Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stu's musical influences

And here are a few words from Ian Stewart himself, taken from his liner notes to the 1979 album "Rocket 88" (more on that album later on):

My first love, musically speaking, was the sound of boogie woogie piano. Although I first heard it practiced on commercial records by the white swing bands of the Forties, I soon discovered Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson; and to this day I still find Ammons' Blue Note recordings and the Ammons/Johnson duets very moving. From that point it was a natural progression to the records of Ammons and Johnson  backing Joe Turner, Sippie Wallace and others; The Bluebird label recordings of Bob Call and Big Maceo (the latter in my opinion the only player to rank with Ammons); Milt Buckner with the unbelievable Lionel Hampton (in the late Forties); the bands of New Orleans pianists Fats Domino and Amos Milburn; Sammy Price backing blues and gospel artists for U.S. Decca; and the great R&B artists of the Fifties, such as Wynonie Harris and Louis Jordan - in whose bands the pianos played eight to the bar and the saxes ruled.

I dreamt of one day organizing a band with these influences. When I first met Brian Jones in 1962, he said that he wanted to form a rhythm & blues band; and I had hoped that he had a Wynonie Harris sort of thing in mind. I was a little disappointed at the time that his idea of R&B was Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters - styles that did not always leave too much space for pianos and tenor saxes.

The idea of a boogie woogie band was forgotten until 1978, when some of England's best musicians celebrated the 50th anniversary of boogie woogie, a term which had first appeared on a record label in 1928 ("Pinetop's Boogie Woogie"). The first concert was largely instrumental, but was successful; and the formula was repeated, while giving more freedom to the horns and introducing vocals from Alexis Korner - and later from Danny Adler and others. Working by necessity from a pool of musicians, we arrived at Rocket 88, a band with the best horn players in Europe, a very powerful rhythm section, and the only boogie woogie piano team in the world.

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