Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The role of cello in Serenaders

So what sort of parts did Henry Bogan play in the Serenaders? Bass notes. The standard one-and-five. Sometimes arco, sometimes pizz.

This was a time when fiddle was king. Out of 14 tracks, the fiddle is the only one that plays any sort of melody at all on 22 of them. The tenor banjo plays a short bit of melody on one track, and only tenor banjo (no fiddle at all) plays melody on one track: Before I Grew To Love You (I didn't detect any cello at all on Before I Grew to Love You, only tenor banjo and guitar).

The bass played, as played on the cello, does add an element that is distinctive. Bogan "propelled" the band by starting the arco notes just a smidgen ahead of the beat, yielding a "vRrruump vRrruump" sound that resembles tuba. Because tuba is slow to respond in the lower register, tubists need to stay on top of the beat. Bogan also stays on top of the beat, in keeping with the '20s style.

Another noteworthy item for me in listening to this recording is how the cello, guitar, and tenor banjo function together as a section. This ensemble knew their place, as accompaniment, and played tightly together. This style, of course, would become more emphasized in the Big Bands, where tightness as a section and as a full band became crucial in the quest for the driving but tightly-together rhythmic precision of Swing. It seems to me a contrasting style that would come a couple decades later is Bluegrass, where each individual plays a different and soloistic part, even when playing accompaniment.

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