Tag Archives: Thomas Pena

ROSWELL RUDD: INSPIRED BY LOUIS

The “avant-garde” trombonist and composer had this to say to Thomas Pena in an October 2008 interview, printed at http://www.jazz.com/features-and-interviews/2008/10/11/in-conversation-with-roswell-rudd

Getting back to the moment when you were inspired to become a musician. . .

When I first heard Louis Armstrong. I went to a private school in upstate New York where most of the kids were New Yorkers who were farmed out to private schools.  They used to bring me down to these clubs and concerts in New York. One day a school buddy took me to hear Louis Armstrong at a movie theater just off Times Square.  At the time Louis performed between films, so I had to sit through the film, The Crimson Pirate, three times to see him again!  It was a commercial thing but Louis radiated so much warmth, creativity and inspiration that I just melted.  I shook his hand and he said some beautiful things to encourage me. I believe it all started with him.

How old were you at the time?

I was probably fifteen.  There was another time in 1948.  The first live jazz band I ever heard was a pick up band from New York City; they were handsome, spectacular guys.  There was James P. Johnson on the piano and a bass player named Pops Foster.  These guys stomped!  I think I was about 12 years old at the time, but it was Louis Armstrong that really compelled me.  After I met him I thought to myself, “I want to do for someone what Louis did for me.”

Note: The Crimson Pirate, starring Burt Lancaster, was playing in New York City in late August 1952 — so Rudd surely saw the All-Stars.  His understanding of the music and growth was phenomenal: perhaps seven years later, Rudd was gigging with an Eddie Condon sextet in Chicago — alongside Pee Wee Russell and Johnny Windhurst, and the broadcasts show him to be a fully-developed player.

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