Welcome, Visitor Number

23 August 2017

Post 540: LOOSE MARBLES IN 2008

I have written before about the band Loose Marbles.

argued then, and I still believe, that this group has been the most important and most influential traditional jazz band to emerge in the Twenty-First Century. To read that article, CLICK HERE.

But how on earth did I miss, during all these years, some wonderful videos of the band that appeared on YouTube as long ago as 2008? I am thrilled to tell you that I have recently discovered them.

A generous video-maker whose name is given as Wayne G. Harvey attended a concert by the band at the Delaware County Institute of Science, which is situated in the Borough of Media, Pennsylvania. The Loose Marbles played on a stage in front of glass cases exhibiting mounted birds.

Mr. Harvey uploaded videos of twelve tunes from the concert. He could not have known at the time that these videos would become precious historical documents.

Why are they so important? For the following reasons.

They show the state of evolution of the Loose Marbles at that time. Ben Polcer on first trumpet and Michael Magro on clarinet were firmly in control (and how well they played together!). The repertoire was mainly very familiar tunes, but played in a thrilling way. Tuba Skinny had not yet formed; but we get to see three musicians who were to become founder members (Shaye, Barnabus and Kiowa) honing their skills in the company of Ben and Michael.

They show how the band liked to produce music without any electronic assistance. That's the way they still like it, whenever possible, and so do I. Even vocals were clearly delivered without amplification.

It is hard to believe that Barnabus and Shaye had taken up the trombone and cornet respectively only a year or two earlier, having previously played other instruments. Barnabus, in the trombone chair, is brimful of confidence. And Shaye - here playing second trumpet to Ben - is already showing great technique and harmonic creativity. She has spoken in an interview of how important this stage of her career was: playing second trumpet to Ben taught her to keep things simple and to complement his playing harmoniously.

It is interesting to see how Ben gave the illusion of adding a percussion player to the band with his devices operated by foot and hand. I believe he still does this occasionally.

The music always sounds exciting, mainly because of the energy and talent of the players, and partly because - with a 'front line' of four and Ben's percussive additions - it sounds almost like a 'big band', especially with the assistance of the Museum's acoustics, as the sound bounces off those glass cases!

The videos are also historically interesting because they show us those great dancers - Chance Bushman and Amy Johnson - sharing the little stage and contributing hugely to the audience's enjoyment. As we now know, the migration of dancers as well as of instrumentalists to New Orleans in the years after Katrina was a very important factor in the revival of traditional jazz in the streets of that City and has remained so.

You can find and enjoy all twelve of these videos easily enough on YouTube. But if you would like me to get you started, may I offer these contrasting tunes?

For Tiger RagCLICK HERE. (There's fine dancing in this; and listen carefully to Shaye supporting Ben in the opening minutes of full ensemble.)

For Some Day, SweetheartCLICK HERE.

For Whenever You're LonesomeCLICK HERE. (You may be surprised to hear Barnabus providing the vocal, and Shaye confidently taking a lovely and unpretentious solo chorus.)

Among the other fine videos from the concert are Over in The Gloryland, Isle of Capri, Willie the Weeper, 'Taint Nobody's Business If I Do and Ice Cream.