I think of the deliriously pleasurable precedent established by Bent Persson and friends some forty years ago — that of understanding Louis Armstrong and colleagues so deeply and expertly that they could move in and out of his music, embellishing a characteristic phrase here or there, reminding us gently of a particularly memorable invention, but ultimately, going for themselves. Bent and colleagues are still playing beautifully, but here are some slightly younger players from Norway, having the most wonderful time with Louis’ music. These three performances were recorded at Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri, Oslo, on February 17, 2018, and they are made available to us through reed virtuoso Lars Frank’s YouTube channel.
They are the Norwegian Jazz Kings, and I am not going to argue with a single letter of that band-title. On trumpet and cornet, Torstein Kubban; on clarinet and saxophone, Lars Frank; playing the bass saxophone and sousaphone, Christian Frank; piano, Morten Gunnar Larsen; banjo and guitar, Børre Frydenlund. I have a particularly warm feeling for Torstein, Lars, and Morten, because I met and spoke with them several times at the jazz party formerly known as the Whitley Bay Jazz Party. Christian and Børre I know from recordings, and admire them deeply as well. (Incidentally, the gentleman sitting right in front of the sousaphone is friend-of-jazz, patron-of-the-arts, and record producer Trygve Hernaes, whom I also know from visits to Newcastle.)
These three videos honor the exalted period of Louis’ life when he was working with Earl Hines, Johnny Dodds, Baby Dodds, and Zutty Singleton. Certainly regal even if not Norwegian.
I don’t know the order in which these pieces were performed, but let’s begin this blogpost with the lyrical and majestic TWO DEUCES, by Miss Lil:
Here’s a riotous but precise frolic on COME ON AND STOMP STOMP STOMP. I had to play it several times because I couldn’t believe it. I’m amazed that the fire marshals were not called in. (I adore the translated title on the Dodds record. Don’t you?):
And for me what is the piece de reistance, POTATO HEAD BLUES. In case of historical quibbling, just remember Louis’ words, “Cat had a head shaped like a potato”:
As befits any person or organization in this century, the Norwegian Jazz Kings have a Facebook page. Those in the know will immediately go there and do the fashionable act of “liking” it. And since the wonders of cyberspace are limitless, here you can read the menu of the Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri, an Oslo landmark since the 1700s. It made me hungry and wistful at the same time.
What a band, balancing elegance and focused power. I wish them well and look forward to more marvels.
May your happiness increase!