Mis à jour : 26 nov. 2018
Listen to Death ray boogie: https://youtu.be/bpiNL8pLHms
At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the south of the USA, some black musicians found a new and faster way of playing blues on the piano. Those musicians played in bars, which were called “Barrel house” or “Honky-tonk”.
During the twenties, for economic reasons, they went to the north of the country, and played in the “house rent parties”, which were organized by some families. That’s why the first Boogie players were known in Chicago and Kansas City. One of the first boogies (“Chicago stomp”) was recorded in 1924 by Jimmy Blythe.
At that time, this style of music was called by several names: shuffle, rolling blues, the dozen, dudlow Joe… It is only from 1928, after Clarence Smith recorded his famous “Pinetop Boogie-woogie”, when it is called “Boogie-woogie”. This name comes from the rhythm of the noise of trains, when the two axles run on the space between rails, because those two axles are assembled by what is called a “Boogie”.
In 1936, producer John Hammond made this style of music known, and Boogie-woogie met with enormous success during the forties. We can say that some boogies inspired the beginning of the Rock and roll, as we will hear in “Death ray boogie”.
About the composer:
Pete Johnson was born in 1904 in Kansas City, Missouri. Originally a drummer, he started to play the piano in 1922.
Produced by John Hammond in 1936, he featured in the famous annual concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall “From Spirituals to Swing” in 1938, with Meade Lux Lewis, Count Basie, Benny Goodman…That was one of the first times when black artists could play music in a great concert hall.
Pete Johnson also played in the Ammons and Lewis boogie-woogie trio, in duet with Albert Ammons, and accompanied the singer Big Joe Turner.
After living a few years in Los Angeles at the end of the forties, he settled down in Buffalo, New York. He played for the last time in the Hammond’s “from spirituals to swing” concert in the beginning of 1967.
About the arranger:
This Boogie is played as recorded by Claude Bolling, world-famous jazz and pop-song musician. Born in 1930, he learnt the piano with Marie-Louise Colin, who was a pianist in a woman band during the 30’s. He also learnt classic harmony with Maurice Duruflé.
Claude was very early influenced by “Fats” Waller and Willie “the Lion” Smith.
During the 50’s, he played in the Club Saint-Germain des Prés and met Boris Vian, for whom he arranged the Possible and impossible songs. That’s when he started to work for pop-song singers such as Brigitte Bardot, Sacha Distel, Henri Savador …
Claude Bolling is also a great film music composer (Borsalino, Les Brigades du Tigre), and one of the best in Crossover Music (Suite pour flûte et jazz piano trio with Jean-pierre Rampal), a style which mixes classical and jazz music (as did Gershwin for example).
In 1956, Bolling founded the Grand club orchestra, a big band which is still playing today. It was on this occasion that he met the trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie and the composer Duke Ellington.
According to Claude Bolling, a way to define Jazz is:
“…the music that was first created in New Orleans, and next enhanced by the musicians who migrated to Chicago”.