|One of the most important
events in the history of jazz took place on a hot July afternoon in 1922.
Twenty-two-year-old Louis Armstrong was playing in a parade with the Tuxedo
Brass Band in his native New Orleans that afternoon when he received a
telegram from the man who had been his mentor a few years earlier - Joe
Oliver, the crusty, brilliant cornetist whose place in the jazz world of
that day was implicit in the billing he always received, "King Oliver."
The telegram asked young Louis to join Oliver's celebrated Creole
Jazz Band in Chicago, a band which was then generally accepted as the best
jazz band in existence. Armstrong leapt at the opportunity, took off for
Chicago immediately and for the next two years Louis and Oliver formed
the most brilliant two-horn team the jazz world has ever heard.
This record is Louis' tribute to the man who helped shape his trumpet style back in New Orleans and whose invitation to join his band in Chicago put him in the spotlight which has shone on him ever since, Typically of Louis, this is neither an overly sentimental nor a lugubrious remembrance. It's lighthearted, full of melody and rhythm and thoroughly adventurous in its outlook. All of the tunes were Louis' own selections. The reason for some of his choices are obvious-they are pieces which he recorded with Oliver and the Creole Jazz Band or they are tunes that Oliver wrote or they are numbers that both he and Oliver recorded separately. But Louis has gone farther than such directly connected tunes for you'll also find pieces that are not associated with either Oliver or Armstrong but were being played and sung in the New Orleans that Joe Oliver knew as a young man and in that slightly later New Orleans that Louis Armstrong knew. too, There's even one total maverick - "My Old Kentucky Home". How did that get in?
"Well," Louis explained with gravel-throated ingenuousness, "Joe might have played it."
To produce this labor of love, Louis
and his regular band - Trummy Young, trombone, Peanuts Hucko, clarinet,
Billy Kyle, piano, Mort Herbert, bass, and Danny Barcelona, drums - got
together on three days at the end of September and the beginning of October,
1959, in Radio Recorders Studio in Hollywood where Louis was working on
a TV show with Bing Crosby. Louis was casually dressed in Bermuda shorts
and a checked sports shirt, a huge towel draped down the front of his shirt,
his glasses case peeking out of his shirt pocket, as be ran through the
numbers with his men. All of this was fresh material, tunes they were not
used to playing during their steady grind of one-nighters. It was a refreshing
change for all of them and they showed it in the exuberance and inventiveness
of their playing. In a surprising number of instances,
"None of these boys even lived in King
Oliver's time," Louis laughed as he showed them how to play "Doctor Jazz",
"Drop That Sack", "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll", "Chimes
Blues", "Jelly Roll Blues" and - believe it or not - "Frankie and Johnny".
BILLY KYLE, piano
PEANUTS HUCKO, clarinet
MORT HERBERT, bass
TRUMMY YOUNG, trombone
DANNY BARCELONA, drums
|Selection One :||St.
James Infirmary, like Frankie and Johnny, comes from
obscure folkish origins. It is also known as Gambler's Blues (and
was recorded under that title by, of all people, Stan Kenton). King
Oliver recorded it on Jan, 28, 1930, with a genuinely all-star trumpet
section made up of Red Allen, Bubber Miley and himself, This was
one of his last popular successes. Louis made his first recording
of it two years earlier with his Hot Seven. This new version is
destined to rate with Louis' greatest recorded performances, It is
a fascinating tribute to his unending ability to create magnificent
improvisations. This one has everything - a tremendous Armstrong
vocal, a superbly majestic solo over the ensemble and a climax that
rates with Louis' best.
Listen to St. James Infirmary - (Real Audio - 4:57)
|Selection Two :||(I
Want A) Big Butter and Egg Man is a pop tune of the middle 'Twenties
which Louis first recorded with his Hot Five on Nov. 16, 1926.
Louis' Hot Five was a select group of graduates of King Oliver's
Creole Jazz Rand: Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Kid Ory, trombone; Lil
Hardin, piano; Johnny St. Cyr, banjo; and Louis. On that original
recording, Louis shared the vocal with May Alix. On this new version
Louis does something which shows that his inventiveness is just as
fresh now as it ever was: he had Danny Barcelona take drum breaks
in place of some of the words in his vocal, probably the first time
that this device has been tried.
Listen to Big Butter and Egg Man - (Real Audio - 3:42)
Ain't Got Nobody is, of course, one of the most frequently
recorded of the early pop tunes. It was written in 1916 and Louis
recorded it with his big band in December, 1929. For many years it
was assumed that Oliver had played on a recording of this tune made
by Dave Nelson and the King's Men on Jan. 14, 1931. But later
research has pretty well settled it that the King was not present on
this date. Nelson, who was Oliver's nephew, played on most of
Oliver's recordings for Victor in the late 'Twenties and early 'Thirties
and is supposed to have taken some of the solos often attributed to
the fading Oliver on those recordings.
Listen to I Ain't Got Nobody - (Real Audio - 3:57)
|Selection Four :||Panama
is a traditional old New Orleans march which has become
one of the great standard tunes of latter-day Dixieland jazz. It gives
everybody in the band a chance to take off on a solo, even Danny
Barcelona whose drums roll us into the opening ensemble. The final
rideout chorus winds up with a descending figure that has become
traditional, with Trummy Young's trombone punching it home.
Listen to Panama - (Real Audio - 4:05)
|Selection Five :||Doctor
Jazz is a tune which has had a rather ironic history, It was
written by King Oliver and was recorded by Oliver's band for the
Vocation label on April 2, 1927, but this recording has never been
released. There is, however, a very famous record of Doctor Jazz,
one that was made by Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers.
which is considered not only one of the finest of Jelly Roll's
recordings but one of the best examples of small band jazz in the 'Twenties.
Louis takes it a bit slower than Morton did-again, this is probably
the way Oliver would have played it - and his solo on the first half
of the second chorus is positively brilliant.
Listen to Doctor Jazz - (Real Audio - 2:34)
|Selection Six :||There'll
Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight was a great
favorite during the Spanish-American War in 1898, although it had
actually been written twelve years earlier by Theodore Metz, band-
leader of the McIntyre and Heath Minstrels. Metz was inspired to
write it when he saw a group of black children putting out a fire in
Old Town, Louisiana. The Mcintyre and Heath Minstrels used it as
a march for its street parades but it didn't catch on until Joe Hayden
wrote some appropriate words for it and Teddy Roosevelt's Rough
Riders adopted it as their personal anthem in Cuba. Jelly Roll
Morton recalls it as one of the favorites of the little string groups
in New Orleans which played at parties. It came into recorded
jazz when Bessie Smith sang it on Mar. 2, 1927, backed
by a contingent from Fletcher Henderson's band. This was one of the
tunes that was popular in New Orleans when King Oliver was a
young man there and Louis gives it the real, oldtime New Orleans
street parade treatment.
Listen to Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight - (Real Audio - 3:32)
|Selection Seven :||Frankie
and Johnny is an ancient ballad of unknown origin. It has
been placed as early as 1840, it was said to have been sung at the
siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War and Carl Sandburg thinks
it was created in the 1880's. It is also attributed to an incident in 1899
in St. Louis when Allen Britt, who was known as Johnny, told
Frankie Baker, "Bye bye, babe, I was your man but I'm just gone,"
and Frankie returned the sentiment by plugging him with a pearl-
handled '44. it has also been known as Frankie and Albert and
Frankie Baker among numerous alternate titles. It was Louis' idea
to recognize its honky-tonk background by using only a tinkly piano
to accompany his singing. The version that Louis sings, with its
references to an "ice cream parlor" and "sipping soda through a
straw," is best known for its use by Guy Lombardo, which may be
Louis' way of tipping his hat to still another of his great favorites.
Armstrong's fervent admiration of the Lombardo band has been a
source of amazement to many of Louis' fans for years although the
deep sincerity of Louis' admiration can be seen in the way in which
he tried to have the saxophones in his big band in the 'Thirties copy
the syrupy tone of the Lombardo saxes.
Listen to Frankie and Johnny - (Real Audio - 3:57)
|Selection Eight :||Ain't
Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll was a popular
vaudeville song of the early 'Twenties. Louis runs out of lyrics on
his vocal and fills in with scat singing until he reaches the final
couplet which he made up on the spot, This is reminiscent of his
recording of Heebie Jeebies with his Hot Five in February, 1926,
which has gone down in jazz history as the (tentative) cause of the
invention of scat singing when Louis dropped his lyric sheet half-
way through his vocal and finished it out with a set of swinging
Listen to Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll - (Real Audio - 4:01)
|Selection Nine :||Drop
That Sack is derived from an old work song and was
recorded by Louis on May 28, 1926, with a group which was actually
his Hot Five but which was billed as Lil's Hot Shots (for the usual
contractual reasons-the Hot Five recorded for Okeh, this record
was made for Vocalion). This performance is a magnificent display
of breaks, a factor in jazz which Jelly Roll Morton considered of
the utmost importance.
Listen to Drop that Sack - (Real Audio - 2:47)
|Selection Ten :||Jelly
Roll Blues is one of Jelly Roll Morton's earliest
compositions. He wrote it in 1905 although he did not copyright it until ten
years later. Louis' group plays it with a deliberation that would have
pleased King Oliver and with an emphasis on breaks-particularly
piano breaks-that would have delighted its composer.
Listen to Jelly Roll Blues - (Real Audio - 2:48)
|Selection Eleven :||My
Old Kentucky Home was written by Stephen Foster in 1853
and was introduced by the Ed Christy Minstrels. Louis takes a
swingy approach to it and even ventures into the community sing
business by urging everybody to sing along with the band.
Listen to My Old Kentucky Home - (Real Audio - 4:32)
|Selection Twelve :||Chimes
Blues was written by King Oliver and was recorded by the
Creole Jazz Band, with Armstrong on second cornet, on Mar. 31,
1923. This was one of Oliver's classic recordings. Billy Kyle keeps
the chimes idea prominent in this version by using a chimes effect
as a bridge between each chorus. Louis' trumpet solo is in his most
Listen to Chimes Blues - (Real Audio - 3:22)