Some etymology first. WEATHER BIRD (or WEATHER BIRD RAG) was composed by Louis Armstrong, first recorded in 1923 by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, then as a duet in 1928 by Louis and Earl Hines. The latter was an iconic recording — two great artists completely at play, leap-frogging and performing spectacular hide-and-seek for three minutes. No wonder Gerald Murphy named his yacht after that record, and if I am correct, had a copy of it built inside the hull.
I’d always thought a weatherbird was our “weather vane,” the metal or wood implement on top of a house or barn that pointed as the wind turned. (I doubted that it was some avian creature that by its appearance told of rain or clear weather.)
Looking deeper, I found the lines in — of all places — Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, where someone “hit the old weather-bird for three hundred dollars,” and the online definition that this referred to a long-shot bet . . . going back to when people would try to hit the weather vane on a barn to show they could throw or shoot. So — if you follow that line of reasoning, WEATHER BIRD might well be called HITTING THE JACKPOT AGAINST ALL ODDS, which is a good title to keep in mind for the music that follows.
Here are the peerless trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and the equally gifted pianist Ehud Asherie in duet at the West Tenth Street mecca for improvised music in New York City, Mezzrow, on December 16, 2014, venturing into Louis-and-Earl territory. To me, it’s also Roy Eldridge – Claude Bolling territory, ditto for Frank Newton and Art Tatum, for Ruby Braff and Dick Hyman. But I cherish Jon-Erik and Ehud, and you will too.
There is a small zoological digression . . . where the BIRD meets the TIGER. Ehud lets you know when the species switch, so no one can feel worried:
This is the first Musical Offering from that night at Mezzrow.
More to come. Thank you, peerless Zoologists.
May your happiness increase!