The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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death in a Chicago dance hall brawl in 1929. Cleo Brown re­corded her own interpretation of Pinetop's Boogie Woogie in 1935; it was during this year that John Hammond, after a year­long search for the creator of a 1929 record called Horiky Tonk Train Blues, which had deeply impressed him as a new de­parture in jazz piano, found his man, Meade Lux Lewis, washing cars in a Chicago garage, and promptly salvaged him for the record industry and posterity. Lewis* new versions, recorded early in 1936, triggered a national boogie-woogie fad. Two other pianists who became Hammond proteges, Albert Ammons (then leading a jumping sextet at Chicago's Club De Lisa) and Pete Johnson (Kansas City partner of the blues-singing Joe Turner) were teamed on a series of records and in appearances at Caf6 Society and Carnegie Hall.
Boogie-woogie had a great advantage in its relentless in­tensity and drive, but this was at once its severest handicap, for the repetitions, both in left hand figures and the corresponding right and chordal patterns, tended toward automation. What was once improvised became anesthetized; the dynamic degenerated into the static. As soon as it became obvious that any musician with a mild feeling for jazz could play competent boogie-woogie, the end was near. Tin Pan Alley moved in and decreed boogie-woogie versions of popular songs, instead of the twelve-bar blues on which it had always been based; Bob Crosby's band recorded boogie-woogie in big band arrangements, Bob Zurke played boogie-woogie piano with savage accuracy, and by 1940 the Will Bradley-Ray McKinley band (with Freddie Slack handling the piano chores ably) had parlayed it into a commercial formula, adding lyrics and scoring popular successes with such tunes as Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar. Boogie-woogie, killed by kind­ness, survives today only as an occasional sideline indulged in by pianists who have other courses to offer and are not obliged to present it as a steady diet. The best souvenirs of the phenomenon are a few records by Count Basie, always a humorous and light-fingered eight-to-the-bar man; Jay McShann, a Kansas City band pianist whose boogie-woogie solos are raw, rhythmic meat; and Sammy Price, a Texan who has led his own band here and in