Tag Archives: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong

RHYTHM AND MIRACLES

LOUIS and GORDON JENKINS larger

Since 1971, July 6 is always a mournful date for me, since Louis Armstrong departed this temporal neighborhood (“made the transition,” “passed into Spirit,” or what you will) on that day.

Because of the beautiful post Ricky Riccardi wrote about the last music Louis listened to before he died (here) I was ready to write about an emotional vortex that hit me hard.

On the last tape Louis made for himself, he led off with SATCHMO IN STYLE, the life-enhancing music he and Gordon Jenkins made from 1949-52).  That’s important to me, because eight of those performances are the music that made me absolutely devoted to Louis — this is more than a half-century ago.

But then I thought of the tradition where you rejoice at the funeral, and that Louis would not have wanted us to weep, but to hear good music with a strong lead and wonderful melodies.  I think he would also have approved of seeing buoyant young swing dancers move around, for this was the way (in a backwards fashion) that he fell in love with Lucille Wilson, his fourth wife.

So here we are,  rhythm and miracles conjoined, which is also appropriate.

I GOT RHYTHM:

I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (with the verse and at a gorgeous tempo):

These videos come to us through the generosity of the musicians and dancers, but also because of videographer Laura Beth Wyman of Wyman Video, who did a splendid job in capturing that most difficult situation: a room full of dancers with musicians playing for them.  The musicians!  James Dapogny, piano; Mike Jones, clarinet; Roderick McDonald, guitar; Joe Fee, string  bass. This performance took place during the properly named Plenty Rhythm Weekend.  Filmed at Gretchen’s House, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on December 5, 2015.  For more rhythmic miracles, visit here.

Good enough for Louis.  Good enough for us.

May your happiness increase!

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THE MOST RECENT EXPLOITS OF MRS. MOSE MIGHT SURPRISE YOU. THEY CAME AS A SHOCK TO ME.

If you’ve been following the jazz news of the Thirties, it will not come as a shock to learn that Old Man Mose is dead.  The saga of his demise is sad, mysterious, and not a little frightening:

For the extended, fascinating coverage of the variations created by Louis and friends on this theme, I direct you to Ricky Riccardi’s unequalled blogpost here.

Hearing this song, I always wonder at its genesis: my guess is that someone in Louis’ Chicago band — where Zilner Randolph was one of the trumpets and the “straw boss” — fell asleep on the bus or elsewhere and the spectacle struck everyone else as comic.  “Man, you were so asleep you looked just like Old Man Mose.  We didn’t know if you were dead.”  Great art comes from such humble beginnings, you know.  Cultural anthropologists may note that here is another example of African-Americans making fun of the stereotype — its source too deep for me to discover here — that they were afraid of occult creatures, of “hants,” of the dead: make of that what you will.

But I dugress.  From Ricky’s blog, I learned that several “sequels” to this song, hoping to cash in on its popularity, had been created.  (On YouTube, you can even hear a group of Beatles imitators try their hand at it in 1964.  By the time their rendition is over, I do not hold out much hope for Mr. Mose being resuscitated, but that is only one man’s opinion.)

However, it was only on a recent record-shopping afternoon at the Down Home Music Store in El Cerrito that I found this latest chapter, a Bluebird 78 (circa 1939, I surmise) by the Eddie DeLange Orchestra, vocal by diminutive Elisse Cooper, of MRS. MOSE HAS A MILLION BEAUS (Since Old Man Mose Is Dead) — a Fox Trot penned by McCarthy, Redmond, and David.  For the discographically-minded, it is the “B” side of Bluebird 10213; the “A” side is another novelty song, EAGLE EYE FINKLE, which chronicles the exploits of a roving gossip / scandal reporter for an imagined Russian newspaper.

I don’t know who is in the band, nor do I know who plays the chordal guitar solo in the middle* . . . but I thought JAZZ LIVES readers deserved full disclosure of posthumous marital news amongst imaginary characters in novelty songs.  See if you agree:

It leaves me speechless, too.  Especially the part about Old Man Mose’s life insurance policy.  I’m on the edge of my chair, waiting to hear what happens next.

*Wise friend David Weiner tells me that it was recorded in March 1939 and the guitarist is one Guy Smith — no one else in the band is a “famous” musician (my quotation marks, not David’s).  Nice ensemble sound, though.

May your happiness increase!

GENEROUS FRIENDS BEARING GIFTS: UNHEARD LOUIS (1947), BUSTER, DUKE, AND MORE

BLOGGIN’ AROUND, Autumn 2013 edition.

6804gift_boxes

People who know me are often startled by the hours I spend in front of the computer, but if they knew what friendships and generosities I find there, they would be less appalled, or at least I hope so.  Here are four blogs that will capture your attention for the best reasons, if you love this music.

My ebullient friend Ricky Riccardi has been writing and sharing music connected with Louis Armstrong for some years now, but just the other day he offered us an amazing treat: the earliest recordings we have (new discoveries) of live performance by Louis’ All-Stars, in Chicago, performing ROYAL GARDEN BLUES.  The band — a heaven-sent ensemble — was Louis, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Dick Cary, Arvell Shaw, and Sidney Catlett. It’s a marvelously leisurely performance, full of controlled power and ease. Hear it here and read Professor Riccardi’s lively commentary.

My pal and colleague Andrew Jon Sammut has also been pedaling along in cyberspace, creating his own path, for some time now: enjoying “pop music” from several centuries, from Vivaldi to Venuti and back again.  Here he shares his latest discovery with us — some music in a variety of forms from the much-respected yet often-undervalued clarinetist William C. “Buster” Bailey from Memphis, Tennessee.

David J. Weiner is a newcomer to the world of blogging but certainly not to the world of music.  A generous humorous fellow who is erudite about a large variety of music, he never wields his knowledge violently. David (whom I first met before I had my driver’s license) has started a new blog, which he calls — in proper Millerite adulation — COMMUNITY SWING and its early entries have startling discoveries about Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, even Charles Ives. I’ve been enjoying it fervently.

And someone I’ve not met, James A. Harrod, has created a new blog devoted to the television program JAZZ SCENE USA, the mid-Fifties creation of Steve Allen.  On it you can see information about television that will make you rethink Newton Minnow’s characterization of it as a “vast wasteland,” for Allen’s love for jazz reached from Ben Pollack to Jutta Hipp, which is admirable.  Visit here for all of the good stuff.

Generous, informed, wise people — and they never tell us what they had for breakfast.  I treasure them!

May your happiness increase!

MAY I ASK A SMALL FAVOR INVOLVING LOUIS ARMSTRONG, SIDNEY CATLETT, J.C. HIGGINBOTHAM, ALBERT NICHOLAS, POPS FOSTER and THREE PREVIOUSLY UNHEARD 1939 PERFORMANCES?

Would anyone mind if I linked to Ricky Riccardi’s glorious blog where he has posted three extraordinary performances by the musicians listed above?  I don’t think it would harm anyone.  Then, if you wanted to purchase the extraordinary two-CD set issued by the DOCTOR JAZZ folks, that wouldn’t bother me, either.  Details here.

May your happiness increase!

ELLA DIGS IT, or START ‘EM YOUNG

Exhibit One — Ella Rae Riccardi watching Nickelodeon Jr. this morning., notably the episode of Jack’s Big Music Store featuring our friend Kevin Dorn (also J. Walter Hawkes and Dan Levinson), swinging out.  It’s never too early in the day to get hot!

Ella is the much-loved daughter of Ricky (THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG) and Margaret Riccardi, but their attentive jazz parenting isn’t limited only to those people deep into swing.  Parents and grandparents, take note!

LOUIS, SIDNEY, RICKY (1949 and 2009)

Gather round, children.

First, this blogpost exists because of the generosity of Ricky Riccardi.  September 8 is his birthday, but he’s given us the second of two extraordinary gifts. 

The first was a blogpost featuring a rare recording — running six minutes — of Louis Armstrong and the All-Stars (that’s Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Sidney Catlett) in New Orleans, 1949, performing SHOE SHINE BOY.  I won’t take anything away from Ricky’s extraordinary post on the subject, except to say that this version of SHOE SHINE BOY is an unrivaled masterpiece, even for Louis — with superbly tender singing. 

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2009/09/shoe-shine-boy.html

Today, he came back with another treasure from the same concert — a positively explosive ROYAL GARDEN BLUES with Sidney Catlett in violently swinging form.  I urge all my readers to savor this music, but — as the saying goes — don’t try this at home.  Sidney’s accents are much more than loud; they’re perfectly placed explosions, each with its own timbre, to encourage the soloist, to make a point in the ensemble, to give an encouraging push.  Percussionists who didn’t understand the rationale behind such playing simply took it as an excuse to play solos behind the horns.  Nay, nay.  But listen for yourself — to the spaces Sidney leaves as well as the glorious clamor he makes! 

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2009/09/one-hot-garden.html

Happy Birthday to Ricky, giver of gifts!

FATS FINDS ME

July 2009 New York 006

This wonderful jazz artifact emerged from an antique store somewhere near Hillsdale, New York — a hot little room with too much sheet music to go through in one visit.  (The double and triple copies of songs that must have been popular are always revealing: in Maine, everyone must have been singing CHONG, HE CAME FROM HONG KONG in 1931; here, I perceived a collective obsession with songs about Old Wyoming.  Go figure.)  I picked out about a dozen pieces of music — Ray Noble, Connee Boswell, and others — and took them to the counter to find out the prices the amiable proprietor had in mind.  Of course, when she began to mutter after every other sheet, “Oh, this one’s going to be expensive,” I knew I was in trouble.  But I had to have the Waller-Razaf one above.

I admire its Deco caricatures, top and bottom, as well as the list of other Waller-Razaf songs (all obscure) that made up the musical score.  And, of course, this post is another example of cyber cross-pollination: Ricky Riccardi — sole proprietor of The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong online — has been posting extensively researched segments on Louis’s recordings of the song from 1929 on.  Extremely rewarding reading! 

But there’s more.  Songs of that period had both choruses and verses — the verse serving to set up the song’s dramatic situation.  And the whole idea of chorus and verse was tied to theatrical presentation.  AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ has two simultaneous verses.  One I knew (as recorded by Seger Ellis and others) turns out to have been the boy’s part.  But I had never heard the girl’s . . .

Here they are, for your edification and for singing around the parlor piano.  Or perhaps in the car – – –

BOY:  Though it’s a fickle age, With flirting all the rage, Here is one bird with self-control; Happy inside my cage.

GIRL:  Your type of man is rare, I know you really care, That’s why my conscience never sleeps; When you’re away somewhere.

BOY:  I know who I love best, Thumbs down on all the rest, My love was given heart and soul; So it can stand the test.

GIRL:  Sure was a lucky day; When fate sent you my way, And made you mine alone for keeps, Ditto to all you say.

The Boy’s lines are slangy; the Girl’s much more sentimentally pedestrian (and perhaps the logic of her conscience never sleeping is awry) but they do Andy Razaf every credit. 

More purchases to share soon!