The great innovators began as imitators and emulators, but their glory is they went beyond attempts to reproduce their models: think of Louis and Joe Oliver, think of Bird and Chu Berry, of Ben and Hawk.
I was present for a glorious example of honoring the innovators on January 30, 2020, at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York, when Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, cornet, and more; Murray Wall, string bass; Joe Cohn, guitar, crated merriment, art, and enlightenment. I’ve posted their extravagant ROYAL GARDEN BLUES here. It’s worth the nine minutes and ten seconds of your time.
A few songs later, Jon-Erik suggested that Scott take the lead for a performance, which he did, most splendidly, with FOOLIN’ MYSELF. Yes, it’s a homage to a heard Lester and a remembered Billie, but it also takes in a fragment of Rex Stewart’s BOY MEETS HORN, and creates on the spot a riff reminiscent of Fats’ HANDFUL OF KEYS as reimagined by Ruby Braff:
Thus it isn’t the little box of Homage or Tribute but a large world, elastic, expansive, gratifying. The way to honor the trail-blazers is to blaze trails.
Postscript: this is being posted on Tuesday, February 18. On Thursday, the 20th, Scott will be leading a quartet at that very same Cafe Bohemia, with sets at 8 and 10. Break the piggy bank and come down the stairs!
May your happiness increase!