darkblack educates VG about boogie woogie

Boogie Woogie Basics

My friend darkblack has many gifts, among them the willingness and more so the ability to educate me about music.

My cat blogging (started in a moment of therapeutic madness as an escape from political madness) has led me into some musical byways, because I love kitteh vids with great music. One great kitteh YT had music by Meade Lux Lewis: Some VERY silly cats, and great jazz piano And, one thing led to another...

I found some great YT film footage of Meade Lux Lewis playing Boogie Woogie.

And then I found a YT of Liberace playing pretty much the same "tune" in 1969, well only sorta.

The differences between the two YTs were quite striking in just about every way. I am no musician, and I wanted to get darkblack's take on this. I sent darkblack the YT links, including the idea "compare and contrast". I also mentioned my take - that Liberace didn't "GET" boogie woogie, imho.

And, thus, darkblack educated me. I would like to pass this education along.

About darkblack: a Canadian, but/and a keen observer of US politics with a gift for "graphic" art! His blog is subtitled "Steaks from sacred cows, cheap". Can't count the number of times I or others have said "brilliant, db!" in the comments. Nonetheless, he identifies himself as a musician. And, he's earned his chops - music conservatory training, and uh, branching out from there- Prior to his 'retirement' a decade ago, he had amassed on the order of almost 2000 gigs in myriad styles, from concert stages to restaurants.

darkblack said:
Contrast between Lux and Lee, eh? One of environmental influences, to start.

Notice how tight and precise Lewis' left hand bass stays throughout, and the rhythm never wavers. Jerry Lee Lewis for one took a big bite off that, conceptually - and you can hear a lot of Lux (and 'stride' players such as Willie 'The Lion' Smith and James P. Johnson) within Oscar Peterson's vast stylistic ouevre.

Liberace comes from a classical background, but he didn't have the interpretive chops necessary to really excel in that field so he went for the showmanship instead.

He just wasn't a 'swinger' in the musical sense - rather, a man of his times and environment, raised on classical music that can impart a certain rigidity to one's character, allowing them to develop the discipline needed to perform in the style.

When he plays in that '69 clip, the first thing I notice is that the loudness pedal is down full, which 'washes out' the bass articulation needed to really get boogie woogie across. It's a more physical style of playing, but it's not dependent on physical strength, necessarily...

Technical musicians often struggle with the right 'feeling' in their performance - for some, trying to evoke (or invoke) spirits gone by, others for a level and maintenance of intensity. It's not only a cerebral medium after all, but a physical as well...sound and motion.

Here's two of the masters, Albert Ammons & Pete Johnson, doing just that.

And Here's a clip of Dick Hyman from his Century Of Jazz Piano video filmed in 1999.... you can hear the coordinated attack of left and right hand that he explains as a necessity for the style. Key to a successful boogie.

darkblack: Valley Girl, let Dr. John run the voodoo down to us with Mac's Boogie, recorded in 1986 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and available through Eagle Rock Entertainment.


  1. btw, darkblack, I loved that yt you linked- Dick Hyman.

    Boogie Woogie Lesson - Dick Hyman

    Ends with him playing Meade Lux Lewis !

  2. And the circle goes 'round, VG.


  3. Hey db! I'm beginning to "get that"!

    You have no idea what wonderful adventure this is!

  4. very well done, good on both of you!

  5. Hey Steve! Thanks, it was fun to put together. I love talking about music with darkblack.

  6. i wish my music knowledge didnt end in like 1974.....

    that is why i need folks like DB to educate me

  7. Hi DC!

    db really has a gift for analysis and explanation- and he's incredibly good at dealing with my very simple-minded questions!

  8. Thank you for asking DB to take us for a sweet ride on his ole time boojie-woojie history bus.

    Particularly enjoyed hearing one of my favorite Dr. John renditions.


  9. Suze- you are most welcome! When db and I first talked about boogie woogie, he sent me a great YT of Jane Vasey. But, when I went back to look, it had been removed from YT (some kind of violation). That Dr. John clip db found- perfect closer, that I've watched/ listened to, oh, maybe 20 times already!


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