Tag Archives: Satchmotube

YOUNG MISTER TOUGH: LOOK CLOSELY

My dear friend Uwe Zanisch is a generous fellow, as his website SATCHMOTUBE proves — on it he collects television appearances of Louis Armstrong, some of them never seen before.

But this post, for a change, isn’t about Mister Strong.

It’s about the New Yorkers — the “New Yorkers Tanzorchester” made up of hot players including George Carhart and Danny Polo and one other, who made some wonderful Goldkette-inflected records in Berlin in late 1927 / early 1928.  Here’s the label of one of the more incendiary sides, OSTRICH WALK:

And something even better — although how many of us have seen a picture of that 78?  Here’s a formal portrait of the band, with young David Tough to the right. 

As a typical Twenties band portrait, it is oddly diffuse: the young men in their tuxedoes look as if they did not know one another, as if their clothing fit very poorly.  Three of them are gazing off to the left — two skeptically, one far away; one stares challengingly, coldly at the camera; one takes its measure.  And then there’s Mister Tough — not even identified by name in the Bear Family booklet from which this picture comes (thanks to Uwe!). 

His hair threatens to explode from its pomaded state; his light eyes are both searching and even suspicious.  Do we read into this face the one that William P. Gottlieb captured in the basement of the Greenwich Village club — amused, mournful, rueful, trapped?  When we see two pictures, two decades apart, we might play the game of IS IT THE SAME PERSON — but all we know of him is the lovely singular music he had in front of him, his intelligence, and the sadness of short life and helpless self-immolation.   

When I think of Tough, I think of his cymbals and bass drum accents on FORTY-SEVENTH AND STATE, of his solo on the Charlie Ventura Town Hall Concert, his relentless playing behind Hot Lips Page on THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE, and those are exaltations of body and spirit.  But it’s impossible to think of him without grieving for him.  And I may assume too much, but sadness and distance are in the early photograph as well.

 

“THINGS ARE TOUGH ALL OVER”

When Louis Steinman, my father (1915-1982), would meet a friend on the street, the dialogue would go like this,

“Hey, Charles, how’s every little thing?”

“Oh, things are tough all over.”

And they’d both laugh.

For the moment, things are tough all over. No, I must be more accurate: things are Tough all over.

I mean Dave Tough (he hated “Davey”) — one of the greatest drummers, percussionists, creators of sound-clouds, ever.  Cousin Uwe Zanisch (more about that later) sent along a wondrous YouTube clip, beautifully done, of an American jazz band that recorded in 1928 in Germany and featured Tough and Danny Polo on clarinet.  Given the fidelity of the 78 rpm record and the way that engineers recorded the drum kit eighty years ago, the listener will have to get deeply inside the sounds to hear what Dave was doing — but his steady, flexible bass-drum beat is a reassuring foundation of the band, and his cymbals and accents are there and they are right!  I hear echoes of the Jean Goldkette band in this and think you will too:

Cousin Uwe is someone I embrace through this cyber-medium, even though we have never met.  He is Sole Proprietor of a wonderful blog, SATCHMOTUBE — devoted to collecting and sharing performances of Louis Armstrong on film and television: http://satchmotube.blogspot.com/2010/05/pops-singt-italienisch.html.  It’s a delightful blog.  It makes me feel happy whenever I visit it. 

But why do I call Uwe “Cousin”?  It srikes me more and more that we have Internet families — people we love and admire who send the same feelings back — who we might never meet in person. 

Thus Uwe has been taken into the Steinman entourage, whether he likes it or not!  And maybe my ever-expanding jazz family will help me feel better about my dead father, someone whom I miss terribly as I write these words.  He lives through me, and I hope he knows that.

“SATCHMO SWINGS IN CONGO” and MORE

A very brief newsreel from October 31, 1960 — narrated by the once-ubiquitous Ed Herlihy — showing us the exultant reception Louis Armstrong received on his African tour.  Unfortunately, the music that would have accompanied a few seconds of this newsreel has been removed (perhaps it was difficult to record a soundtrack for Louis being carried through the streets?) and a generic “jazzy” one substituted, but one has only to see the proliferation of smiles to know the prevailing happiness:

Uwe Zanisch, the creator and proprietor of “Satchmotube” (http://satchmotube.blogspot.com/)  a website devoted to collecting and sharing footage of Louis on film of all kinds, told me about this extended profile — in German — of Louis, overseas in spring 1965.  I wish the dubbed translation hadn’t overpowered Louis’s voice, but even with my nonexistent German, much of this is accessible.  And I am now considering the purchase of a striped bowtie, whether or not it clashes with my Hawaiian shirts.  I am sure that the Beloved will avoid a horizontally-striped coat such as Lucille’s, but she’s more discreet:

It’s not often that I feel grateful to the news media, but I do now!