Lee Green – Complete Recorded Works Vol 1 (1929 – 1930)
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Leothus Lee Green
Complete Recorded Works 10th July 1929 11 October 1937
Vol. 1: 10th July 1929 to 10th January 1930
Featuring the recordings of:
Leothus Green, vocal on 1, 6/ piano /speech on 2, 3. F. T. Thomas (as by George Hambone” Ruthers), vocal; accompanied by unknown, alto sax; Leothus Green, piano Lee Green, vocal / piano. Lee Green, vocal / piano (11); or: Lee Green, piano solo (12). Lee Green, vocal / piano; unknown, guitar. Lee Green, vocal / piano Lee Green, vocal; accompanied by Nathaniel Dogan, piano.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Mississippi Blues, Piano Blues, Hokum, Barrelhouse Piano, Piano Solo, Boogie-woogie,
Lee (Leothus-‘Porkchops”) Green is a shadowy figure in the history of blues piano playing, but nevertheless, one of some importance. His forty-four solo recordings (an ironic coincidence) and two accompaniments made between 1929 and 1937 maintain a fairly high standard of playing and express consistently the unique personality of a rough, self-confident musician. Beyond this, he is important because he served as a kind of father figure and teacher to Roosevelt Sykes and provided a documentable link between Sykes and Eurreal “Little Brother” Montgomery. Documents two album volumes of Green’s complete recordings makes it possible to actually weigh the things that Sykes and Montgomery have said about music, Lee Green and each other, against a substantial body of relevant recorded sound. Beyond the obvious case of the “44s” (which has been thoroughly presented in Paul Oliver‘s essay, “The Forty-Fours” in Screening the Blues), listening to Little Brother’s Farrish Street Jive and comparing it to Green’s Dud Low Joe, or listening to Green’s Death Bell Blues and comparing it to almost any slow blues by Little Brother makes the connection between these two clear. Likewise, the overlap between Sykes’ and Green’s recorded repertoire is considerable, and, though Sykes was certainly the greater player, it is also evident that much of the substance of his blues style and probably some of his repertoire derived from Green’s playing. Lee Green seems to have been born around the turn of the century, possibly in Mississippi. The earliest detailed recollection of him was made by Little Brother Montgomery, speaking about his early days in Vicksburg and the genesis of the traditional piano blues, the “44s”: “So there was a feller there by the name of Lee Green used to be always hangin’ around us tryin’ to get in on it (the “44s”)… he was a clothes presser in Vicksburg. So then I met him again in Sondheimer, Louisiana, and I taught him to play the 44 Blues then and later years he taught them to Roosevelt so they beat me to Chicago and put them out.” Little Brother placed the Sondheimer meeting in 1922. Roosevelt Sykes first remembered seeing Lee Green in 1925. Sykes admired Green and remembered hearing him play waltzes, ragtime and jazz as well as blues. “I was on the jazz side before Lee taught me the blues. We travelled together for quite a few years – went for brothers playing in the same town for different people.” They both made their first recordings within less than a month of each other. Sykes’ voice can be heard conversing and commenting on a number of Green’s records. Based on the evidence of the zany and somewhat incoherent Pork Chop Stomp and Washboard Rub Green must have been a relatively accomplished performer, not only of blues, but of the ragtime cum stride idiom prevalent among the more sophisticated “Western” and “Southern” barrelhouse and vaudeville musicians of the 1920s. Washboard Rub is especially rich in parody quotations from Zez Confrey‘s Kitten on the Keys and Earl Hines‘ famous accompaniment to Louis Armstrong in Weatherbird. Echoes of Armstrong and the 1920s persist in the two accompaniments to F. T. Thomas where an unknown saxophone player assists with almost unbroken double-time breaks and fills as if he were being paid by the note. This kind of accompaniment may have provided the underlying impulse behind the florid right-hand style developed later by Sykes. After Green’s first recording session this idiom was left behind and over the next year and a half he recorded twenty-four titles with only five duplications, all but two of these were in a consistent blues aesthetic that was varied in technical resources, but remained personal and effective. The two exceptions are both send-ups. Washday And No Soap is thinly disguised smut delivered with bone-headed simplicity and I Don’t Care If The Boat Don’t Land is a parody of W. C. Handy‘s Yellow Dog Blues, by this time out of date by more than twenty years. After a four-year hiatus, Lee Green returned to the studio with a somewhat firmer sense of time and touch and in a mellower frame of mind – Listen to Round The World Blues and The Way I Feel. Two of his best blues, 44 Blues and Memphis Fives, are brought back for one more hearing and they have changed somewhat.William W. Westcott Copyright 1993: Document Records.