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June 26, 2009

Pat Cloud - Higher Power

Another progressive out-of-print banjo album; it's not really bluegrass at all, it's entirely jazz, but played 3-finger style rather than dixieland style.

Tony Trischka says:
Pat Cloud is an elusive figure. Though some people know of him only by rumor, he is, in fact, alive, well, and playing locally in southern California. Indeed, he is one of the most strikingly original banjo players around. He combines bebop jazz lines with fiddle tunes, Django Reinhardt with Earl Scruggs, and places the entire mixture in a melodic flow that just won't quit.

Aside from being a mind-boggling player, Pat is very articulate about what he's doing, as the following interview demonstrated:

Tony: How did you get started?
Pat: I got into banjo because there was one on my wall at my stepfather's house. I picked it up and played it witha pick for about three months with three strings on her until somebody told me to get two more strings and use fingers. I was listening to Flatt and Scruggs records. I learned all of the Foggy Mountain Banjo album, started listening to fiddle tunes, I went to a lot of fiddler's conventions, a lot of things from Byron Berline. Started listening to old 78s of ragtime piano, swing, Bix Beiderbeck, Coleman Hawkins, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, the boppers, and then wherever it's at today.
Tony: How did you get into doing scales and jazz chord substitutions?
Pat: I just wanted to play banjo differently because I was getting bored by playing the same. I was not getting bored by the style. I like the music a lot, but you like different things to play. Music sort of overlaps and is adaptable in context.
Tony: Why haven't people played jazz on the banjo yet? Do you think there are limitations of the banjo that prevent people from doing that?
Pat: It doesn't have eight octaves like the guitar or piano.
Tony: What would you suggest playing to get into some of the stuff you're doing?
Pat: Oh, learn all your major scales and learn all your minor scales. That includes harmonic, melodic, and natural. Every chord change can be painted by a scale. In bluegrass, I'll say one or two scales, in jazz, three or four.
Tony: You do so much practicing - two and three hours a day.
Pat: That's not true. I don't practice enough, actually. I'm lucky if I get away with four. I don't think it's easy to do at once. You have to work up to it. You have to really feel it's worth it. If you don't feel your practicing is going to do any good, you aren't inspired. It's also a matter of getting over the trauma of sounding rotten. As Richard Greene once said, "You just have to play and sound rotten until you get the hang of it; not to be afraid and traumatic, and fall on your face a bunch of times."
Tony: Do you have any other thoughts on breaking out of old patterns on the banjo?
Pat: We all have finger habits, and getting your hand in tune with your ear is the big trip. You hear a note way up there, you should try to hit it. Putting it on the spot where you want it. A lot of busy work. I'm not nearly as dedicated as I plan to become.

Pat Cloud - Higher Power

Year: 1983
Label: Flying Fish

01. Higher Power (07:01)
02. At The Banjo Cafe (05:39)
03. Mynah Blues (07:12)
04. Blackwolf (03:54)
05. San Felipe (06:17)
06. In A Mellotone (09:31)

Pat Cloud, banjo
Harry Orlove, guitar
Jim Cox, piano
Greg Cohen, bass
James Hobson, drums
Dave Stone, bass
Barry Solomon, guitar
Bob Applebaum, mandolin
Jim Garafalo, bass
Del Blake, drums, percussion

eat your heart out alison brown.
mp3 ~320kbps vbr | w/ cover | 91mb


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this wonderful album.
I'm very fascinated by the meeting of jazz and country/bluegrass and planning a comprehensive post for my blog guitarandthewind.
Here's a few first thoughts:

For years these two styles seemed like the opposite endings of the musical spectrum with only a few exceptions of musicians that crossed the border, like Jimmy Rodgers recording with Louis Armstrong or the 'western swing' of the 1930s/40s.
Seems like the country players had lesser fear to try their hands on jazz than vice versa (see Hank Garland). If jazz players played country it was only as a novelty (Sonny Rollins for example). And jazzers didn't try to merge the styles, they just took the theme and added improvisation just like they'd do with a Gershwin standard.

The folk movement of the early 60s opened up the doors a little bit but only since the 1970s with the rise of 'new grass' and people like David Grisman have we seen a new approach.
In the jazz camp we heard a new aesthetic with the appearance of the ECM label. Jazz musicians that were coined by the 60s had a different attitude towards country music since it became 'hip' with Dylan and the Band, The Byrds, Grateful Dead etc.

Now jazz was no longer exclusively 'urban' music, a 'rural' aesthetic emerged on the albums of Pat Metheny and many European jazzers. A development that culminated in recent years in the albums of Bill Frisell and others.

A fascinating issue on wich i'd love to hear more opinions!

Anonymous said...

Many, many thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue with me over at my blog. Would you mind if i quote parts of it in my planned post on jazz/country?

Here's a very interesting article about the issue you might be interested in. It comes to some of the same results as i did, plus a lot more interesting aspects:

It also mentiones Gary Burton who's album 'Tennessee Firebird' was my original reason to research and reflect the whole issue.

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot for another profound answer!

i must admit, i feel caught. i have a fairly similar perspective as the article's author - and i'm a European jazz fan :-)

From my point of view it makes as much sense or non-sense to speak of a tradition called country music that became popular with Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family and incorporates artists as diverse as Hank Williams and Earl Scruggs as it makes sense or non-sense to talk of a tradition called jazz music that starts with Buddy Bolden or better Louis Armstrong and includes a spectrum from Benny Goodman to Albert Ayler (and beyond).

I'd feel unable to give an objective definition of what 'jazz' or 'country' is. I must admit, i use these terms more on a gut level.

But i accept that for a closer look at the phenomenom it would be helpful to define the genres and it's borders. But that would surely extravagate my blogpost (and my time).

Based on your points i will rewrite my initial post and try to formulate it more careful.

Anonymous said...

Just posted "Buddy Emmons/Buddy Spicher: Buddies" feat. Lenny Breau (Flying Fish, 1977)
and "Gary Burton: Tennessee Firebird" feat. Chet Atkins, Buddy Emmons, Roy Haynes etc. (RCA, 1966) and linked to your blog. I've also quoted from your comments on bluegrass and jazz: