Friday, November 23, 2007

Eubie Blake

( Naar de Nederlandse vertaling.)
In 1973 a double LP was released by Eubie Blake, born in 1883, who composed his first rag before the turn of the century, who recorded for the very first time in 1917 on a vertical cut Pathe 78rpm record. Vertical cut means that the sound in the groove is stored vertically as hills and dales. Maybe a nice subject for a coming blog. This album was released due to the fact that Eubie Blake celebrated his 86th birthday.
Born in 1883, he started his career in 1899 when he wrote his first tune, titled Sounds of Africa, better known as The Charleston Rag. He became a ragtime piano player and vaudeville artist in Broadway Shows during the 1920s with vocalist / crooner Noble Sissle. A very early, experimental sound film exists and I found a fragment of this 1923 (!) film ( the first sound films are from the late 1920s). I love to share this with you:

He became known in productions like Shuffle Along and Revue Negre, also featuring Josephine Baker. The most important days of his career were the 1920s. Later his popularity faded, until he was rediscovered in the early 1970s. He started a second career as one of the last survived ragtime legends.
This album, titled The Eighty-Six Years Of Eubie Blake was made during this period and he talks and plays the old tunes. Although the cover of the double-lp suggests that it contains historical recordings; the tunes were made in the 1970s. It is really great to learn that this man, who went through all ragtime and jazz styles of the XXth Century, is still a great entertainer. This CBS 2LP album ( S 68250 ) is one of those items I couldn't afford when I was a teenager. I copied the music on my reel-to-reel Akai taperecorder and now, when I have the original LPs I really enjoy the liner notes with the history of the early carreer of Eubie Blake.
I love to share with you two fragments of Eubie Blake at the piano, playing ragtimes as if he is still a young adult. a great entertainer. Eubie blake passed away in February 1983 100 years ( and five days) old. Enjoy the fragments:

Where Did You Get Those Eyes (W. Donaldson) ( 2:47)JOSEPHINE BAKER

Recorded September 1926.
Originally released as Odeon - Reissued by Columbia as Josephine Baker - Breezin' Along ( in the Art Deco series)

Time exposure for the 23rd of November:

  • mine all mine / song is ended / there must be someone / thinking of you = annette hanshaw
  • away down south in heaven = sam lanin o
  • changes = paul whiteman o


  • improvisation sur le 1er mouvement du concerto en re mineur de j.s.bach = eddie south

Keep swinging

Hans Koert

josephine baker/breezin along = monty alexander trio/triple treat 1+2+3 (2) = chet baker/isn't it romantic = michiel borstlap/sextet live ! 2 cd (2) = royal concertgebouw o/shostakovich - the jazz album = ted weems o/big boy - volume 1 (lp)

Nederlands ( To the English translation )
In 1973 verscheen er een dubbel-lp van Eubie Blake, de man die in 1883 in Baltimore werd geboren, die zijn eerste compositie schreef voor de eeuwwisseling en wiens pianospel in 1917 voor het eerst op een vertical-cut Pathe 78-toerenplaat verscheen. Vertical-cut wil zeggen dat de groef in de plaat niet aan de zijkant van de groef wordt afgelezen door de naald, maar in de diepte (dit heet ook wel hill-and-dale). Misschien een leuk onderwerp voor een later blog. De dubbel-lp werd uitgebracht vanwege zijn 86ste verjaardag. Geboren in 1883 in Baltimore maakte hij in 1899 zijn eerste compositie Sounds of Africa, later omgedoopt tot de Charleston Rag. Hij werd ragimepianist en vormde in 1915 met zanger - crooner Noble Sissle een vaudeville duo. In de jaren twintig traden ze op in één van de eerste experimentele geluidsfilms, die ik jullie kan laten zien. Bedenk dat deze film gemaakt werd in 1923, terwijl de geluidsfilm pas eind jaren twintig in de bioscopen te zien was.

Hij werd in de jaren twintig razend populair door zijn aanwezigheid in verschillende grote Broadwayproducties zoals Shuffle Along en Revue Negre, waarin ook Josephine Baker optrad. Het hoogtepunt van zijn carriere lag dan ook in die tijd; daarna taande zijn populariteit tot dat hij in de jaren zeventig weer een doorstart maakte en optrad als één van de laatste nog levende ragtime legenden Deze dubbel-lp, getiteld The Eighty-Six Years Of Eubie Blake ( De 86 jaren van Eubie Blake) is uit deze periode. Hoewel de titel en de hoes van de LP suggereert dat het om historische opnamen gaat, zijn het opnamen uit de jaren zeventig, waarin Eubie Blake speelt en vertelt over die eerste jaren. Hij begint dan ook met de Charleston Rag. Op 86-jarige leeftijd ontpopt hij zich als een rasentertainer. Deze CBS 2LP ( CBS S 68250 ) was één van die platen, die ik me vroeger niet kon permiteren. Ik had hem geleend in de platenbibliotheek en overgespeeld op mijn Akai spoelenrecorder. Deze originele dubbel-lp pleit toch voor het feit, dat je eigenlijk de orginele plaat moet hebben, al was het alleen al voor de schitterende hoes, met Eubie toen en nu en een beschrijving van Eubie Blake's carriere op de binnenkant.
Ik wil ten slotte nog twee filmfragmenten laten zien van Eubie Blake tijdens optredens in de jaren zeventig, waarin je kunt zien dat hij, zelfs op die leeftijd, nog een groot entertainer was. Eubie Blake overleed in februari 1983 op 100 jarige leeftijd ( + 5 dagen).

Where Did You Get Those Eyes (W. Donaldson) ( 2:47)JOSEPHINE BAKER

Opgenomen September 1926.
Origineel uitgebracht als Odeon - Heruitgebracht door Columbia als Josephine Baker - Breezin' Along ( in the Art Deco series)

Tijdopname voor 23 november:

  • mine all mine / song is ended / there must be someone / thinking of you = annette hanshaw
  • away down south in heaven = sam lanin o
  • changes = paul whiteman o


  • improvisation sur le 1er mouvement du concerto en re mineur de j.s.bach = eddie south
Keep swinging

Hans Koert

josephine baker/breezin along = monty alexander trio/triple treat 1+2+3 (2) = chet baker/isn't it romantic = michiel borstlap/sextet live ! 2 cd (2) = royal concertgebouw o/shostakovich - the jazz album = ted weems o/big boy - volume 1 (lp)

Keep Swinging Oscar Aleman Flexible Records Choro Music Hit of the week - Durium

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Blogger Jo said...

They don't make'em like this any more, a pity! - Thanks a lot, Hans, for this contribution regarding Eubie Blake, great videos and a marvellous album brought into deserved spotlight.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recent thread about James Hubert "Eubie" Blake (Feb. 7, 1887 - Feb. 12,
1983) prompts me to share some of my memories of him and our friendship, which spanned the last 12 to 15 years of his incredible life.

In the 1970s I was Director of Yesteryear Museum in the Morris County Cultural Center outside Morristown, New Jersey. I don't recall how I originally got in touch with Eubie, but I him and his second wife Marion to come to our opening in October 1971, which they did. To our surprise, Eubie sat down at a grand piano in a large room off the foyer of the building, originally a nursing home in the 1930s, supposedly owned by a syndicate including Eddie Cantor. Eubie put on a brief but marvelous impromptu concert. Unfortunately, no recording has surface, and we really did not expect him to play. I know - dumb! Interestingly, the piano belonged to the Masterwork Foundation, which occupied the 2nd floor (we had the third).
When their director found out that someone had actually played ragtime on that piano, she had a fit - she was horrified that the concert grand - I think a Steinway - was used, said the piano wasn't built for "THAT kind of music!" Well, at least she said music.

Over the ensuing years until Eubie passed away at 100 years plus a week, I was in contact with Marion and Eubie every few months. I was honored to be invited to their beautiful place in Brooklyn. It was in essence not just a comfortable home, but a very real museum, with photos and memorabilia all over the place. I've often wondered what became of them. I was proud to attend the program at PS 25 on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, when it was the "renamed Eubie Blake School". I had a date one evening to see the hit show "Eubie!" at the Ambassador Theatre in New York. Guess who we bumped into in the lobby, on our way in. Right! Marion and Eubie. We had dinner together, during which Eubie quietly told me some of the things his father - who had been a slave - told him. Eubie kept an eye on Marion, sitting across the table and a few seats down. He said, "She'd kill me if she knew what we were talking about!"

On the occasion of Eubie's Centennial, Max Morath and others put together a remarkable, free-form salute at the Shubert Theatre (One Shubert Alley) which shuttered its regular show for that special day. There were probably more celebrities and stars there that day than at any other Shubert presentation, and that's not easy! I was honored to sit between Max and Gregory Hines, with John Hammond on the other side of Max. It was Hammond who persuaded Eubie to put together Columbia's first two-LP album, "The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake" which became a huge best-seller and
catapulted Eubie into renewed fame and a whole new career. I believe it
was also Hammond who encouraged Columbia to release the 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert LP, one of Columbia's biggest sellers ever since. If I recall correctly, Hammond and BG were brothers-in-law. That was reportedly Carnegie Hall's first-ever jazz presentation. Remember, the Gershwin-Whiteman 1924 introduction of "Rhapsody in Blue" was at *Aeolian*Hall. Carnegie Hall would not have allowed it!

Sadly, less than a week after that incredible Shubert Centennial Celebration, Eubie passed on, having achieved a remarkable century of outstanding life and achievement. I think it was Max Morath again (God bless him!) who arranged for a memorial at the famed "Jazz Church" in New York. I think I sat again with Messrs. Morath and Hines. Sadly, neither program is available. The Shubert show was not recorded, as Eubie had unfortunately (as it turned out) signed an exclusive contract for such an event for a program some months before, taped at Kennedy Center in Washington. Aired on television, it was a disappointment, mostly involving very young Washington performers who'd probably never heard of Eubie Blake.
The Jazz Church program apparently was recorded. We at Yesteryear offered to undertake the editing and release and we were sure Carl Seltzer would have wanted to do it, but we never heard anything back from the church and
its 'Jazz Priest'. What a loss. For the Centennial itself, veteran
performers, dignitaries, commentators and the like came to participate from as far away as England and as near as Mayor Ed Koch who stopped in from City Hall. Many of th elderly performed or spoke from the stage, a number had appeared in Sissle and Blake's shows over the years, including the smash
1921-22 hit musical, "Shuffle Along".

One of the older folk in the row in front of us at the Shubert was a distinguished, tall, salt-and-pepper-hair, black man, obviously having the time of his life. When one lady (who came from London just for this
occasion) began to sing on stage, this man tried to catch her attention. A futile effort - I'm sure she couldn't see past the stage lighting into the audience. We were a number of rows back in the center, and she was all the
way over at stage left. There was an intermission in the lengthy tribute
(which went on for hours) so people could stand up and stretch their legs.
The gentleman turned around and I got the chance to chat with him. It was obvious that we both knew Eubie, but I knew not how. I pointed out that he seemed to know the lady singer (I believe it was Jessie Williams). He said, "You know that song she sang?" I said, "Sure, everybody knows 'I'm Just Wild About Harry'".

This charming gentleman asked me what was my favorite Eubie Blake song. I said, "I'm probably alone in this, but I think his best and most beautiful was "Love Will Find The Way". He lit up! Practically yelled in my face with pride - "That's my favorite too! - Jessie and I introduced that
together!" So that means he was Harry Walton. No wonder he was trying to
get Jessie Williams' attention! She and he introduced that song , the very second tune in "Shuffle Along" - just before "Bandana Days"!

That lovely ballad - a love song - was a major gamble at the time. This was the first all-Negro produced show in a mainline New York music hall. And it was a love song. Back then the idea of a love song with Negroes - let alone a love affair - presented in a musical show on Broadway in otherwise all-white entertainment in midtown Manhattan was unheard of! No wonder he was trying to get her attention - I told him I hoped he'd be able to get to get together with her before they left the Shubert.

Back in New Jersey, every year we at Yesteryear held a benefit show. The first with Max Morath was a week before the opening of the museum in October, but the others were all in late May or early June. I have known Max since the 1960s, when I produced Jaycee benefit shows in which he was featured, along with other notable performers. The Yesteryear benefits in the 70s became a highlight of the social scene in affluent Morris County.
We were blessed with such performers as William Bolcom and Joan Morris (then affianced), Earl Wrightson and Lois Hunt (married), repeat demand performances by Morath, and a number of other nostalgic programs, 7 or 8 in total.

The only one which we at Yesteryear actually produced ourselves, featured Eubie Blake. It wasn't until just before I introduced Eubie's performance that I learned it, but ours was World Premiere of Eubie's "Rhapsody in
Ragtime"! It also featured screening a very early 1920s Lee de Forest
Phonofilm (pioneer optical sound on the film) with Eubie and Noble Sissle, a very young Eddie Cantor, and the hugely popular DeWolf Hopper reciting his perennial favorite, "Casey at the Bat".

We also played an Aeolian piano roll cut by Eubie, while he told us the intriguing story of how it came about. The program book included a copy of the first paycheck made out by Thomas Edison to Eubie Blake for hjis first phonograph cylinder, a sound recording which we also played. A long program, it was a phenomenal evening which anyone present was sure to remember for years to come.

Carl Seltzer managed Eubie and produced the wonderful series of Eubie Blake
Music LPs. Carl recorded our presentation, edited down the nearly 3-hour
show, and put it out in LP form. I wished it could have been 2 LPs for more of the program, but I had the pleasure of writing the liner notes. I believe that it and several other former EBM issues are still available in CD form.

Eubie Blake was a wonderful gentleman. And gentle man. A phenomenal talent. Marion was a delight, and I miss them both. I shall treasure these and other memories with them and the many other folk I have mentioned as well as others, until I reach that Centennial figure myself. Wish me luck!

Bestus, Lee M.

7:19 PM  

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