[Dixielandjazz] front line / back line - Lu Watters & YBJB

Robert S. Ringwald robert at ringwald.com
Sat Jan 22 16:39:28 PST 2005

Dave Bilgray dbilgray at well.com asks:

> A question about front line / back line.
> I recently noticed a drawing of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band, led by Lu
> Watters, which started the trad jazz revival in San Francisco.
> The physical placement of the musicians caught my attention.  Front line
> was banjo, drums and piano.  Back line was everything else.  Almost
> exactly the opposite of nearly every trad band I've seen/heard.   Seems
> like a sensible arrangement, since it allows all the players and
> instruments to be both seen and heard more clearly.
> But when I search with google, the Lu Watters front line is always
> described as clarinet, cornet, trombone.
> Does anyone know about this?  Was this just artistic license?  Or did
> Watters have different configs?  Did other bands do it this way?  If so,
> were they following a pattern of bands of the 20s, or earlier?


When the front line is listed as cornet, clarinet & trombone, it means
musically, not physical location.

While I never saw the YBJB in person, I have heard that Lu set the band up
as you say above, rhythm section in front & the horns behind.

This certainly makes sense since it would make it much easier for the
musicians to hear each other.

However, with horns playing with the power that the Watters band played, it
could be tough on the ears of the rhythm section sitting in front of them.

I have worked with a 10 piece band, "Sugar Willie and the Cubes" who set up
in the Watters config.  luckily I was playing piano so I was not in front of
the horns.

See http://www.ringwald.com click on Sugar Willie and the Cubes, toward the
bottom of the front page.

--Bob Ringwald K6YBV
Placerville, CA USA

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