Archive for Jimmy Yancey

How Long Blues – Jimmy Yancey

Posted in Jazz with tags , on January 13, 2017 by telescoper

Over the past weeks I’ve been posting tracks by the legendary pianist Jimmy Yancey. They seem to have proved quite popular, so here’s another one. This differs from the others (which were in the boogie-woogie style) in being a slow blues rather than an up-tempo boogie-woogie romp. It’s quite an old song, dating back to 1928, of which many versions have been made over the years, but this is an atmospheric masterpiece that shows what a superb interpreter of the blues Jimmy Yancey was. That gently rocking left hand and the beautiful articulation of the right hand seem to underline the sense of loss conveyed in the lyrics to the song, which is about a man whose lover who has left him:

Heard the whistle blowin’, couldn’t see no train
Way down in my heart, I had an achin’ pain
How long, how long, baby how long

You won’t hear many better – or more haunting – performances the blues than this. And who cares if there’s a bit of surface noise on the record?

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The Rocks – Jimmy Yancey

Posted in Jazz with tags on December 8, 2016 by telescoper

I recently posted a piece of music by the great blues and boogie-woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey. According to the blog stats page that post is proving quite popular so I thought I’d add another piece the same musician. This is Jimmy Yancey’s characteristically bluesy take on The Rocks, based on one of the more conventional left-hand patterns used in boogie-woogie that you will probably recognize from many other musical contexts.

Yancey Special

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on November 30, 2016 by telescoper

Time for a bit of Boogie Woogie. This is by the great Jimmy Yancey who, despite having a strong claim to be regarded as the founding father of this style of piano playing, is nowhere near as well known as he should be. In fact he only began to make recordings relatively late in life and never earned enough money to give up his day job, which was as a groundsman for the Chicago White Sox baseball team. He was nevertheless a huge influence on people like Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons who made a great commercial success out of this  genre.

You may or may not know that Boogie Woogie encompasses quite a wide `library’ of left-hand bass patterns, many of which have their own names: the Rocks, the Trenches and the Fives to name but three. I’ve always felt that there was an interesting paper (or perhaps PhD thesis) to be written about the various permutations of notes involved in these figures, which mainly (but not exclusively)  involve the root, third, fifth and sixth notes of the relevant chord, which are usually themselves part of a standard 12-bar blues progression. Usually the little finger of the left hand picks out the root note and since the pattern played by the other fingers doesn’t change as the chords change remembering where your pinkie has to go more-or-less guarantees that the rest of the pattern ends up in the right place.

The simplest of all these Boogie Woogie figures to play is the Barrelhouse left-hand style that just involves a pair of two-note chords (root-fifth and root-sixth). Double up each of those chords and you get the left hand for Meade Lux Lewis’s classic Honky Tonk Train Blues, and so on. I mention that because if you follow the Youtube link you’ll see a photograph of Jimmy Yancey watching Meade Lux Lewis play.

Anyway, though most Boogie-Woogie left-hand bass figures have rather abstract names such as those listed above, this one – which you’ll recognize from a number of other tunes, such as Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill –  is always called the Yancey Special left hand as a tribute to its inventor. Apart from that lovely rolling bass line, what else is great about this track is the way Jimmy Yancey generates such a sense of forward momentum at a relatively slow tempo, e.g. by using the very effective technique (called a “pick-up”) of starting a right-hand phrase just before the bar line indicate by the left hand.

Yancey Stomp

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on November 29, 2011 by telescoper

A bastard of a busy day has turned into a wild and windswept night with not infrequent drenching downpours for good measure.  I’m too tired for a proper blog so I thought I’d share a little bit of classic piano jazz with you to warm the cockles of your heart, if you have any. This is by the great blues player Jimmy Yancey who had his own unique style of boogie-woogie, specialising in sort of habanera (or tango) rhythms at slow tempo  and in lop-sidedly limping, but extremely propulsive, left-hand figures on upbeat numbers like this one, called Yancey Stomp, which goes like the clappers. Stay warm!