Piano Blues And Boogie-Woogie
Blues is a style of American music that emerged in the early 20th century. And served as the basis for modern styles such as rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll. The blues also maintained a strong correlation with other musical styles such as gospel, country and jazz.
Many blues singers learned to sing in churches and some of the early blues artists played and sang gospel. The sincere emotions present in the lyrics of the country music formed a close bond with the blues. As well as the more modern country music connected to rock-and-roll.
The first blues were vocal music, consisting mainly of spiritual lyrics and working songs. At that time, the rhythms were still unstructured. And the lyrics expressed the problems experienced by the African-American rural population of the time. Afterwards, a more urban blues emerged, rhythmically structured, with the presence of the piano becoming fundamental.
In the years before World War I, when the blues spread across the Mississippi Delta throughout the South and Southeast of the United States. The more traditional styles could often be heard on the piano. Some bars, brothels and dance houses used to have the instrument in some corner.
There are several versions about what the first typical blues composition is, as well as its first creator. Legend has it that “Pai do Blues”, W. C. Handy, first heard this kind of music in 1903, when he was clandestinely traveling in a train car and watching a man playing the guitar with a penknife. Then the one that’s said to be the first blues in history, “St. Louis Blues”, would have come up.
The “boogie-woogie” and “barrelhouse” styles of that period were the precursors of the other regional blues styles. Boogie-woogie is a piano style that features fast tempo and rhythmic phrases in the left hand. It originated at the end of the 19th century in Louisiana and Texas, in the United States.
The story goes that the lumberjacks, most of whom belonged to the black community, used to entertain themselves by singing and dancing in their camps after working hours. The musicians who accompanied them traveled by train from one campsite to another and often played the piano on the trains as they traveled. The noise of the bogie axles on the tracks at each junction produced a sound and a rhythm that sometimes hindered the music.
Instead of being discouraged by this, the pianists decided to play with this external interference. The name ‘bogie-woogie’ was born from the rhythm produced by the bogies. And rapidly evolved into boogie-woogie.
Another version says that the repeated notes of the left hand. The blues and boogie-woogie were invented by a pianist who frequented these lumberjack fields. And was so fat that he could not reach the center of the piano with his left hand. So I kept that hand playing only bass notes instead of a chord accompaniment.
Pinetop Smith, an expert in style, made the term boogie-woogie popular when he named a famous solo piano that he recorded in 1928, “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”.
But it was only in the late 1930s that boogie-woogie gained a reputation for excellence among the general public. It was possible to hear boogie-woogie everywhere. The style was commented in the press and heard on the radio and in many recordings.
From that time on, boogie-woogie was highly commercialized. And numerous jazz bands included the style in their repertoire. The U.S. government sponsored the style during World War II to maintain high troop morale.
Features Of Boogie-Woogie
The boogie-woogie is characterized mainly by being a very lively and efficient style.
Most of the time, it is interpreted with the left hand playing in a repetitive and syncopated way. Providing the characteristic and powerful rhythm of this musical style. And the right hand improvising a relatively simple melody.
From this specific technique, each hand playing a different part, emerges a rhythmic and melodically contagious music. Among the most famous pianists of this style are Memphis Slim, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, Big Maceo Merriweather, Little Richard and Meade Lux Lewis.
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