and let you listen to this album, played by:
Gigi Gryce – alto saxophone
Richard Williams – trumpet
Richard Wyands – piano
Reggie Workman – bass
Mickey Roker – drums

Have a wonderful and jazzy 2016!

🙂

Mazz Jazz (aka Professor Bop)

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Una (stra)ordinaria storia di Blues: WASHBOARD SAM

washboard

Bene non dimenticare che la storia degli Stati Uniti è lastricata delle sofferenze patite dai popoli autoctoni e poi dalle genti “importate” attraverso le deportazioni schiaviste. La storia musicale del Blues e del Jazz, proveniendo dai bassifondi e dagli strati popolari della società, ci aiuta a ricordare e raccontare personaggi e vicende che emergono dalla povertà e dalla segregazione (che in parte non è ancora terminata, visto le notizie di cronache a cadenza purtroppo quotidiana che arrivano dagli States e i dati relativi alle condizioni di vita e criminalizzazione della popolazione afroamericana).

Sono storie come quella di Washboard Sam che ci restituiscono non solo grande musica, ma anche l’esigenza etica di continuare a combattere anche a livello musicale contro le discriminazione e le ingiustizie. Robert Brown nacque nel 1910 nel Grande Sud, nello stato dell’Arkansas, figlio naturale di un padre che tra parecchi altri era già genitore del grande bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, che lo considerò infatti alla stregua di un parente e lo aiutò anche in campo musicale. Negli anni ’20 Robert si trasferì come musicista di strada a Memphis (Tennessee), mostrando talento per questo strumento ritmico, antenato povero della batteria, e diventando così Washboard Sam. Come tanti strumenti tipici delle jug band di strada, il washboard è spesso realizzato e personalizzato dagli stessi musicisti, utilizzando per assemblarlo cioè che è a disposizione e sfruttandone il più possibile le possibilità. Fu però negli anni ’30 a Chicago (la grande prima migrazione risalendo il Mississippi) che Sam si fece conoscere, accompagnando le blue notes di grandi come Big Bill e Memphis Slim. Grazie alla sua bella e forte voce divenne popolare e incise circa 160 tracce musicali fino agli anni ’40. Era un campione di quello che veniva chiamato Hokum Blues, la versione più sfacciata e ridanciana di questo genere musicale, basata spesso su testi che contenevano doppi sensi e allusioni  sessuali esplicite.Eccone un esempio classico:

Washboard Sam – “Easy ridin’ mama”

Con l’arrivo degli anni ’50 e del blues elettrico però i suoi show divennero un po’ antiquati per i gusti del nuovo pubblico e così anche la sua fama andò progressivamente a calare. Qualcuno dice che per campare divenne addirittura un poliziotto nella Wind City! Quando negli anni ’60 i gruppi britannici emergenti (Rolling Stones, Animals) riportarono in auge i grandi leoni del blues, anche lui ebbe di nuovo un poco di attenzione e tornò a suonare, ma per breve tempo dato che morì anzitempo nel 1966.

La sua proposta musicale è molto ricca, spaziando dai classici blues del Sud allo stile di Chicago e non di rado arrivando ad un proto-RnB che anticipò negli anni ’30 gli sviluppi futuri della musica afroamericana. Sentiamolo in quest’altra registrazione:

Washboard Sam – “Going back to Arkansas”

La fine della storia è questa: sepolto senza lapide e nell’anonimato, soltanto nel 2009 fu organizzata una raccolta fondi per dare degna sepoltura ad uno dei tanti poco conosciuti bluesman che hanno fatto la storia, attraverso un grande concerto blues tenutosi in Michigan con la partecipazione di molti importanti artisti del genere.

Per non dimenticare Sam e i tanti altri che hanno scritte pagine troppo poco conosciute della nostra musica.

Mazz Jazz (aka Professor Bop)

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