Tag Archives: satchmo

DEBRA’S PLATTER PARTY (1952-1953)

I imagine a teenager, Debra, who has her friends over in her parents’ rec room, perhaps the den, perhaps the basement with knotty pine walls.  Her little brother wants to come and join them but Debra firmly refuses.  This is for her friends, not for twirps.  Debra and  her friends have a few bottles of soda which they pour into aluminum tumblers; there is a bag of potato chips.  But the main focus is the music.

RCA 45

Debra has a pile of new 45 rom records and she has gotten a special record player for her birthday — one of those with a big center spindle.

She stacks up a pile of the current hits: Les Paul and Mary Ford, Tony Bennett, Percy Faith, Jo Stafford, Frankie Laine, Eddie Fisher, Patti Page, Perry Como, Teresa Brewer, Kay Starr, Leroy Anderson, Al Martino, and someone the kids don’t immediately recognize.  He sings familiar songs: COLD COLD HEART, BECAUSE OF YOU, MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE, I’LL KEEP THE LOVELIGHT BURNING.

He has an unusual voice — rough yet tender — and there is a really impressive trumpet player on the records.  “Who is that singing, Debra?” one of the girls asks.  “Don’t you know Satchmo?” Debra responds.  “Satchmo?” says Julie.  “What kind of name is Satchmo?”  “Oh, that’s Louis Armstrong,” another friend pipes in.  “He’s a jazz musician.  My parents listen to him all the time.”  “He sounds really good,” says Julie.  “Let me see the record,” says one of the other girls.

And so taste is formed.

satchmo serenades

And, yes, there was life before Bill Haley and his Comets, before Elvis.

These ruminations are the result of a trip to a fabled flea market in Alameda, California, where the only thing either of us purchased was this set of two extended-play 45 rpm records — for a dollar.

I have invented the little scenario above because my copy is well-loved and well-played, and Debra wrote her name on the front cover and on the label of each record.  They were hers, you know, and she wasn’t going to get them mixed up with anyone else’s records.

There was a time when “popular music” wasn’t so energetically polarized, when people gathered communally to listen to records, to enjoy, to comment, to discuss.  Life before earbuds.  When Satchmo serenaded, and no one recoiled from “jazz,” or “Dixieland,” or “your parents’ music.”

We can’t bring back those days — or can we?  Play some music for a friend or colleague or family member . . . see if you can send them some old-fashioned good vibrations.  I’m going to play SATCHMO SERENADES when I get back to New York.

Where is Debra?

May your happiness increase.

PREACHERS OF BEAUTY: “SATCHMO AT SYMPHONY HALL,” COMPLETE and HEARD ANEW

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, men would believe & adore & for a few generations preserve the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these preachers of beauty, & light the Universe with their admonishing smile.”  — Emerson

It is a substantial irony that some may regard a new recording — or a new complete issue of an already beloved Louis Armstrong recording — as we do the stars: beautiful but to be taken for granted, because they are and will always be there.

I am listening to the new complete issue of SATCHMO AT SYMPHONY HALL (the sixty-fifth anniversary issue) with my own kind of Emersonian delight.  And my pleasure isn’t primarily because of the extra half-hour of music and speech I had never heard before, although thirty minutes of this band, this evening, is more than any ordinary half-hour on the clock.  Permit me to call the roll — not only Louis in magnificent form, playing and singing, but also Jack Teagarden, Sidney Catlett, Arvell Shaw, Dick Cary, Barney Bigard, and Velma Middleton.  Some of my joy comes from hearing music once again that has been dear to me for thirty years — the sweet ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, the charging MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, Teagarden’s tender, delicate STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, the serious BLACK AND BLUE, the electrifying STEAK FACE and MOP MOP (formerly titled BOFF BOFF).

What strikes me once again is the beautiful cohesion of this band.  I know that others see this period of Louis’ artistic life as a gentle downhill slide into “popularity” and “showmanship”; these views, I think, could be blown away with an intent hearing of HIGH SOCIETY.  This edition of the All-Stars (with or without hyphen) is uniformly superb, happy, and focused.

Teagarden’s playing is simply awe-inspiring (ask any trombonist about it) and his singing delicious, with none of the near-fatigue that occasionally colored his later work.  Arvell Shaw never got the credit he deserved as a string bassist, but his time and tone couldn’t be better, providing a deep, rocking rhythmic foundation for the band.  Dick Cary, nearly forgotten, is once again an ideal pianist — never setting a foot wrong in ensembles and offering shining, individualistic solos that sound like no one else.  Barney Bigard is sometimes off-mike but his work is splendidly energized, his tone full and luscious.  Velma Middleton fit this band beautifully — emotional and exuberant, clearly inspiring both audiences and the All-Stars.  And readers of JAZZ LIVES should know how I revere Sidney Catlett, at one of his many peaks that night in Symphony Hall.  Much has been made of the ideal partnerships in jazz — Bird and Dizzy, Duke and Blanton, Pres and Basie . . . but Louis and Sidney deserve to be in that number, with Sid not only supporting but lifting every member of the band throughout the evening.  The little percussive flourishes with which Sid accents the end of a performance are worthy of deep study.  But this band is more than a group of soloists — they work together with affection and enthusiasm.

Louis himself is sublimely in charge.  Consider the variety of tempos — almost a lost art today — and the pacing of a two-hour show, not only so that he wouldn’t tire himself out (there is much more playing here, even on the “features” for other musicians, than one would expect) but so that the audience would be charged with the same emotional energy for two hours.  And his playing!  There are a few happy imperfections, reminding us that he was human and that trumpet playing at this level is not for amateurs.  But overall I feel his mastery, subtly expressed.  I hear a leisurely power.  Yes, there were piles of handkerchiefs inside the piano (playing the trumpet is physically arduous) but one senses in Louis the dramatized image of a jungle cat who knows he has only to stretch out a huge paw to accomplish what he wants.

Inside this package are the original notes (Armstrongians of a certain vintage can quote sections of Ernie Anderson’s text at will) and a new appreciation by our man Ricky Riccardi.  Beautiful photographs, too — several of them including the only shot known of the band at Symphony Hall for this concert — new to me.

Some discussions of this set, weighing the merits of its purchase, have focused on the question of “How much more is there that we haven’t heard?” surely a valid question — although it came to sound as if music could be weighed like apples or peanuts.  Briefly, there are a good number of “new” spoken introductions by Louis and others, short versions of SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH and I’VE GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES, complete versions of previously edited performances — BLACK AND BLUE, ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, TEA FOR TWO, and performances wholly “new”: a seven-minute VELMA’S BLUES with plenty of Louis and Sidney, a somber ST. JAMES INFIRMARY, a mock-serious BACK O’TOWN BLUES, and a vigorous JACK-ARMSTRONG BLUES.  For some readers, that will not be enough to warrant a purchase, which I couldn’t argue with.  However, this is a limited edition of 3000 copies . . . so those who wait might find themselves regretting their delay.

For me, it’s a “Good deal,” to quote both Louis and Sidney — we can’t go back to November 30, 1947, but this set is the closest thing possible to spending an evening in the company of the immortals.  Thanks and blessings are due to Ricky Riccardi, the late Gosta Hagglof, and Harry Weingar . . . each making this wonderful set possible.)

And if you can’t afford the purchase, make sure to look up at the stars whenever you can.

May your happiness increase.

LOUIS IS IN THE NEWS! (and so am I — with RICKY and DESLYN and BALTSAR)

Fame — and for such good reasons!

Think: Corona for Christmas!

Read about it here

Thanks to Ricky Riccardi and Sam Levin and Deslyn Dyer and Baltsar Beckeld and Michael Cogswell . . . and of course Louis.

“IS THIS WORTH ANYTHING?”

Reprinted from the British newspaper THE MIRROR — in a column entitled “The value of Louis Armstrong’s signature revealed,” written by Jamie Breese — an ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in print form:


Q: I’ve got a book titled ­Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans printed in 1956 and autographed “Satchmo Louis Armstrong”. The autograph was obtained at a book signing in London. Is this worth anything?


– David Ayres, Rainham, Essex


A: Louis Armstrong, or “Satchmo”, is a 20th Century icon. A similar copy complete with autograph sold in the US a couple of years ago for approximately £150. This book would appeal to a jazz collector and at that sort of price it’s an ­affordable slice of history handled by one of the jazz greats.


Read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/advice/money/2011/10/16/antiques-expert-james-breese-reveals-the-value-of-a-piece-of-cake-from-prince-charles-and-diana-s-wedding-a-satchmo-louis-armstrong-signed-book-and-a-1936-beano-115875-23490375/#ixzz1bWJ1WsoB

WORDS TO LIVE BY

It works for me. 

Transcription available on request, but JAZZ LIVES readers won’t need it.  You’re already Swingin’ . . . !

“AM RICELY AND CHICKENLY YOURS”

Thanks to Will Friedwald for pointing this out — courtesy of “Letters of Note” (http://www.lettersofnote.com/search?updated-max=2010-09-28T14:18:00%2B01:00&max-results=6).   (Will told me that Nancy Franklin of THE NEW YORKER brought it to his attention, so thanks, Nancy!)

The original source was a Sotheby’s auction (http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=47TQW) where this and four other latters to the singer Gina Gardner sold for  £1440. 

‘Yea Man’ . . . . . . . . !

THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

Gramophone records seem to jump out at me in the United Kingdom — I have seen more than half-a-dozen Louis lps in charity shop bins (including SATCHMO AT PASADENA and LOUIS UNDER THE STARS, sold here as SENSATIONAL SATCHMO) . . . but here are two UK jazz discs I bought in an Oxfam book and record shop — instantly upon seeing their covers.

What could possibly go wrong?

The only musician known to me is Ray Whittam, but I have great hopes.  The second record (bassist Ron Russell’s JAZZ AT THE PALACE) had many more familiar names and they’d all signed in:

That’s Digby Fairweather, Pete Strange, and Keith Ingham — the last is someone whom I’ll see in person at Jazz at Chautauqua.  I hope I’ll get a chance to show him this artifact from his somewhat earlier career.

Now we come to the more antiquarian part of this chronicle.  Readers who tire of record labels are encouraged to skip to the end, where an audio reward awaits.

I saw this cardboard album of records in a Corsham shop named GRANNY’S ATTIC.  We were in late, in a great hurry, so I bought the whole parcel (the shop-lady wouldn’t sell me individual records) and then, at my leisure, could inspect the contents.  Here are the most interesting discs:

Arnheim’s band always had a rich sound — with or without its prize vocalist, Mr. Crosby.

I don’t know which of these two potentially despairing pop songs should be played first.

Erotic-romantic triumph . . . much better than moony longing!

Alas . . . back to lamenting and longing.  But Nipper looks hopeful.

Sam Lanin,like Fred Rich, usually had interesting New York players hiding in those grooves:

And for the audio reward for those who might wonder what that last 78 side actually sounds like — here, courtesy of YouTube:

That’s Tommy Dorsey, bursting out of the ensemble in the last minute.  TD’s solo and attack owe a great deal to one Bix Beiderbecke: consider his solo transposed upwards for cornet and see if you agree. 

I am always delighted by the way that recording executives hid the hot solos, the jazz improvisation, for the last choruses of a hot dance record — perhaps thinking that the more dance-oriented buyers would already have made up their minds to buy the record and be immune to fright by that time.  Who’s in the vocal trio?   The YouTube disc is an OKeh, so perhaps a different take?  Do any of my readers know the complete personnel?  Is the drummer Stan King? 

Too many questions, I know.  But more records, I am sure, to come!