Hello everybody,

While searching for banjo records on a french radio website I stumbled upon this emission broadcasted in 2013, in which you can listen to two banjo records (which I find really enjoyable), played by Vance Lowry around 1926 : http://www.francemusique.fr/emission/le-fabuleux-monde-des-archives...

While listening to the first one (it starts at 11'53, following a few explanations by the person who curated the program) I thought he was playing a 4-string banjo (wether plectrum or tenor I'm not sure - there are some moments where it also sounds a bit like a 5-string, but I don't know the subject well enough to be sure), but the second (which starts around 12'30) seems to be a 5 string banjo played in the classic way (which would maybe explain that title, "l'harpo-banjo", which can be translated as "the harp-banjo" I think).

I'm quite curious about this player; does anybody knows exactly what kind of banjo he's playing in each of these records? Were his arrangements ever published? Do you have more informations about his life and other pieces or records? There are some informations on his life in France in the programme (where he apparently knew the poet Jean Cocteau), and somebody called Tony Thomas posted some interesting informations on this youtube video in which Lowry's playing can also be heard : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKXzR8a-_DE

Just in case he wouldn't be playing classic banjo and that discussion would be irrelevant to the present website, here is an other broadcast from the same website which features several classic banjo records (and this time I'm sure of it :) ) : http://www.francemusique.fr/emission/le-fabuleux-monde-des-archives...

Views: 1194

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you RitonM ,

That is very interesting and Mr. Lowry certainly is/was a great player. It sure sounds like Classic Style to me, but I agree that many of his arpeggioed chords sound like he is using a plectrum.  The triplets, finger tremolo and Bass notes clinch it for me though... Classic Style !!

Here is a music player so that you we don't have to hunt for the track:

VANCE LOWRY on www.francemusique.fr Classic Banjo

By the way Tony Thomas is a site member on here, but we have not seen him for a while. Tony helped edit the site page  "WHAT IS CLASSIC BANJO?"

Wow - that's impressive playing. Enjoyed listening to that, thanks!

I'm realizing that the timing I gave for the first piece is completely wrong - it starts at 9'53 instead of 11'53. Sorry! How do you include the audio file with that special music player?

very interesting ; i would say plectrum banjo rather than tenor .

However ; side A of the record is in F#  & side  B  seems to be in G #

So one more time , the record turn too fast and  Vance Lowry play certainly at a slower tempo , in F  & G ;

it would be fine to  have the original 78 rpm _slow down at the correct pitch , and listen again  if he  's playing the plectrum with his fingers or with a plectra ..

On the two recordings from the French radio show the arpeggio playing is super-humanly fast for plectrum technique but if the recording is sped up then it may be plectrum. The sound of the higher strings sounds as if they are gut or something soft which indicates five-string classic banjo but the bass string sounds metallic and that suggests a plectrum banjo.  On the youtube recording there are two banjos. It begins with what sounds to me like finger style classic banjo but very soon a banjo mandolin ("banjolin") takes the lead. You can clearly hear the long string banjo in the background as the "banjolin" plays tremolo. 

There is a fair amount of information about Vance Lowry on the internet and several photos and photocopies of memorabilia. So far, I have found no photos of his banjo. But given the context of his music which was in bands with horns and drums, I think plectrum banjo is more likely than fingers. 

for instance

https://www.flickr.com/photos/puzzlemaster/3316370898/

Thanks for the link Jody, that's very interesting! Apparently there would be a photograph of Lowry "in a quartette" to be found in a book by Nancy Cunard titled "Negro anthology" and published in 1931 (according to this article : http://gradhiva.revues.org/2787 ), but I don't know if he poses with his banjo or not. I'll try to get my hands on that book next time I'll be in a library.

I also stumbled on that book which says that he was using his fingernails instead of a plectrum : https://books.google.com/books?ei=fnasVJ2GOIPWav6YgJgF&hl=fr&am... (hope the links work, otherwise just search for "plectrum") but that's the only reference I've found to his playing style so far and I don't know to what extent it is reliable.

Edit : there is a mention of fingernails in this book too, in french : There is also a mention to fingernails here : https://books.google.com/books?ei=o3esVO_tFMuNaMTNgrgF&hl=fr&am... ("coups d'ongles"). I don't know if it uses the same source than the book I mentioned above.

Yes the link works. Well I think the case is closed. He was a finger style player of a long necked (not tenor) banjo of either 4 or 5 strings (further listening will determine that) whose hard nails allowed him to be heard in a band with horns and drums.

RitonMousquetaire said:

I also stumbled on that book which says that he was using his fingernails instead of a plectrum : https://books.google.com/books?ei=fnasVJ2GOIPWav6YgJgF&hl=fr&am... (hope the links work, oEdit : there is a mention of fingernails in this book too, in french : There is also a mention to fingernails here : https://books.google.com/books?ei=o3esVO_tFMuNaMTNgrgF&hl=fr&am... ("coups d'ongles"). I don't know if it uses the same source than the book I mentioned above.

merci henri d 'avoir lancé cette discussion , tu as mis le doigt sur qq chose d 'intéressant ;

and now say Thx to inspector Dalmasso ; i mailed to Dan Vernhettes , a well knowed  French musician who kindly send me this photo ..............

Vance is standing

Ah Ha,

 Inspector Marc Clouseau  Dalmasseau investigates!

Now we know that Thereallyniceman was correct all the time... Classic Style! ... and look where he picks the strings :-)

  AND on a Clifford Essex Banjo too!

Very interesting discussion about an amazing Classic Banjoist that I had never heard of!  Does anyone know more about him and his recordings?

The banjolin is a Weaver, and the banjo looks like one too. The playing is sensational, and as everybody has found, so far, quite confusing. I've listened to it a few times and think that these two banjos are being played together, which is why we are confused. The recording sounds a bit like a tenor in parts, it also appears to be played with a plectrum, in parts, and then there are the unmistakable classic banjo rolls which could not be played,at this speed, except with the fingers. Very fine playing, no matter how it was done, funny that I have never come across this banjoist before.

thereallyniceman said:

Ah Ha,

 Inspector Marc Clouseau  Dalmasseau investigates!

Now we know that Thereallyniceman was correct all the time... Classic Style! ... and look where he picks the strings :-)

  AND on a Clifford Essex Banjo too!

Very interesting discussion about an amazing Classic Banjoist that I had never heard of!  Does anyone know more about him and his recordings?

Vance Lowry 1916

Born 1888, Emporia KS

Banjo and saxophone

Came to London in 1914 to play with Louis Mitchell's Southern Symphony Quintette (Mitchell, Lowry, Palmer Jones, Jesse Hope and William Riley) and again in 1916 to record with Dan Kildare in the "Ciro's Club Coon Orchestra". In 1917 he amended his passport to allow him to travel from London to Paris to play an engagement at the Alhambra Theater in Louis Mitchell's "Seven Spades". In 1921 he was performing in Paris at the Bar Gaya with French jazz composer and pianist Jean Wiener. He is described at the time as,

 

"A little before the opening, Vance Lowry introduced himself. He was a charming and cheerful Negro who spoke French well with a delicious American accent… a saxophone and banjo player who must be called one of the great figures of the early days of the Gaya." 

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2018   Created by thereallyniceman.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service