BY THE LIGHT OF LOUIS

LOUIS and ALPHA and dog

I’ve written this before, but when I hear Louis Armstrong, I have great difficulty keeping myself from standing up instantly and putting my hand over my heart.

LOUIS cartoon in Melody Maker Jan. 1933

But I also feel that way about music that reminds me of Louis.  I don’t simply mean WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH or THE FAITHFUL HUSSAR, but any music that’s beautifully and reverently played, with emphasis on melodic improvisation in swing.  That happens fairly regularly, thank goodness, with the musicians I follow.  And it happened most beautifully at the end of the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party (now the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) during the closing ballad medley.

I know that Norman Granz got the credit for introducing the ballad medley to jazz concerts — that is, rather than have everyone on stage take a long solo on a ballad, thus making for a musical interlude of nearly an hour at a slow tempo, he would have his soloists take one chorus only on a ballad that they’d chosen, with the rhythm section keeping the same slow tempo but changing key — but I wonder if credit shouldn’t go first or simultaneously to Eddie Condon, for whom this was a regular feature in clubs and broadcasts and even recordings.  Condon’s medleys were a bit more brisk — what generations ago musicians and listeners called “rhythm ballads” — but they were delightful interludes.

Joe Boughton, founder of the Allegheny Jazz Party (and Jazz at Chautauqua and other gifts) would have followed the Condon model — I think JATP was anathema to him.  Since he loved obscure show tunes and songs that would otherwise be forgotten, he insisted that his parties close with an extended ballad medley before a final jam tune.

A beautiful evocation of what Riley and Clint Baker call LOUISNESS happened once again at the 2015 Party (September 13, 2015) when all the musicians trooped onstage to play or sing one heartfelt chorus.  Here are six of the best: soloists Scott Robinson, tenor [WAS I TO BLAME?}; Duke Heitger, trumpet [BODY AND SOUL]; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet [HOME] with lovely rhythm section support from Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

I think of Joe Oliver sternly telling his protege that people wanted to hear that lead . . . and of Louis always embodying that the song was lovely and that one had to play it from the heart.

What music is all about; what music does at its best.

May your happiness increase!

3 responses to “BY THE LIGHT OF LOUIS

  1. mediamixent@aol.com

    I love reading your blog and hope that you may get a chance to see our Tribute to the Three Louies at Ocean County College on Wednesday June 8th. The three Louies being of course Armstrong, Prima and Jordan. We did this show for the New Jersey Jazz Society in 2012 and get a chance to reprise it here. Swingadelic is not a trad or “hot jazz” band in any sense, but everyone loves Louis and we’ll be focusing on the latter part of his career. Here’s the Facebook link to the event.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/807283899401680/

    Our lineup is Vanessa Perea/vocals, John Bauers/vocals & piano, Robert Edwards/trombone, Carlos Francis/trumpet, Audrey Welber/tenor sax and clarinet, Andrei Koribonics/drums, Dave Post/bass.

    Hope you might make it, if not please keep the entertaining writing coming to my mailbox!

    Regards,

    Dave Post http://www.swingadelic.com 201-294-7308

  2. This is what I call music!! I just shut my eyes, tap my foot, and enjoy the music,,I can’t just listen to these videos once, They are so good, Thank you my dear nephew,

  3. I love that Music Maker drawing – and the wonderful music and video in hight quality.

    all the best from
    Erik

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