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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Fate Marable born 2 December 1890

Fate Marable (2 December 1890 – 16 January 1947) was a jazz pianist and bandleader.

Marable was born in Paducah, Kentucky, and learned piano from his mother. At age 17, he began playing on the steam boats plying the Mississippi River. He soon became bandleader for boats on the Streckfus Line, which ran several paddle wheelers which held dances and excursions along the river from New Orleans, Louisiana to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Marable appreciated the new "jazz" sound being played by the New Orleans musicians, and the bulk of his band members were recruited from that city.

Members of Marable's bands were expected to be able to play a wide variety of music, from hot numbers to light classics, both play by head and from sheet music, and above all to keep the dancers happy. Marable was a strict bandleader, demanding musical proficiency and rigid discipline from all his band members, yet allowing them to develop their individual strong points. For instance, Louis Armstrong's gift for improvisation was recognised as such by Marable, and he allowed him to improvise his breaks rather than play them note for note. Marable's band served as an early musical education for many other players who would later become prominent in jazz, including Red Allen, Baby Dodds, Johnny Dodds, Pops Foster, Narvin Kimball, Al Morgan, Jimmy Blanton, and Zutty Singleton.

 (A handsome and dynamic young Louis Armstrong (third from right) looks ready to fly off his chair. The other players, left to right: Henry Kimball, Boyd Atkins, Fate Marable, John St. Cyr, David Jones, Norman Mason, Norman Bradshear, and Baby Dodds, aboard the S.S. Capitol, c. 1919. [Photo courtesy of Duncan Schiedt.])

In addition to piano and band leading, Marable played the boats' steam calliope, a contraption that could be heard for miles up and down the river and poured down so much water from condensing steam that Marable performed wearing a raincoat and hood. In the mid-1940's Marable left the rivers and settled in St. Louis, where he played in clubs.

Fate Marable died of pneumonia in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 56 years old. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Ky.

Unfortunately, the only recordings of Marable's band, Frankie and Johnny and Pianoflage from 1924, are quite poor musically and technically, so the power and beauty of his bands are lost to history.  (Info mainly Wikipedia)

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