During the 1930s’ William “Count” Basie was a musician and composer of Jazz music. One of his famous recordings with his orchestra was his “One O’Clock Jump” composition released in 1937. Jazz had become a popular form of music that would strike a high demand in the market. By the 1960s “Sweet Emma” Barrett and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band continued to keep jazz alive through many of their recordings, one of them being “St James Infirmary.” Although both groups are categorized under jazz music, their recordings and music styles are ultimately very different.
In “One O’Oclock Jump,” the recording starts off with the piano setting the tone of the music with a very settle rhythm. The clarinet joins with a small solo that gives the music a sense of hype and elevates the mood of the performance. Afterwards, the trumpet brings along a very deep tone in its solo contrasting the high pitch of the clarinet. Immediately following is the saxophone deviating from the melody to spice to the song again. Next, the trumpet continues the dialogue between the instruments with a soft solo, evoking the feeling of a lively and an upbeat tone. Towards the end, all the instruments join in, and the clarinets long with the saxophones begin stressing notes that cause syncopation.
Mean while in “St James Infirmary” all the instruments start together: the piano, the trumpet, clarinet, the contrabass, and the drums, to name a few. Soon the trumpet and the clarinet begin a dialogue that causes the melody to elevate in tempo, however it comes down to a slower rhythm when the singer takes the lead. At this point in the music, the piano occasionally stresses the keys on the instrument giving an improvisational element to the recording. The music continues to have a constant pace guided by the contrabass and the drums. The clarinet improvises a solo that really just brings out this joyful feeling and gives the recording a step melody, gradually changing in pitch height. The trumpet joins the music providing a deep tone and changing the tempo of the recording. It unexpectedly stresses the pitch of the performance causing the improvisation to sounds like an elephant singing. The piano takes the lead spicing up the song with boogie-woogie style. Afterwards, the clarinet and the trumpet continue their previous dialogue between each other and finishing off the song jubilantly.
Count Basie’s recording has a blue progression in C where the piano maintains the melody. The music is played with 12 bars blue and the recording consists of collaborative arrangement between the musicians for improvisation solos that captivate the audience. “One O’Clock Jump” has an accompaniment of the base and the drums as it has a steady texture of notes, and provides a support for the musicians to improvise solos. Similarly, “Sweet Emma” Barrett and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s recording also as a 12 bar blue progression and the accompaniment of a steady rhythm is kept throughout the music by the contrabass, the drums and the banjo. This allows the musicians to initiate arranged solos and improvise a syncopated melody that deviates from the rhythm. For instance, when the trumpet has its solo, the musician is somewhat out of the time section, bringing to the recording to have unexpected changes in the melody. Ultimately, these alterations contribute to a creative element to the overall music. Although in both “One O’Clock Jump” and “St James Infirmary” the solos are arranged, they still are spontaneous in the sense that the players are conveying what they express in that moment. The musicians may have a general ideal of the notes they want to play, however the solos are never the same each time because the musicians are feeling differently at every performance.
Both group of musicians wanted to create something new in Jazz music. The way “Count” Basie And His Orchestra and “Sweet Emma” Barrett and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band composed and arranged their recordings is unprecedented. They may have had similar instruments, but ultimately their melody and styles are so different. Carney mentions in his article “musicians began adapting and transforming ragtime, the blues, music for dancing, and music for marching into something unique” (300-301). Artist like “Count” Basie and “Sweet Emma” Barrett along with the Preservation Hall Jazz wanted to incorporate new elements into Jazz that people had never experienced before. These musicians utilized all different kinds instruments and planned out solo opportunities in their music in order to show that Jazz had no limits when it came to self-expression (303). People responded to Jazz by popularizing its composers and musicians as America’s greatest artists.
Essay by Karla Barahona posted on Oct 29