09-21: Jaco Pastorius DC 1982 - Bad Company Landover MD 1979 - Bo Carter Banana In Your Fruit Basket - William Henry Fry : Santa Claus Symphony | Niagara Symphony

1590 – Ascanio Trombetti (Italian composer & cornettist)
1809 – Alexander Reinagle (English-born American composer, organist & theater musician)
1812 – Emmanuel Schikaneder (German impresario, dramatist, actor, singer & composer, librettist of The Magic Flute)
1836 – John Stafford Smith (English church organist, composer & musicologist, "The Anacreontic Song")
1839 – Gottfried Weber (German music theorist, composer & jurist, inventor of Roman numeral harmonic analysis)
1860 – Arthur Schopenhauer (German philosopher)
1864 – William Henry Fry (American composer, music critic & journalist)
1953 – Roger Quilter (English composer of songs, operas & light orchestral music)
1956 – Robert Mills Delaney (American composer & teacher)
1961 – Maurice Delage (French composer & pianist)
1962 – Bo Carter [Armenter Chatmon] (American blues singer, songwriter & guitarist, Mississippi Sheiks)
1980 – Ernest White (Canadian organist, choirmaster, organ designer, teacher & music editor)
1981 – Tony Aubin (French composer & conductor, winner Prix de Rome 1930)
1987 – Jaco Pastorius (American jazz bass guitarist, composer, pianist & percussionist)
1995 – Vernell Townsend (American blues & gospel singer, wife of Henry)
2006 – Boz Burrell (English rock bass guitarist & singer, Bad Company & King Crimson)

I've decided that today I'm going to try to say a little something (and in most cases, rest assured, it will be very little) about every single person on the list, instead of just a few of them like I normally do. Are you ready? That's good, because I'm not...

The surname of Ascanio Trombetti's family means "little trumpets." That's because they were very talented wind players! So, it's an occupational surname. If your last name is Boulanger, or Becker, or Baker, it means you have an ancestor who was handy with the flour and the oven mittens.

Emmanuel Schikaneder was known in both Germany and Austria as a very talented comedic actor and singer, who built the popular Theater auf der Wieden in the Vienna suburbs. Today we remember him best as the librettist and creator of the role of Papageno for the Singspiel Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, Mozart's last completed opera.

Alexander Reinagle and John Stafford Smith both have ties to the early history of the United States. Reinagle was born in England, to a Hungarian father and a Scots mother. However, he's considered an American composer! As a young man in Edinburgh, Scotland he made his living in the shipping industry, and thus made many voyages to the British colonies. He then decided to settle in the brand new United States as a professional musician. He introduced the music of Haydn and Mozart to the city of Philadelphia, and befriended President George Washington, who attended many of Reinagle's concerts.

John Stafford Smith never made it to the Americas, but at least one of his compositions did. Smith, noted today as an early collector of the manuscripts of J. S. Bach, wrote a little tune as a teenager for the Anacreontic Society, a gentleman's club of amateur musicians in mid-18th-century London who took their name from Anacreon, the ancient Greek poet of wine, women, and song. The tune eventually became very popular all over Britain and in America as a drinking-song. But it was immortalized when Francis Scott Key added new words to it in 1814, after witnessing the successful defense of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British Navy. The song, renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner," became a popular patriotic song in the United States, and was officially adopted as its national anthem in 1931.

Remaining in America for the moment, let's talk about William Henry Fry.  He was the first American-born composer to write for a large symphony orchestra, and to compose a publicly-performed opera (Leonora, 1845). He was also the first music critic (a fairly new profession at the time) to write for a major American newspaper, the New York Tribune, and to insist that his fellow Americans support music of their own country. Fry's symphonies mostly have extra-musical themes: the Niagara Symphony (1854) "uses eleven timpani to create the roar of the waters, snare drums to reproduce the hiss of the spray, and a remarkable series of discordant, chromatic descending scales to reproduce the chaos of the falling waters as they crash onto the rocks."

Gottfried Weber was responsible for this sort of thing:
So, if you've studied music, and have had to do this sort of thing, now you know who to blame.

The great philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote about aesthetics and music quite a bit. His works had a great influence on many of the more well-read musicians of the mid-to-late 19th century, most notably Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler.

Roger Quilter, English and gay, was a composer of many songs. His work had a big influence on Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine), also notable as a song composer.

I could discover little about either Robert Mills Delaney or Vernell Townsend, aside from what you can read in the blurbs I've included above in the collage. Damned right, Vernell was a "retiring" sort: there are plenty of photos of her husband Henry, but none of her, as far as I can tell. Didn't the two have any wedding photos taken? Perhaps Vernell Townsend, as nice as her voice sounds, was a vampiress.

Sticking with blues singers for the moment, there's Bo Carter, who was one of the famous Chatmon family of blues musicians. Carter reveled in lyrics of the double-entendre variety, with things like "Banana In Your Fruit Basket," "My Pencil Won't Write No More," and "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me."

Maurice Delage was a pupil of Ravel and a member of Les Apaches, a group of Parisian musicians, artists & writers who met regularly in the first years of the 20th century. Many of Delage's works were influenced by his travels in India and elsewhere in Asia. One such work, Ragamalika (1912-22), is significant in that it includes a very early instance of prepared piano, Delage instructing that a piece of cardboard be placed under the strings of a low B-flat to imitate the sound of an Indian drum. It doesn't appear that John Cage, usually cited as the inventor of the prepared piano, was aware of Delage's early experiment, but it's interesting to note that the East also exerted a great influence on Cage's way of thinking about things.

Okay... honestly, I don't really have any more to say about Ernest White or Tony Aubin than what I already told you about them above in the list. But me telling you I'm not going to say any more about them counts as me saying something about them, doesn't it?

Finally, we have two great electric bassists. And it's just Boz Burrell's luck that the other one happens to be Jaco Pastorius, who makes pretty much any other electric bassist sound like crap! Of course, Burrell did a fine job as the bassist of Bad Company, and in the great deal of studio and touring work he did. But Pastorius was the single greatest bass guitarist who ever lived... you could have asked him, and he would have told you himself! No, Jaco was not known for his humility (or his sanity), but it's an undeniable fact that he is one of only four (4) bass players to have been inducted into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame, and the only one of those four to be an electric bassist, rather than a player of the traditional upright variety.

Yes, Jaco Pastorius is without a doubt the star of the show today (sorry, Schopenhauer). As Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote "My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - It gives a lovely light!" Pastorius was just such an artist. A sufferer from bipolar disorder, and from substance abuse issues, he was the toast of the jazz world in the 70s, only to gradually descend further and further into madness during the 80s, finally ending up as a street person, and being beaten to death outside a Ft. Lauderdale bar in 1987 at the age of 35. Jaco! Beautiful, amazing, tragic Jaco. At least we can take some solace in the recorded legacy he left for us.

Well, that wasn't so bad. I should try saying more about more of these poopers more in the future...


No comments:

Post a Comment