Band Style Discussion The following is from an e-mail discussion to create musician interest in unique band style development..
 

From Nick Andrews:(2/25/06)

What a great time, fun music and really good turn-out to the How's Bayou dance at the Juke Joint (2/28/2006). It warms my heart to see the Cajun Community so supportive.

I'd like to open up for discussion to find out if there is any interest in playing some music styles of "Lost Bayou Ramblers' or 'Steve Riley. Both I believe are considered contemporary Cajun (I could have that wrong) but seems to be a music that is a little ramped up with a much stronger back-beat, to me approaching a Zydeco sound. I do not want to in any way take away anything from the traditional Cajun at the jams. This may be something that could be done at the end of our regular jam or even set up as a separate jam during the week. I'd appreciate any comments. Thanks again to all that turned out for How's Bayou. Nick Andrews

From Nick Andrews:(2/28/06)

Thanks to all of you who took the time and effort to comment.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intention. Iíve been down that road a few times. In fact I understand that they are considering changing the road name to ĎNickís Wayí

The following is an opinion of someone whoís been Cajun jamming for a little over a year (also a newbie), a background in rock music, and having never been to a Louisiana Cajun jam. With only a year playing Cajun, I feel like Iím out on a limb, giving opinions about what I think the Cajun sound is, but here goes.

Although Iíd been listening to Cajun music for years, it was not until six months after joining the jam that I began listening to it more analytically. What I was listening and looking for, was to find how the Cajuns achieve that explosive, energetic sound. When I isolate the different components to the music, the rhythm section seems to be the underlying force providing a platform for that drive behind the lead and melody.  I guess what Dave has expressed about listening and tuning into your counterpart is the real key. It can be an energetic platform or a weak platform, depending on whether one is interconnected with that counterpart. I understand what Dave has written and I think that he is so in tune with this issue. It may be that there is little interest in making any changes to our music and I can live with that. I feel so fortunate to be able to play music with the Seattle Jammers. It could also be that our jam is energized and some new and exciting things develop. I deeply appreciate the help and direction Iíve been given by some in our Cajun music community.

At some of the jams Iíve seen times where Dave Lang, getting past the lack of cohesiveness in the rhythm section, just exploded with energy on the fiddle. I felt like I was almost knocked over by this wave of energy. Looking around the room I could see some folks tuned into this and others playing along unaware. I was certainly blown away but also was struck by the potential of the music.

The rhythm section provides an underlying counter-beat to the melody and lead instruments. The guitar (and Ďtit fer) on the 2 and 4 beat (backbeat) in 4/4 time and the bass on the 1 and 3 (downbeat). This back and fourth counter rhythm between the guitars and bass gives extraordinary support and energy for the lead if itís done with a driving rhythm.

At some of the jams Graham playing rhythm guitar, in effect, drove the jam by his energetic chopping technique. He was using energy, not volume to impact the music. Iíve seen others on occasion including Dave Gallwey, when he was up from LA, with a driving rhythm guitar, using bar-chords, dampening on the upbeat and chopping on the backbeat. Itís electrifying.

I was just listening to Courtneyís fiddle on Ray Abshireís CD and he had that same energy when doing double-stop chords on the rhythm while singing. Incredible!

I guess in wanting to play some songs in the style of Steve Riley and Lost Bayou Ramblers, the goal here really is to play in that energized way. As it was pointed out, they both play some traditional tunes, but in a really powerful style.

Nick

 

From Dave Lang of the How's Bayou Band

Hi Nick, et al, To my mind, both Steve and the Ramblers play  great  Cajun  music, and certainly aren't antithetical to the tradition. The Ramblers play what I would describe as a pretty raw old-style (even in the face of their new material), and Steve is capable of the finest type of traditional rendition (although his musical innovativeness has led him into some fairly avant-garde areas). What I think you are picking up on is a stylism inherent in the makeup of the bands themselves (as much as the leadership). My guess would be that the Ramblers have not overtly planned their sound, but rather that the  sound you hear has just "popped out of that bunch"; listen to Louie on fiddle, or Andre' (who is also a kick-ass guitarist) on accordion. They are all steeped in the tradition coming from very musical families, and it shows. I think Steve's musical brilliance has shaped his  band strongly (again, though, the personnel are all great musicians in their own right).

So I think what you seek may  be tough to realize when you think in terms of a jam (where many folks come and go). Remember that both of the bands you like, play a significant number of Cajun standards (many that we play on Tues nights).  More than likely, achieving these types of sound would start with first of all listening to the recordings (and I mean not superficially, nor just the accordion player, but  everyone involved in the process, listening to your counterpart, so as to understand your role in achieving that type of sound). Next, would be doing specific songs off the bands' repertoire (so you can focus on finding where you are missing the mark). The big problem here is that unless everyone is dedicated to that sound, and willing and capable of fulfilling their corresponding role, it will not happen. I have been fortunate  enough to have had the occasional opportunity to be invited to play accordion with bands in LA, and there is an amazing thing happens when you find yourself backed-up by a band full of musicians who are "all on the same page", and exuding the style from their every nook and cranny....all of a sudden you find yourself fully supported and projected in ways that are startling (and delightful).

This is not to discourage you from your quest, as I too have a great fascination with the sounds like the Ramblers put out (not to mention the totally incomprehensible sounds that many of the old Cajun bands produced)....but rather to alert you to what likely has to transpire for you (and those of like interest) to realize such a vision.

Of course, I think it is good to "be what you is" (as Clifton Chenier would say), and let your own personality come thru (although I find that is hard to avoid). But, I also recognize that we are turned-on by particular sounds (after all, we have chosen "Cajun" over, say, "Scandinavian"...and within "Cajun" there is broad selection, like Zydeco/Swamp/Cajun, and within any of these sub-sets there are sounds we much prefer over others.....so I don't find it narrowing or stilted to set my  mind on a sound I like and try to produce it, after all, isn't that how the course of our inspiration transpired to begin with?)

hope this  helps

Dave

From Ted Granger of the Jamais Trop Tard Band

I heartily agree with Dave's take on the jams, LBR and SRMP. I would also expand on what he said about Steve Reilly that in addition to Steve himself, there are couple of other powerful components in David Greely and Sam Broussard.

Sure, let's try to rise to that level, and not be discouraged by it's not happening immediately.

From Rob/Bob Coffey:

Interesting discussion. Great comments. As a newbie, I don't even know Lost Bayou Ramblers, but I do like the SRMP stuff a lot. Besides great accordion, fiddle duos, some close vocal harmony and just great musicianship, their sound most hits me for the drive, the great back beat percussion on many of their tunes. I thought we had a bunch of that last Tuesday with Dan on snare and it really added to the fun. Given the limitations of the jam format and aspiring musicians, we may not get to sound as good as SRMP or LBR, but I love the idea of picking some of their cuts and trying to work on the parts that make their sound. As projects it sounds like fun, and I think it would really help my attempts to learn the idiom.

Long live Fat Tuesday,

Rob/Bob

From Karen Summers of the Jamais Trop Tard Band

Another thought from my personal experience:  My experience from JTT is that we sometimes try very hard to play something the Steve Riley way and it's pretty darn hard.  I think what Dave says really captures it - everyone has to listen to the music and dissect it.  We all hear different things.  We have to discuss, try, discuss, listen again, and that goes on and on.  It's quite a painstaking process.  And what sometimes happens is our own individuality comes through and we play it like JTT plays Steve Riley.  One of the things I've learned in our JTT journey is how hard it is to arrange songs, to discover what is the specialness of a song and highlight that in one's own way - and then mesh that with others (who may find something else special in the song).  Sam Broussard writes some stunningly beautiful new songs, no question about it, and they are a challenge to play.  It takes very focused work, over and over.  I encourage you in your quest - it might take a special group who want to work on a particular song doing that, unless as Dave points out, it's a whole jam decision to go after something.  It takes a certain kind of person to perfect a song, some just want to play what they can play ( I speak knowledgeably because I have had to learn to value perfecting songs rather than just playing them).

Karen

From Tom:

Quoi ce dit; What do you want? A friendly/open jam session; which you already have, where people can learn and grow; or some sort of band practice. Maybe try out some Bruce Daigrepont, Zachary Richard,or Wayne Toups. Make music every chance you get and have fun doing it. 

Tom