Another gem by Joe Morley. This time we are on our camels as we follow the trade routes through the desert, swinging from side to side as we go. At this pace, they would have to be lively camels!

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Comment by thereallyniceman on August 4, 2020 at 7:46

How nice to see Tapis back on his camel. I hope you got the pretty one Tony :-)

Superb playing and what a great sound from that banjo!!

Keep them coming please.... and yes this is "another gem" from Joe, and Tapis.

Comment by Rob Murch on August 4, 2020 at 13:59

Great playing as always Tony. Like Ian said, a great sounding banjo too. Thank you. 

Comment by Richard William Ineson on August 4, 2020 at 14:07

Very nice, an interesting tune, lovely banjo tone.

Comment by TONY BRYAN on August 4, 2020 at 16:40

Thanks, guys.

I am always trying to relate the titles of pieces to possible inspiration for the form, structure, melody etc., but Desert Trail just doesn't translate easily into a Middle East fantasy: if you play it slow enough to match the real swaying of camels, it becomes too slow to maintain interest.  Anyway, the metronome mark on the piano part is 108bpm, which is about the speed I play it here.   On the other hand, the twenties and thirties were awash with Egyptomania in all the arts, following the discovery of King Tut, so a title like Desert Trail would have gone with the flow.  

And yet, in 1928 - five years before Morley published Desert Trail - Maurice Ravel debuted his Bolero.  While the tempo of Ravel's piece is much slower than Morley's, the rhythm is played throughout as bass plus triplets on the drums.  I challenge you to listen to Bolero with you banjo on your knee and not find yourself picking up the rhythm of the thumb plus triplets.  If you were Morley, would you be moved to add your own tune to Ravel's bolero rhythm?  Having played along to Ravel a few times, I am convinced that it is closer to Morley's inspiration than the Sahara Desert. 

What do you think?  Do we know any more about Desert Trail? 



Comment by Trapdoor2 on August 4, 2020 at 19:53

As you mention, the "Orientale" rage of the 1920s that stems from Carter's opening of King Tut's tomb really set some common motifs in the popular consciousness. Desert Trail opens with a common orientale rhythmic structure...all it really needs is a "snake dance" quote and it would be complete.

One doesn't need the piece to go totally off the rails and into the sand, it just needs a few hints and the rest of humankind understands completely. I think Morley understood this and with a simple "oriental" rhythm, he sets the mood.

Nicely played, lovely tone. Well done!

Comment by TONY BRYAN on August 5, 2020 at 14:39

Thanks. Your mention of going into the sand set me off on a different track, and I looked up what Wilson Kepple and Betty were doing at this time, and found that in 1933 they were featured in the annual Royal Variety Performance.  Wilson and Kepple formed their dancing duet in 1920, and were quite capable of adding a sand dance to their repertoire when the Tutmania craze broke in 1921 (my sources are unsure when the sand dance was added to the routine).  At the time they were touring in Canada and the USA.  Betty joined in 1928, and the act was introduced to London in 1932 at the London Palladium. 

The music that Wilson Kepple and Betty used for the sand dance was from The Egyptian Ballet by Alexandre Luigini, written in 1875.  Though not at all 'Oriental' to modern ears, the selected ballet music was relatively up-tempo and with short sections that allowed for changes in the dance routine. 

So, taking all the coincidences together, and the fact that Morley would have been in London at this time, it is possible that Desert Trail owes more to the WK&B sand dance than to Sahara (1925) or Caravan(1936). 

It's also interesting to look back at the comments to Mike Moss' video of Desert Trail of January 2012.  They go off on an altogether different track (or trail?).  Shame Mike's video has been removed. 

Comment by Joel Hooks on August 5, 2020 at 14:49

Thanks for sharing!  This is one of the more enjoyable pieces (for me) by Morley.  He gets a bit hippty hoppity in much of his work and this one comes off as more serious or something.

The trio is fun to play too!

Interesting, "Sand Dance" in the US has a different meaning.  It is a version of dance where the performer puts sand down on the stage.  While dancing they scrap and rub the soles of their shoes on the sand to make a rhythm effect. This dance was usually associated as part of the minstrel show, later vaudeville, and even later as part of tap dancing.

Different from the stereotypes of this discussion, "sand dance" for the US is a stereotype of southern slaves or black people.

Comment by Jody Stecher on August 5, 2020 at 17:14

"Sand Dance" seems to have had the same meaning in Britain. During these lockdown days I have been perusing Honeyman's Strathspey, Reel and Hornpipe Tutor, published in Dundee in 1898. The hornpipe section goes into detail about how 3 different kinds of hornpipe are bowed on the violin/fiddle and the speed at which each is played. Sometimes the same tune with no change in melody appears 3 times each with appropriate bowing indications. Sand dance bowing is one of the 3 ways.

To compli-ma-cate the matter, the title "Dessert Trail" evokes in me not "the east" but the American Southwest. "Trail" is a rather Arizona-ish word. 

Comment by carrie horgan on August 5, 2020 at 17:24

Brilliant playing Tony - looks very difficult to play!  

Comment by TONY BRYAN on August 5, 2020 at 17:48

Thanks, Carrie.  It’s so difficult that it’s hard to believe my fingers didn’t leave my hands!

Jody, it is interesting to note that in 1935 the movie The Desert Trail was released, starring John Wayne.  How about them potatoes?  Could there have been some advanced publicity in 1932/33?  Happy trails?  The Chisholm Trail?  All along, along the Colorado Trail?  Can this have been the summer Joe Morley spent a month at a dude ranch?  Back to the drawing board! 


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