Blue River Vocal Back-up

Blue River Vocal Back-up

Andy Vaaler
Andy Vaaler

February 24th, 2012, 7:12 pm #1

Bix recorded "Blue River" with Trumbauer's Orchestra on 8/25/27 and later on 9/15/27 in his last session with Goldkette. The Goldkette version is tighter and bouncier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXC2TgYIsf4), but the Trumbauer version is interesting in that Bix does an extended muted solo behind the vocal by Seger Ellis. I don't know if there is another Bix record where he does the same (but probably someone else does). Here it is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa8BsVtbS3U

Improvising in support of a vocalist is a different game than playing a solo. You pull back here, fill in there, make it sing but don't steal the spotlight. I think Bobby Hackett and Bunny Berigan were great at it. It's interesting to hear Bix working it out on the Trumbauer record. As a solo, Bix's bit is great, if nothing else because it's nice and long. But I don't think there is much chemistry going on with the vocalist -- they seem to be competing more than complementing. What do you think? I'm figuring Bix couldn't hear the vocalist very well as he dinstanced himself from the microphone. And I also wonder if this sort of thing was new territory for all concerned.

The scratchy five second rehearsal snippet that survived from this session catches the band during Bix's muted solo, with the melody carried (I think) by a saxophone and Seger Ellis (in the distance). Maybe they were working out how far Bix had to move away from the microphone. It's a guess.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 24th, 2012, 8:48 pm #2


From http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 054212036/ (about 9 years ago!)

<em>The Underrated "Blue River" by Frank Trumbauer and His Orchestra. </em>

<em>This is one of Bix's great contributions. He is everywhere, at the beginning, at the end and in between. As Brad tells us, Bix does something of a miracle behind Seger Ellis vocal (not Irving Kaufman), producing new phrases and lines that totally ignore what the vocalist is doing. But somehow Bix's improvisation fits perfectly. That is one of Bix's great gifts: playing notes that deviated considerably from the tune; so much so, that if what Bix is doing is played in isolation, it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to identify the tune!! Incidentally, Bix did something similar in Goldkette's fox-trot version of "In My Merry Oldsmobile".

Two more points about Tram's "Blue River. First, as Richard Sudhalter points out, the tune has a bittersweet flavor that must have appealed to Bix's sensibility. Second, this is one of the few Bix and Tram recordings where a bass instrument (the bass sax of the great Adrian Rollini) is used. It shows clearly that the absence of a bass instrument in most Bix and Tram recordings was a mistake. Someone commented that it would have been wonderful if Tram had included Steve Brown in the Bix and Tram sessions. Indeed! </em>

Here is a posting titled "Everything You Wanted to Know About Blue River But Were Afraid to Ask." http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1173361882

I believe Frank uploaded the music played by Bix, but I can't find the posting.

Albert
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Andy Vaaler
Andy Vaaler

February 25th, 2012, 1:03 am #3

I agree with Brad that Bix produces "new phrases and lines that totally ignore what the vocalist is doing." Yes, that's what I was feeling.

Blue River IS a cool tune. I like the verse, the harmonics. It's pretty much like the verse in "Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now". I feel like the gal in the song drowned, and maybe he did it. Did they ever drag Blue River? Sheesh.
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Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

February 25th, 2012, 1:42 am #4

Bix recorded "Blue River" with Trumbauer's Orchestra on 8/25/27 and later on 9/15/27 in his last session with Goldkette. The Goldkette version is tighter and bouncier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXC2TgYIsf4), but the Trumbauer version is interesting in that Bix does an extended muted solo behind the vocal by Seger Ellis. I don't know if there is another Bix record where he does the same (but probably someone else does). Here it is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa8BsVtbS3U

Improvising in support of a vocalist is a different game than playing a solo. You pull back here, fill in there, make it sing but don't steal the spotlight. I think Bobby Hackett and Bunny Berigan were great at it. It's interesting to hear Bix working it out on the Trumbauer record. As a solo, Bix's bit is great, if nothing else because it's nice and long. But I don't think there is much chemistry going on with the vocalist -- they seem to be competing more than complementing. What do you think? I'm figuring Bix couldn't hear the vocalist very well as he dinstanced himself from the microphone. And I also wonder if this sort of thing was new territory for all concerned.

The scratchy five second rehearsal snippet that survived from this session catches the band during Bix's muted solo, with the melody carried (I think) by a saxophone and Seger Ellis (in the distance). Maybe they were working out how far Bix had to move away from the microphone. It's a guess.
I don't know what you mean by "extended," but isn't that Bix backing up Tram's vocal on "Take Your Tomorrows" and "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?"
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 25th, 2012, 3:47 pm #5


.... <em>Take Your Tomorrow</em> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSX--LgVvrE

and <em>Baby Won't You Please Come Home</em> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-BVbvuVwks

And let's not forget the famous (or infamous) obbligato by Sterling Bose behind Greta Woodson in <em>Just Imagine</em>. Some thought that Bix played that obbligato.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRDuluuk5uo

Also a Bixian obbligato behind Hoagy Carmichael in Goldkette's <em>So Tired.

</em>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omo_LRep9vI

There were three horn players in <em>So Tired</em>: Nat Natoli, Andy Secrest and Sterling Bose. I think it is Bose. Opinions?

And don't forget Bix's obbligato in Whiteman's <em>My Melancholy Baby </em>behind Austin "Skin" Young.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhfKQcS6pyI

Filling spaces, delightful, according to Don Rayno. I second that.

Other examples?

Albert
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Andy Vaaler
Andy Vaaler

February 25th, 2012, 3:51 pm #6

I don't know what you mean by "extended," but isn't that Bix backing up Tram's vocal on "Take Your Tomorrows" and "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?"
Way to go, thanks Glenda! I think Bix takes a more sympathetic stance to the vocalist on both of these, really nice. See what you think:

Baby Won't You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3OZFEzGCD0

Take Your Tomorrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSX--LgVvrE

By "extended" I mean he improvises over a whole chorus, not just 8 bars or so.
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Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

February 26th, 2012, 2:40 pm #7

.... <em>Take Your Tomorrow</em> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSX--LgVvrE

and <em>Baby Won't You Please Come Home</em> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-BVbvuVwks

And let's not forget the famous (or infamous) obbligato by Sterling Bose behind Greta Woodson in <em>Just Imagine</em>. Some thought that Bix played that obbligato.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRDuluuk5uo

Also a Bixian obbligato behind Hoagy Carmichael in Goldkette's <em>So Tired.

</em>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omo_LRep9vI

There were three horn players in <em>So Tired</em>: Nat Natoli, Andy Secrest and Sterling Bose. I think it is Bose. Opinions?

And don't forget Bix's obbligato in Whiteman's <em>My Melancholy Baby </em>behind Austin "Skin" Young.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhfKQcS6pyI

Filling spaces, delightful, according to Don Rayno. I second that.

Other examples?

Albert
Thanks for remembering the muted obbligato behind the vocal on "Melancholy Baby." That is the best part of the song to me, as I find the "deedle deedle deedle" and "plink plink plink" plucking from those five (count 'em!) violins a waste of wax when they could have been swinging this great jazz tune. Bix's all-too-brief obbligato just suggests which might have <em>been</em> here.

But that's just me. If I want violins (and they are great in their place) there's always Mozart and, er, Montovani! (I know, I know--Venuti got jazz out of his fiddle.)

But Whiteman knew what would sell.
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Glenda Childress`
Glenda Childress`

February 26th, 2012, 2:57 pm #8

Way to go, thanks Glenda! I think Bix takes a more sympathetic stance to the vocalist on both of these, really nice. See what you think:

Baby Won't You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3OZFEzGCD0

Take Your Tomorrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSX--LgVvrE

By "extended" I mean he improvises over a whole chorus, not just 8 bars or so.
YES!

Contrary to a lot of Bix fans, who regard "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home" as an inferior Bix piece, I find his work on it brilliant. That obbigato is so perfect, wryly backing Tram's vocal with a sly commentary, and the personality and humor in that muted solo picking right up on Tram's mood (those little "whimpers" are delightful) and his counterpoint to Andy's lead on the closing just fit the tongue-in-cheek" approach to the torch song mode to a T. As is often the case, Bix's work is what makes the whole thing hang together and end with a satisfying burst of feeling.

Bix's <em>bel canto</em> playing, with all those triplets, etc., is wonderful, but he had other ways of making musical statements, too, and the musical and emotional range he shows in different songs, those notes he chooses to play, (as Benny Goodman said, "whatever the hell he DID") are something special. IMHO.
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Laura Demilio
Laura Demilio

February 26th, 2012, 3:59 pm #9

I agree with Brad that Bix produces "new phrases and lines that totally ignore what the vocalist is doing." Yes, that's what I was feeling.

Blue River IS a cool tune. I like the verse, the harmonics. It's pretty much like the verse in "Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now". I feel like the gal in the song drowned, and maybe he did it. Did they ever drag Blue River? Sheesh.
Well! That's an interesting take on what the song's about -- would have been a perfect soundtrack tune to the 1931 Paramount film of "An American Tragedy" (Phillips Holmes and Sylvia Sidney.) The protagonist drowns his pregnant girlfriend in the river while they're out boating, because she's become an annoying appendenge he doesn't want to be responsible for anymore, plus her getting in the way of his seeing his rich new girlfriend. I guess you're all familiar with the story. This movie version is much superior to the 1951 version with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.

Laura
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

February 26th, 2012, 4:50 pm #10

Way to go, thanks Glenda! I think Bix takes a more sympathetic stance to the vocalist on both of these, really nice. See what you think:

Baby Won't You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3OZFEzGCD0

Take Your Tomorrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSX--LgVvrE

By "extended" I mean he improvises over a whole chorus, not just 8 bars or so.
There is a big difference between Bix's obbligatti* on "Blue River" and "BWYPCH" / "Take Your Tomorrow": On the latter two, he is standing right next to the singer (Tram) - they are the same distance from the mike - only a couple of feet, and are in close musical rapport. On "Blue River," Bix is all the way across the room from Seger Ellis, blowing like mad into his straight mute. I doubt if Bix could even hear what Ellis was doing! No wonder they sound like they're on separate continents.

OKeh could have issued two records of that performance - one with a mike near Bix, the other with a mike by Seger. Of course then you'd have a stereo recording, and we'd hate that, right?


-Brad K



*I once owned a beauty: a 1936 12-cylinder job - painted light blue.
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