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Harpsichord in jazz


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I was listening to Ben Webster - See You at the Fair and Roger Kellaway plays harpsichord on a couple tracks. It sounds ok on Lullaby of Jazzland but obviously piano, vibes and guitar are far more popular instruments in jazz ensembles. It's obvious why--the harpsichord is more nasal, tinny and lacks the resonances and sustain of the other rhythm instruments I mentioned that provide greater rhythmic and harmonic support. Not to mention soloing possibilities. It is interesting in a novelty kind of way to hear harpsichord in small ensemble jazz. But I don't like the sound. I know Lux Lewis worked on harpsichord and celeste too.

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I love harpsichord, but only the models up to the 18th century. In the 20th century they started building harpsichords according to construction principles of modern pianos, in higher pitches and modern tunings which do not work very well with the sound of plucked strings as in the harpsichord - it needs the lower string tension and histroric tuning systems, and the thin soundboard to sound really fine.

I have several jazz recordings with harpsichord, but the instruments used necessarily are modern ones and do not sound very good - rather thin.

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:lol:

My only point of reference is the celeste on Profoundly Blue, and frankly I can't shake the image that it's just a really tiny Meade Lux Lewis sitting in with the band.

But, to each his own.

:rfr If they'd used an 18th century harpsichord perhaps I'd see the light. :w

Edited by papsrus
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There's the Hank Jones/Oliver Nelson album, Happenings, which also features Clark Terry. Hank Jones plays electric harpsichord on many of the tracks. I've only listened to it once, but that might be because I acquired so many Hank Jones albums around the same time that I enjoyed more readily.

Edited by Justin V
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