Re: [Harp-L] Horns Sounds Like Harp Sounds Like Horns

I would have thought Filisko would have got the initial shove from Blues
Birdhead, going by his espoused tastes and history of listening.
Birdhead was the first I ever heard do a decent growl on the diatonic.
Growling on the diatonic could take up a decent chapter in a harp 'how
to'; it's a subtle and difficult art. Bubber Miley was the man who
established the wah-wah thing in the Ellington orchestra as far as I
know. Birdhead, of course, was imitating Louis in his 'Mean & Low
Blues', which is his take on Armstrong's 'Savoy Blues'.

>>> Winslow Yerxa <winslowyerxa@xxxxxxxxx> 3/06/2007 2:13:17 >>>
Cootie was not by a long shot the only or the first trumpet or
player to use mutes to make a wah-wah sound with his horn. Ellington
trombonist Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton used both bell mutes and plungers
and vocal rasp to create his growled wah-wah and was considered the
grand master of these effects, as were 1920s-era Ellington trumpeters
Artie Whetsol and Bubber Miley. Cootie came along as a replacement for
one of them, and was obliged to re-create what they had already done
order to play the band's arrangements for an expectant public who had
heard the records with the trademark wah-and-growl combination.

The Ellington Orchestra started in Washington, DC, where Duke's
were servants at the White House and had a first-class collection of
White house cutlery and crockery that had discarded due to pieces
broken or missing from a full complement of place settings. He and his
initial bandmates grew up in a "tony" social milieu of colored folks
who considered themselves far removed from rural uneducated black
folks. The chance that they would have been aware of, much less
inclined to imitate those jug-buzzing, guitar-thumping, harp-playing
hayseeds, has to be taken with at least a grain of skepticism.

Later Ellington moved to New York and incorporated players from a
provenance (for instance clarinetist Barney Bigard and alto
Johnny Hodges were both from New Orleans, while vavle trombonist Juan
Tizol was Cuban). Still, the tone of the band was always urban and
upscale (which is not to say they weren't hip and 1930s-funky, just
that they didn't take their social or musical cues from country people
any more than hip hip artists do today).

The use of mutes in brass instruments goes back a good 400 years, well
before the 19th century invention of the harmonica. Players must have
noticed a long time ago that removing and replacing a mute while
playing a note had a vocal as well as tone color effect (composers
Beethoven and Schubert wrote for the tone color effect that was a
byproduct of bending for missing notes on the French horn by stuffing
hand in the bell). And with the strongly marked American, and
especially African American, tendency to make instrumental melodies in
popular idioms sound as vocal as possible starting near the beginning
of the 20th century (maybe earlier), it seems only natural that horn
players could have come up with the idea of the moving mute without
having heard harmonica players do it.

As for harmonica players, Jed Davenport was hardly the first harmonica
player to use hand effects to create a vocal sound. It seems natural
enough to wrap your hands around the harp and then open them, but who
knows? Maybe the first harp player to do it got the idea from a slide
trombonist in a brass band that happened to visit a rural crossroads
with a barnstorming patent medicine quack.

With the Ellington players, the wah-wah is wedded to the growl sound
that Williams, Nanton, Whetsol, et al, used. Very few harmonica
have successfully imitated the growl (by this I mean a continuing rasp
in a note from beginning to end - think Louis Armstrong's singing).
Filisko is the only one who comes to mind, and he got it from my
exposing him to Williams, Nanton, Whetsol, et al on 1920s-era


--- James <wasabileo@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Regarding this discussion two names come to mind: Cootie Williams
> Jed Davenport
> Cootie Williams, as many of you know, played with the Ellington
> Orchestra. He has these mutes and stuff like the "plumber's helper"
> and stuff and he could play the most incredible "rural sounds" in a
> most sophisticated way. I always believed he listened to harp
> players.
> Jed Davenport was both a jug band harp player and a pit musician
> (trumpet) He played in high keys (E) and he played some cool lines
> I always wondered what came first? The trumpet lines or the harp
> lines. Were the trumpet players listening to the harp players or the
> reverse or both at the same time.
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