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Snap Your Fingers and Clap: How 3 Musicians Inspired Each Other
The Finger Breaker, Fingerbuster, & Clap
Jelly Roll Morton, was one of the first jazz musicians of his era to take composing music seriously. Though he was very boastful... he played with a passion, talent, and a flashy style that could back-up whatever came out of his mouth. Jelly Roll's musical legacy has survived and continues to inspire many unlikely musicians. Jelly Roll's "Finger Buster" (aka Fingerwrecker, The Finger Breaker) has been passed though many music styles, compositions, and genrés. Each artist has touched it with his own style, and has definely made it his own. But when you listen to all three songs; one thing is undeniable... Its origin and roots are definitely Jolly Roll Morton.
Jelly Roll Morton sat down to record piano solos in 1938, his pent-up grandiose showmanship was ready to errupt out of him as he placed his fingers on the keys. What burst out of Jelly Roll's fingers was a composition that sounded part rinky-dink piano, part ragtime and all lighting fury jazz. The end result, according to the unmodest Morton, was the lightning-quick "The Finger Breaker" (aka Finger Buster or Fingerwrecker) that was supposed to be one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the piano. What it really amounts to is a flashy display of Jelly Roll's technical dexterity. What it has become is sort of a test for modern musicians to prove their virtuosity.
In the 60s Brittish guitarist Davy Graham recorded "Fingerbuster" which originally appeared on his "The Holly Kaleidoscope" LP. Davy had revamped Jelly Roll's Fingerwrecker to fit his guitar style. A style that innovated flat picking a guitar while finger-picking at the same time. Giving the listener the illusion that more than one person was playing. Davey's "Fingerbuster" was a tribute to the old musician on the street days, a raggy up-tempo style of picking, that was a tip of the hat to the birth of jazz.
Steve Howe's solo acoustic tune, entitled "Clap," during his years with Yes, has always been a concert crowd favorite, "Clap" was heavily influenced by the Davy Graham's "Fingerbuster," and inspired by Howe's oldest son Dylan. "Clap" was written to celebrate the birth of Dylan and the name of the song comes from the baby's attempts to clap.
"Jelly Roll" Morton
Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe aka "Jelly Roll" Morton (September 20, 1885 or October 20, 1890 – July 10, 1941) was a virtuoso pianist, a bandleader, and a composer who some call the first true composer of Jazz music. Morton was a colorful character who liked to generate publicity for himself by bragging. His business card referred to him as the "Creator of Jazz and Swing".
It is truly hard to categorize Morton's music, because his influences were vast while growing up in such a cultural rich enviroment. Being part Creole, and not clearly black or white in Louisiana was tough to be. Prejudice came from both ends of the spectrum. He found acceptance with the help of his musical abilities. Even though he did not really "invent jazz" or fathered the blue, Morton did invent a "Jelly Roll" style all his own.
By the by "Jell Roll" was slang for a sex act, at the time.
There are three major genrés to Jelly Roll's style, Blues, Stomps, and Spanish Tinge; all of which he infused with his personal touch. The Morton style of blues were usually simply stated, but had an underlying complexity in their structure. The Stomps, which are a form of ragtime, are named for the reaction the music gets from both performers and listeners. There was a lot of Latin influences, in New Orleans as well, while Morton was growning up. So it would be only natural that Morton's music would have some of the spice of a tango or the fiery influence of Spanish Tinge.
Of course, Morton's ego, and pride would still shine through in much of his music. Especially since several of Jelly Roll's songs were musical tributes to himself, including "Whinin' Boy," "The Original Jelly-Roll Blues," and "Mister Jelly Lord." During the Big Band era, Morton's "King Porter Stomp," (which Morton had written decades earlier) was a big hit for Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman, and had become a standard covered by most swing bands of that time. Morton also claimed to have written some tunes that were copyrighted by others, including "Alabama Bound" and "Tiger Rag."
Morton was a key figure in the birth and development of jazz because he had so many talents: pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. Jazz historian Orrin Keepnews has referred to him as “one of the handful of Atlases upon whose shoulders rests the entire structure of our music.”Morton’s unique, innovative style combined varying musical strands of blues, stomps, and ragtime, plus French and Spanish influences into jazz at its most formative stage. Morton helped define the colorful, vibrant jazz idiom in the Storyville district of New Orleans.
While Morton was helping to shape the newborn jazz scene with his Red Hot Peppers, Louis Armstrong was emerging as the preeminent jazz soloist with his sessions in Chicago. Together, they gave birth to the Jazz Age and the Swing Era, which has benefited American musical history and the nation’s culture to this day. From Jelly Morton came a lineage of great, jazz pianist-bandleaders, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk.
Two Broadway shows have featured his music, "Jelly Roll "and "Jelly's Last Jam." Gregory Hines won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his work as the title role in "Jelly's Last Jam."
In 2000, Morton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under Early Influence, and in 2005 Morton was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jim Hession plays Jelly Roll Morton's "The Finger Breaker"
David Michael Gordon Graham, known as Davy Graham (November 26, 1940– December 15, 2008), was a British guitarist and though he never achieved or sought real fame and fortune, his influence as one of most brilliant and innovative acoustic guitarists, reverberates through just about every musical genré. Davy Graham enjoyed a long career as England's greatest, and often over-looked, guitarist.
.Davy's music was a such a blend of so many worldly styles, that when asked what he conciders himself? Davey replied, ‘I’m a traveller really, I would die as a person if I stayed in place for more than a year, I like to change my impressions and refresh my personality. My roots are in my music, and in my friends, that’s enough…” Graham was inspired by a range of influences, including jazz, classical, Indian and Arabic music. Many believed that it was due to Graham's unusual family background... his mother was from South America...his father was from a remote Scottish island and the blending of the blues that Davy had access to during the time he worked at the Library; that may have influenced his sound.
Graham's outside of the box tuning and his incredible dexterity on his acoustic guitar inspired a wide range of artists. His 1962 folk classic song "Anji" was covered by Simon and Garfunkel on their 1966 album "Sounds of Silence."
"Davy started unusual alternate tunings for guitars that really caught on," according to Dick Boak, the artist relations manager at C.F. Martin & Co., the famous U.S. guitar maker. "He influenced Paul Simon, of course, and John Renbourn, and Laurence Juber, and many others. Just about anybody who has anything remotely to do with finger-style guitar has to in some way pay tribute to Davy."
"Probably England's greatest guitarist" -Paul Simon
Graham died of a seizure in his London home after a long suffering battle with lung cancer.
Davey Graham's "Fingerbuster" performed by Unknown Guitarist
Stephen James "Steve" Howe (April 8, 1947- ) is guitarist best known for his work with the progressive rock group Yes after replacing Peter Banks in 1970. But Steve is really more than a guitarist... the man can play anything with strings and/or frets... He has also been in the bands: The Syndicats, Bodast, Tomorrow, Asia and GTR, just to name a few. Steve has over a dozen solo albums under his belt as well.
Steve has listed many musical influences, like Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant, Django Reinhardt and Les Paul & Mary Ford. During his years with the prog-rock supergroup Yes. Steve proved his guitar prowess by blending almost seamlessly the musical styles that have influenced him. No one else has experimented as successfully in mixing blues, jazz, classical, surf, and fusion so beautifully.
"Clap" by Steve Howe
Talent and Technique
Another common thread these three talented men have is the love of many types of music. Different music styles that these men could blend together or add their unique touches to. These guys have a gift of music that even the most talented musician would have to admit transcends the normal scope of music.
They all have a techical mastery of their instruments, an unimaginable dexterity, and a passion for their art that reaches beyond the bound of just practicing a lot.
None of them limited themselves into studying only one genré. They found beauty and understanding in all forms of their art.