Boogie-Woogie Piano

boogie woogie land-photo-d-stewartToday, the 88th day of the year, is Piano Day. So CBC Radio q told me. One or another piano has kept me company almost all my life. And one very battered music book.

My sister bought Boogie-Woogie Land when she took piano lessons. So her playing was my introduction to boogie-woogie. That, and the book. There was a lot in it. The notes themselves – you could hear the music just by looking at them. Photos of glamorous people in Cafe Society nightclubs in New York City. And a short history of boogie-woogie and explanation of its techniques.

Many years later, on Holger Petersen’s Saturday Night Blues, I heard Meade Lux Lewis play Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie. Wow. Lifted me right out of my music book. I didn’t know you could do that with ten fingers and 88 keys.

Sammy Price dedicated his music book “to all those who feel a tingle up and down their spines when the strains of boogie-woogie are to be heard.” Here’s some of its story that he told.

Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons at Cafe SocietyThe Birth of Boogie-Woogie

On many occasions I have been referred to as one of the third generation boogie-woogie pianists… The first song that I ever learned to play on the piano was a blues. Even before that I recall a strange melody… Its title was “The Livery Stable Blues.”

Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have mentioned the blues. Let me explain that this is the basic foundation of boogie-woogie… The same chord structure used in playing blues may be used in boogie-woogie fashion by utilizing a repeated bass movement in the left hand and playing the melodic strain of a composition with the basic chords of the blues as a guide…

I believe it was originated by a piano player named Clarence Smith, who was perhaps better known as Pine-top Smith… He knew that when he took a strain of the blues and played this repeated bass, a new effect would be achieved. This he called boogie-woogie.

I have talked to a man named J. Mayo Williams, who is particularly familiar with Pine-top’s recordings. Williams met Pine-top in the middle Twenties and soon realized that here was something new and important in the field of blues and jazz. A series of conferences were held and in 1928 the first records were waxed in Chicago. On this historic day Pine-top talked continuously during the recordings to a mythical character in a red dress…

pianists mary lou williams and hazel scottBarney Josephson then opened Cafe Society Downtown in New York City and with his customary foresight he engaged Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and others who were top-notch at both the blues and boogie-woogie. Then came an event that thrilled some and shocked others; the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. Despite the fact that many of the critics were completely without understanding of this new music form, the recital was a success and boogie-woogie at last became respectable…

Here, thanks to YouTube, is that 1928 recording of Clarence Smith playing his Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie and telling the woman in the red dress to “shake that thing”. Oh yes, this is your grandma’s piano.

A Great Reckoning

Usually I read an author’s acknowledgement page first, even if it’s at the back of the book. But when I started A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny, for some reason I didn’t. And for that I am so thankful. Maybe it was Inspector Armand Gamache telling me – leave it, let the story tell its tale.

My three pines in misty morning photo d stewartMs Penny’s acknowledgements are heartfelt and heartbreaking. So too is her novel. After reading the last page of the novel, and letting my emotions and thoughts settle, I read the acknowledgements. Ah, I should have known. I should have known where this book fit in Ms. Penny’s real life story. But not knowing while reading it made both all the more moving.

This 2016 novel, 12th in the series, gives the history and geography of Three Pines. It explains some of the mysteries of this isolated little village in Quebéc’s Eastern Townships. It also tells some of the backstory of Inspector Gamache. I wasn’t sure, while reading, that I wanted to know these things. The formative aspects of Armand Gamache and Three Pines were mysteries, yes, and ones I no longer felt I needed to know about. But their telling was good. Knowing more of their histories hasn’t diminished my appreciation for either him or the village.

There are many reckonings in this book, murder being the central one. Many reverberations of Shakespeare’s line in As You Like It: “It strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.” Ms Penney uses that as her introductory quote. Paying up, consequences.

A Great Reckoning is best if you know Three Pines

I think this is the most beautiful book in the entire series. But don’t start with it. To see the beauty, and significance, you need to know Three Pines and Inspector Gamache’s history in the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force. It’s good also to already know the odd assortment of village residents. Then you get the full import of this story.

World War I is part of A Great Reckoning too. No matter what time of year you read it, that will stand out for you. But if you like to mark November 11th with a special personal tribute, read it then. If you haven’t read the series, you could start now and easily get to this one by Remembrance Day.

Amazon.ca for A Great Reckoning
Tap image to buy on Amazon.ca

Thank you, Ms Penny. It must have been very hard for you writing this book. I’m so glad you did. It will stay with me, phrases and images that bring a smile and a tear.

Louise Penny’s website has a lot about Three Pines and writing as well as the complete order of novels. There are two more published after A Great Reckoning and a new one due in August 2019 entitled A Better Man.

Fish Cakes

A can of tuna and presto, you’ve got fish cakes. Quick and easy, they make a simple or dressed up dinner or lunch. Tuna, bread crumbs, an egg, and onion. That’s all you need.

tuna fish cakes photo d stewart

Tuna + breadcrumbs = fish cakes

Open a 170 gram tin of tuna and drain the liquid. (Pour it into your cat or dog bowl and they’ll love you forever.) Put it in a medium size bowl and flake it with a fork. Add:

  • finely chopped onion (maybe 1-2 tbsp),
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs,
  • 1 beaten egg,
  • salt and pepper and whatever herbs or spices you like. Basil or rosemary works. Parsley flakes or finely chopped fresh. Cumin.

Mix everything well.

Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil in it at medium-high heat. Take a handful of tuna mixture in your hands and shape it into a small patty. Put it in the frying pan and repeat. You’ll get probably 5 patties.

Fry the patties a few minutes on one side then carefully with a spatula turn them over and let the other side cook. Both sides should be browned and a bit crispy.

Alternatives and serving

You can also use canned salmon or crab meat. Also salt cod, smoked salmon or fresh fish. (With salmon, I pull off the skin and larger bones and give them and the liquid to the cats and dog. It’s messy to pick out but I don’t like it and they do.)

Fresh fish must be cooked first. Just put the fillet in a frying pan and lightly fry it while flaking it at the same time. Leftover mashed potatoes works instead of bread crumbs as the filler. Or cracker crumbs.

You can add celery, olives, green or red pepper too, just finely dice everything so the pieces don’t make your patties too lumpy.

Serve your fish cakes with, well, anything. These ones are with steamed broccoli and penne with pesto. But they also go well with rice or any kind of potatoes, salad, potato or pasta salad. If you want twice as many patties, just double the ingredients.

Beothuk Great-Grandchild

Demasduit_Mary_March-lady-henrietta-martha-hamilton-1819-collectionscanada.gc_.ca
Demasduit portrait by Lady Henrietta Hamilton 1819

Two hundred years ago today, John Peyton of Twillingate and his party abducted a Beothuk woman, Demasduit. Her husband Nobosbawsut was killed while trying to protect her. Shortly after, her child died. Demasduit’s captors called her Mary March. They took her to Twillingate, then St. John’s. Too late, they decided to take her back to her people. She died January 8, 1890 on board HMS Grasshopper.

In April 1823, Demasduit’s niece Shanawdithit was captured. Her mother and sister, who were abducted along with her, died of tuberculosis soon after. Shanawdithit lived another six years and taught her captors much about her people – their language and way of life. She died on June 6, 1829, believed to be the last of the Beothuk.

The_taking_of_Demasduit-drawn-by-shanawdithit-1829-wikipedia
The taking of Demasduit, drawn by Shanawdithit 1829, notes by W E Cormack (tap to enlarge)

In 1966, nearly a century and a half after Demasduit was captured, Harry Cuff wrote about Annie Gabriel White of Stephenville. She said her great-grandfather was a Beothuk man named Gabriel. Annie and Richard White were the parents of the late chief Benedict White of Stephenville.

Great-Grandchild of a Beothuk, by Harry Cuff 1966

Harry Cuff NQ 1966 Beothuk Great-Grandchild
Tap to enlarge or see original at Newfoundland Quarterly 1966 65:2:25

For years, most of those who have written about the Beothucks have been repeating, with apparent acceptance, the story that there were only thirteen Beothucks living at the time of Shawnadithit’s capture in 1823. The basis of this story is the report that Shawnandithit told this to W. E. Cormack. But giving full credit to the nomadic Beothucks for having had a thorough knowledge of the island, even the slightly sceptical reader would be inclined to question the reliability of a census for a 42,000 square mile area, given by a twenty-five year old woman, a century and a half ago.

Fifteen years ago when I began teaching Newfoundland history in Grand Falls (deep in Beothuck territory), I encouraged my students’ speculations about the actual fate of the Beothuck race. Having sparked their interest with a tale passed along to me by a friend who had been in conversation with a west coast Micmac, whose grandfather reputedly had shot a Beothuck on Red Indian Lake about the year 1850, it was necessary to curb the desire of some of the more romantic souls to organize an expedition to cross the Exploits River and seek a remnant of the Beothuck race. A more familiar story which served to intensify our historical cynicism was that of a white man who had been captured by Beothucks, married a Beothuck girl and fathered her child but escaped and return to live in a white settlement. Might not this have happened in reverse, we wondered? Might not a Beothuck man have married a white (or Micmac) woman and settled in a white community to raise a family, some member of which might be alive today?

Last month I talked to a woman who states with pride that her great-grandfather was a full-blooded Red Indian, i.e., a Beothuck. Mrs. Richard White, a resident of Stephenville, told me her grandfather, Joe Gabriel, never tired of telling her that he was the son of a full-blooded Beothuck named Gabriel who came from the interior of the island to Grand River in the Codroy Valley, where he married a Micmac girl. Mrs. White, whose picture accompanies this article, traced her ancestry as shown below.
______________________________________________________

Gabriel (full-blooded Beothuck) —m— Full-blooded Micmac girl

Joe Gabriel—married—Miss Gillam

Fred Gabriel —married — Margaret Cormier

Anne Gabriel (Mrs. Richard White)

______________________________________________________

Is it possible that among the many descendants of Gabriel, there can be found some of the unique physical characteristics of the Beothucks?

During the interview I was told another fascinating story by Mrs. White’s husband—a story related to him about the year 1920 by Paul Benoit, then a man in his nineties, who had been told the story when a boy by John Young, an old Micmac trapper. Young, when in his prime, set out on a hunting trip one fall travelling by sea from Journois Brook to the mouth of the Humber, thence by canoe to Sandy Lake and overland to a place later called Mary March Brook. There he met some white hunters from Notre Dame Bay who were looking for Beothucks. Young joined them, and shortly thereafter they came upon a Beothuck couple. The male Beothuck fired several arrows at his pursuers, who finally had to shoot him in defence, and they then attempted to capture the woman. She shot two arrows at them, but in trying to escape, she broke her snowshoe strap, and she was captured with four arrows remaining in her “caribou pouch.” Despite her advanced state of pregnancy, the Beothuck woman was restrained only with difficulty, and had to be lashed to a sleigh, which event hastened the birth of her child. Related in the 1920’s before Dick White had heard the Mary March story, it bears a startling resemblance to the better-known story of John Peyton’s capture of Mary March in 1819.

Mr. and Mrs. White related these stories (which we have not attempted to verify) to the writer and Melvin Rowe, CBC News Director, during a social evening in Mr. Rowe’s home. We feel that a search for similar tales among the remnants of the Micmac race would yield rich dividends.

cover howley beothuk bookThe Beothucks or Red Indians by James P. Howley 1915 has many accounts of the capture of Demasduit and subsequent encounters with Beothuk. See especially pp 91-129.

According to Ben White, Joseph Gabriel’s parents were Andre “Teesh” Gabriel and Mary Ann Hall. His wife was Ester Mary Rachel Gillam.

Mr. Cuff, publisher and author, died in August 2013 at the age of 85.