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Rufus Harley has a secret ...
January 19, 2014 11:40 AM   Subscribe

(whispers) "I play jazz on the bagpipes"

previously
posted by philip-random (33 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
good lord that's awful. Good post and all, but I can't quite get behind the flatness f the long notes.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:50 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I bet Yasunori Mitsuda would like this a lot.
posted by Redfield at 11:54 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


jump ahead to about 5:30 if you just want the awful flatness f ...
posted by philip-random at 11:57 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Cultural appropriation at its finest.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:01 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Dae ye ken, daddy-o
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:01 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Don't let a kinescope with bad studio miking steer you wrong.

The man could tear shit up.
posted by ardgedee at 12:10 PM on January 19 [12 favorites]


That's a thing all right. Thank God Roland Kirk never learned of this.
posted by aesop at 12:13 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Actually, ardgedee, that's not all that bad, is it? Wouldn't want to hear a whole set though.
posted by aesop at 12:14 PM on January 19


I remember this guy. Had the bad luck to play with him once. Could only could play on a drone. Couldn't play chord changes - didn't prevent him from trying. Ouch.
posted by charlesminus at 12:17 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


My sister played the bagpipes for a number of years when we were growing up. Sharing a small 1970s terraced council house with someone learning the bagpipes was probably why I spent most of my childhood outdoors.

Given that (traditionally, anyway) they're made from a sheep's stomach, and given that you blow up the bag with moist breath, they get quite 'nasty' inside. Nasty to the point that small flies choose the bag as the perfect warm, moist incubator to lay their eggs. Every now and then you have to pour what's euphemistically called 'seasoning' (I'm pretty sure it contained formaldehyde) into the bag to kill the maggots. Mmm. Delightful.
posted by pipeski at 12:20 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


I, for one, am so glad that I've now heard of Rufus Harley.

If you like the bagpipes (and why wouldn't you?!), try Bismillah Khan on the shehnai.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:24 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Or Yusef Lateef on the shehnai.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:26 PM on January 19


(Whoops, that's Ornette Coleman on the suona)
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:27 PM on January 19


Pipeski - wayyy too much information. Ugh.
posted by newdaddy at 12:27 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


> Wouldn't want to hear a whole set though.

Harley was one of those problematic figures in jazz, inasmuch as he was probably a good sideman but not a great leader (hat tip, charlesminus), soloing on an instrument that's usually deployed in ensemble. Doesn't it make you wonder whether somebody with Dolphy's versatility and sensitivity could have found something in the bagpipes that Harley couldn't? Or maybe that Dolphy, who'd already mastered a couple saxophones, the flute and bass clarinet, had given the bagpipes bit of study and decided it wasn't good for anything more than novelty value.

It's hard not to love Rufus Harley for his dedication to his calling and the decades of marginal status he had to endure for it. But it's also impossible to overlook the shortcomings in his recordings.
posted by ardgedee at 12:52 PM on January 19


Rufus was a local hero in Philadelphia. If he had only had a chanter made to play in tempered scales (thus losing a lot of the distinct character of the Scottish pipes) he would have gotten a bit more respect, but yes, he had chops and a personal vision, something a lot of musicians lack.

Some instruments are simply not designed to play every kind of music. Bagpipes in particular. The Bulgarian Gaida is an important national symbol in Bulgaria, and players are constantly finding ways to present it in modern contexts - usually by cross fingering all the accidental notes and playing without the drone. They get gigs galore. Not really the stuff I like, though.

And who needs Jazz pipes when there is the modern Turkish tulum scene happening, all around the eastern Black Sea coast.
posted by zaelic at 12:56 PM on January 19


if you like "I've Got a Secret", you're sure to like early BBC gameshow "How Many Hats"
posted by Authorized User at 12:57 PM on January 19


I do indeed ken.
posted by Daddy-O at 1:15 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't want to hear a whole set though.
I couldn't even make it through that second track :-(. He's certainly talented as a bagpipe player, but, in terms of playing jazz, it's kind of like being one off those people that can squirt coloured water out of their eyes - an interesting novelty but not particularly useful.
posted by dg at 1:17 PM on January 19


Gotta give him credit for ballsyness. Even playing a Highland pipes style chanter alone is really against the grain of jazz sensibility and really limits the kind of expression one might get, compared to just about any other folk reed instrument like shehnai or duduk.

I'd never really heard his playing before, and I'm not quite convinced it works as anything other than a novelty. Throw in a modulation that even a normally diatonic instrument like pennywhistle or harmonica can handle with a decent player, the Highland pipes really wants to plow on in that same distinct Highland mode.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:23 PM on January 19


That tune was pretty good until the bagpipes started.... Thanks for posting.
posted by Drew Glass at 3:03 PM on January 19


What is he doing to that bag of cats and why won't somebody stop him?
posted by KingEdRa at 4:05 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


What is he doing to that bag of cats and why won't somebody stop him?

Old joke and said about every piper that every lived.

And I love the pipes!
posted by BlueHorse at 4:17 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


He stopped abruptly. Somewhere close by, music was being played. It sounded like a drunken jazz band extemporizing on bagpipes; a wheezing, rambling cacophony. Valentine's face instantly became a portrait of distress. "God help us ..." he said softly and began to back away from Harry.
"What's the problem?"
"Do you know how to pray?"

Clive Barker, Cabal
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:29 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I can take this guy in very limited doses, but if there's a better use of bagpipes in popular music than It's A Long Way To The Top, by AC/DC, I have yet to hear it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:03 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


if you just want the awful flatness f

I do want it, I have decided. It is the aural equivalent of a mouth-puckeringly sour confection. Sometimes you do want to suck on a lemon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:04 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


It's weird, and awful and fun. Thanks. Now I know why my late mother's extensive record collection, which had plenty of jazz, and plent of recordings by pipers did not include Rufus Harley.
Even though he really couldn't play, he was brave for giving it a go, and he wasn't THAT bad.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:06 PM on January 19


First thing that came to mind watching this was Satan's calliope.
posted by deadwax at 4:35 AM on January 20


I saw him play at a bar in Philly, overall it was a blast but I would not buy his record.
posted by Mister_A at 7:34 AM on January 20


Wow. Tough room.

Thank God Roland Kirk never learned of this.

Because Kirk was already doing circular breathing? Which does the same thing the bag does -- make sustain unrelated to breath.

Don't let a kinescope with bad studio miking steer you wrong. The man could tear shit up.

Yeah, not to make excuses, but this tv appearance is pretty early in his career as a piper. Here's a bit of A Love Supreme, Rufus playing with Sun Ra.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:39 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


yeah, if he's good enough for Sun Ra ...
posted by philip-random at 11:02 AM on January 20


Q: Why do bagpipers always march while they play?
A: Because it's harder to hit a moving target.

>rim shot<
posted by Daddio at 12:02 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Thank God Roland Kirk never learned of this.
Because there would two bagpipes.
posted by aesop at 2:54 PM on January 26


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