Four Hands No Waiting
Andy Cohen and 'Ragtime' Jack Radcliffe were strong-armed into conducting a piano 'duel' at a folk music convention in New York in November, 2003, and the joint was positively jumpin'! Since then, the two have collaborated (and traded musical and verbal insults) on a number of occasions. The recording was done at Sounds Interesting Studios in Middleboro, MA, and features piano and guitar duets as well as some four-hand, two-piano work. The title comes from the old classic sign in barber shop windows:'Two barbers, no waiting.' ANDY COHEN: Andy grew up in a house with a piano and a lot of Dixieland Jazz records, amplified after a while by a cornet that his dad got him. At about fifteen, he got bitten by the Folk Music bug, and soon got to hear records by Big Bill Broonzy and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, both of which reminded him of the music he grew up to. At sixteen, he saw Rev. Gary Davis, and his course was set. He knew he had it in him to follow, study, perform and promote the music of the southeast quadrant,America's musical mother lode. A list of Andy's musical friends and acquaintances would fill several pages. He has studied the music of hundreds of blues guitar players and piano players. Here is a list that hits the high points: Willie Walker, Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly, Davis, Broonzy, Skip James, Bukka White, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Brownie McGhee, the list goes on. He's been 'lead boy' for Jim Brewer, Rev. Dan Smith, and Brother Daniel Womack and briefly, Rev, Davis himself; hung out with John Jackson, Phil Wiggins, John Cephas, Hank Duncan, Honeyboy Edwards, Mad Dog Lester, Big Joe Duskin, Pigmeat Jarrett, Howard Armstrong, Carl Martin,Ted Bogan, Elizabeth Cotten, Etta Baker, John Dee Holeman, Fris Holloway, Larry Johnson, Eugene Powell, Johnnie Shines,Will Dukes and many others. He has given support when he could to deserving players, and arranged work for many more, organized festivals and small venues for them and others to play in, written about several of the old guys and studied their work in a systematic way, and taught a couple of dozen players who are now professionals. Andy salutes Tony Piedade, who sold him his first fiddle half a lifetime ago. This one's for you,Tony! 'RAGTIME' JACK RADCLIFFE: Jack also grew up in a house with a piano and a lot of Dixieland Jazz records.Another barber shop figured prominently in Jack's early musical development. Next door to Romie's Barber Shop on Mechanics Lane in New Bedford was the Windsor Music Store. After every haircut, Jack would take a few quarters into the music store and buy sheet music, mostly Dixieland arrangements for small combos. Matt Perry, who occasionally subbed on piano for the late great Frankie Carl, was Jack's piano teacher and between the Bartok and the Brahms he'd slip Jack some pointers on boogie woogie and big band.The folk music revival of the 50s came along just in time, as well, and by the time Jack ran into Larry Johnson he had a pretty good understanding of country blues. At that time Larry was being touted as the next generation of country blues players. Prestige even released an album titled 'Blues: The Next Generation,' produced by Sam Charters. Jack and Larry worked at a few gigs doing a Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell kind of thing. After hitting the road on the folk music circuit during the coffeehouse surge of the 60s, Jack settled in very musical Newport, R.I. Jack's band,'The New Viper Revue' roared and stomped throughout the Northeast in the early and mid-70s, preaching the joyful gospel of the fusion of New Orleans Jazz, Rhythm and Blues and Piedmont Blues. But it was his 15-year, 2,500-plus-gig partnership with the late clarinetist Al Oliveira where Jack sprouted his own roots in traditional American jazz and blues. And the funny thing about this new partnership with Andy Cohen is that Tony Piedade and his barber shop were the cause of it all. It was time for Andy to get back to New Bedford and pick up another of Tony's wonderful instruments ... and Jack just happened to have moved back to his native city. So thanks Tony, for being the catalyst that made this project happen. Oh, and Tony, thanks for letting me sit in with your gang that Tuesday in May! THE TUNES: 1. Four Hands, No Waiting (Andy Cohen & Jack Radcliffe) This is more a cooperative effort than a cutting contest, although we both have our moments. Andy got the inspiration to make it the title tune for the CD, and provide another salute to Tony Piedade and his musical barber chair. It's mostly your basic boogiewoogie in G, played on two pianos. Andy stayed closer to the middle of the keyboard, while Jack ventured out deep to the left and high to the right. Erik Lindgren, our man-ofall- mikes, was able to balance the pianos perfectly, even if the players were a little off kilter. Aficionados of the genre will detect a few Willie 'The Lion' Smith quotes toward the end, as well as some James P. Johnson and Albert Ammons licks. Ask us to play it again when you see us live.We promise not to duplicate it! 2. Midnight Hour Blues (Traditional) Midnight Hour Blues is the folk process at work at it's best. It ultimately derives from Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell's original recording, issued March 16th, 1932 on Vocalion, a subsidiary label of Columbia. Since we learned this from different sources, our version is a compromise between Jack's way, learned from Larry Johnson, and Andy's, which owes much to William Lee Ellis. Bill, in turn, stole it from Willie McTell and Curley Weaver, who in their own turn, copped it from Leroy and Scrapper.Anyone can relate to the lyrics, and the melody is classic, it ain't just some riff. 3. Cincinnati Flow Rag (Traditional) OK, there's definitely an argument worth having here. Andy calls this 'Slow Drag.' Jack says 'Slow Drag' has a third section, so this is a hybrid and deserves the name Willie Walker, from whom Davis learned it, gave it - 'Cincinnati Flow Rag. 'Whatever the case, it's fun to have this rag, adapted by Walker and Davis from the piano to the guitar, re-interpreted on the piano, even as Andy's guitar echoes Davis' strong and sensitive take on the guitar version.The A and B sections use almost identical chord structures (The B section uses G9 and C6, rather than G7 and C major). Riffing on the subtle difference is part of the fun of playing and listening to this deceptively sophisticated rag. 4. It's Too Short (Dorsey & Carr) Another, pretty animated Leroy Carr-tune. On the original (Vocalion 02875), Scrapper's on the git-box and a very young Josh White was shouting encouragement from the sidelines.Various recordings have credited Blackwell and Carr, Georgia Tom Dorsey and (probably simply an attempt at a copyright grab) Cab Calloway. 5. Organ Grinder Swing (Clarence Williams) Organ Grinder Swing is by Clarence Williams the First (not the Third). Clarence Williams III is the actor who played Linc on Mod Squad. His grandfather, from New Orleans, used to eat sugar sandwiches, and was famous as a bandleader in the Moldy Fig days.The Blues & Gospel Discography ('D G & R') has it issued with a vocal by Eva Taylor, by Clarence Williams Jug Band And Lowland Singers, August 7th, 1933 on Columbia (2863-D). 6.Weenie Man (Diamondstein,Traditional) Andy's friend Al Diamondstein wrote the words to this opus, but the tune is pretty twenties. It's the one that goes 'My gal's a corker, she's a New Yorker.' Write your own verse and send it in. Andy's always looking for new material. 7. Furry's Blues (Furry Lewis) Furry Lewis recorded this one in 1928, at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, for Victor (VI V38519, 8/28/28). 'I believe I'll buy me a graveyard of my own, kill everybody ever done me harm.'This song foreshadows Gangsta rap in a way the rappers will likely never know. It's subject is murder, but it's so hyperbolic as to be strictly braggadocio (which is a town just up the line from Memphis). 8. Miss New Orleans (Alter & DeLange) This is a classic tune by Lou Alter & Eddy De Lange. It's been covered by everyone from Harry Connick Jr. to Billie Holiday, but the version Jack prefers is the Louis Armstrong original. Over Jack's left shoulder at his piano at home is an autographed photo of old 'Red Beans and Rice' himself. Armstrong debuted this song as part of a radio broadcast on October 19, 1938 on WNEW. Fortunately, the session was recorded. 9. Cold In Hand Blues (Cohen,Traditional) Andy quilted this together from several sources (Bessie Smith, Dave Van Ronk, some licks of his own).The haunting repeat binds it all together and and the result demonstrates that country blues is a living art form, not yet ready to be consigned to music museums. 10. Cow Cow Blues (Cow Cow Davenport) Jack rips out this finger-twister as a solo. Gennett recorded Cow-Cow Davenport and Dora Carr doing it with a guy named Billy Smith playing piano for some reason, on May 26, 1925, but never issued it; it was recorded by someone reputed to be 'Talking' Billy Anderson, on November 5, 1927 (Columbia 14274-D); Millie Austin recorded it for Supertone at the Gennett studios with an unknown trumpet and piano, June 2, 1928, but it was issued as by 'Lillian Jackson.'Then Cow Cow did it again on July 16, 1928, with Ivy Smith singing. Finally, Charlie Segar ('The Keyboard Wizard Supreme') recorded it for Decca (De 7075) on a cold day in January of 1935.The turn-around has been used over and over again in blues and old time music, for instance, in Muscle Shoals Blues, by harmonica whiz DeFord Bailey. 11. Florida Blues (Traditional) This is not the Dixieliner's version of the tune, it's the Dixieland Jug Blower's version. Clifford Hayes and Johnny Dodds played on it (Victor 20403). Rev. Davis apparently learned this off one of their 78s, many years ago. According to Andy, 'My buddy Joe, from Kent, Ohio, has that very 78, and we used to play it in our band. Actually, it was the only tune we knew, so...' 12. If I Could Be With You (Henry Creamer & James P. Johnson) James P. Johnson wrote this exquisite melody to go with the clear and simple lyrics by Harry Creamer. Andy's guitar is all the rhythm section you need on this, although it was a favorite as an instrumental for many of the big bands of the '20s and '30s. Jack's piano accompaniment echoes Johnson's 'horn section' style in the right hand, using close clusters and accidentals to accent the tune. 13. Honey, It Must Be Love (Traditional) Willie McTell did this one, but he didn't write it. Neither did Charlie Poole, who also did it. It's on a wax cylinder somewhere. But the verse about King Edward, scion of the Stewart family, caused Willie to rename it on those John Lomax Library of Congress recordings (LC Melodeon P7323) when he recorded it in 1940.