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RE: [RedHotJazz] Artist or Entertainer? You Decide...

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  • David Brown
    I claimed last week that Louis stood as greatest genius of our music -- and my second son is Louis Daniel -- but we are left with an enigma. How do we equate
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 7, 2006
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      I claimed last week that Louis stood as greatest genius of our music -- and
      my second son is Louis Daniel -- but we are left with an enigma. How do we
      equate the profundity of 'West End Blues' with the mugging 'darkie'
      stereotype stage persona. The problem is with the persona, not the music.
      Louis always took the music seriously even the kitsch of 'Hello Dolly' or
      'Wonderful World' and musically the sincerity you mention Scott is evident
      to all , even the General Public and Larkin says somewhere you 'can warm
      your hands on Louis'. And Billie said ' Pops Toms from the heart'. I think
      Louis was a very funny man and there are instances of real sharp
      sophisticated humour on some early sides but this is very different from the
      grimacing happy darkie he used for the general --white --public.


      Benny Green tells a story of a 50s band bus argument in the UK on jazz
      celebrity which resulted in Benny leaping from the bus and asking
      passers-by at random if they had heard of Louis Armstrong and who he was.
      EVERYBODY had heard of him but one thought he was a boxer. He was by some
      distance the most famous and well known jazz musician and is it then
      coincidence that he was also the greatest ? I suggest it was the mugging
      happy darkie and pop singer who was the star not the great jazz musician.

      Yes, he always craved public acclaim, was insecure. There is also a story of
      a way late engagement also in UK at the Batley Working Man's Club when he
      was weak and unable to play much. He received a slagging review --totally
      unnecessary and craven --- and was visibly close to tears and enquired of
      his agent --not Glaser, dead by then -- whether he was still going to book
      him.

      I agree with Scott's assessment of his finest records but even in those
      humdrum All Star Circus recordings is always a moment of Louis majesty.
      Latterly indeed he was better in non A.S context and I recommend the ex-
      Audio Fidelitys --- even those suffering the lumbering Dukes Of
      ixieland --- as giving the truest idea of the real quality of his
      unstrained sound. Unstrained because here, even late, we still encounter the
      serious artistic blemish in his work, evident from early 30s, of his
      compulsion to extend to a register contextually and, latterly, technically
      inappropriate. I suggest that the reason for this, this desertion and
      negation of his superb architectonic sense, was insecurity --- the need to
      have the general public and fellow musicians acclaim his high note prowess.

      I


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    • Howard Rye
      ... Glad someone finally said this. I well remember being surprised, in view of the then general judgement that Louis had essentially been in decline from 1930
      Message 2 of 8 , Apr 7, 2006
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        on 7/4/06 8:07, David Brown at johnhaleysims@... wrote:

        > I agree with Scott's assessment of his finest records but even in those
        > humdrum All Star Circus recordings is always a moment of Louis majesty.
        > Latterly indeed he was better in non A.S context and I recommend the ex-
        > Audio Fidelitys --- even those suffering the lumbering Dukes Of
        > ixieland --- as giving the truest idea of the real quality of his
        > unstrained sound.

        Glad someone finally said this. I well remember being surprised, in view of
        the then general judgement that Louis had essentially been in decline from
        1930 on, at just how good many of the later recordings were when you
        actually listened to them.

        A major aspect of Louis's genius was in managing somehow to keep the
        entertainment and crowd-pleasing aspects of his music in balance with
        serious musical output. Fats Waller had this skill too, so does B.B. King.
        Ray Charles on the other hand sometimes hit it spectacularly and sometimes
        missed by miles. The ability to make everything sound new-minted however
        often it's been played before seems to go along with this skill.

        I suspect that a major reason for the downgrading of Louis's later music is
        that it was always essentially of the swing era, even when traditional in
        form. I have met swing-era buffs who actually regard the 30s Deccas as the
        pinnacle of his career. While I don't agree with them, I can kind of hear
        their point.

        The 1933 film Kobenhavn Kalundborg ogt, the clip from which is widely
        available, gives an interesting insight into the stage persona away from the
        specifically American pressures of Hollywood et al.

        Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
        howard@...
        Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098
      • Robert Dewar
        As a young lad in the 70`s and a little earlier I loved Hello Dolly and Wonderful World. Pops singing always took me to a deeper place than the trite quality
        Message 3 of 8 , Apr 9, 2006
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          As a young lad in the 70`s and a little earlier I loved Hello Dolly
          and Wonderful World. Pops singing always took me to a deeper place
          than the trite quality of the selections would indicate to anyone with
          some sense of taste. I never saw any footage of Pops until later on in
          the decade (long story, TV was not looked on with love by my parents
          and the movie house was mostly forbidden) I have always loved some
          music with a high kitsch content, so I may have been more inclined to
          like them but in this case,, I dont think so. I quickly sought out all
          of Louis` catalogue and beheld the genius in all his glory.

          But his singing was what initially drew me in and he still one of my
          favourite (and I suspect I am not alone in both the jazz and non-jazz
          listening public) POPULAR singers.

          I think Louis got along to get along. I'd rather not walk a mile in
          his shoes for a couple of days in New Orleans or Chicago or wherever.
          When the price you could pay for being "uppity" was a public lynching,
          its a wonder he didnt let early experience with racist America destroy
          him completely. I cut him a lot of slack. I always like Miles'
          comments about him, that you couldn't play anything on the trumpet
          that LA hadn't played before you.

          I have to say I am really enjoying this group. I am not a collector to
          any large degree. I don't have a burning desire to find out about the
          history of this music. I just love the shock and awe of hearing
          something that totally changes the moment you are in at that
          particular time. I sort of cherry pick a bit through this stuff but
          the rewards are still wonderful..


          Robert J Dewar

          > I claimed last week that Louis stood as greatest genius of our music -- and
          > my second son is Louis Daniel -- but we are left with an enigma. How do we
          > equate the profundity of 'West End Blues' with the mugging 'darkie'
          > stereotype stage persona. The problem is with the persona, not the music.
          > Louis always took the music seriously even the kitsch of 'Hello Dolly' or
          > 'Wonderful World' and musically the sincerity you mention Scott is evident
          > to all , even the General Public and Larkin says somewhere you 'can warm
          > your hands on Louis'. And Billie said ' Pops Toms from the heart'. I think
          > Louis was a very funny man and there are instances of real sharp
          > sophisticated humour on some early sides but this is very different from
          > the
          > grimacing happy darkie he used for the general --white --public.
        • David Brown
          Robert. Nice. Yes. Indeed. Louis was also the greatest Jazz Singer -- alongside Billie, the only other candidate, who did ,of course, cite Louis as main
          Message 4 of 8 , Apr 10, 2006
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            Robert. Nice. Yes. Indeed. Louis was also the greatest Jazz Singer --
            alongside Billie, the only other candidate, who did ,of course, cite Louis
            as main influence.

            Also supremely influential as, and great, 'pop singer' --purveyor of popular
            song.

            I argue there was little 'interpretation' of popular song before Louis. The
            crooners were nice but bland.

            What a revelation and revolution when Louis was finally given a pop song to
            work on, ' I Can't Give You Anything But Love' ,1929. Oh how the song is
            transformed and pop singing would never be the same again.

            From then on Louis could transmute any pop song into gold and it's a tragedy
            that in the 30s he was given far too many inconsequential novelties to work
            on.

            Often, however, the songs fail to make lyric sense. He misread them
            sometimes and broke the lines and made insertions that make profound musical
            but no lyric sense. In the words of Philip Larkin ' He tore words up by the
            roots' but nowhere does the sincerity of Louis fail to deliver on a good
            song or even a mediocre one.

            For a supreme achievement of 'pop' Louis as singer and musician listen to
            the sides with the Mills Brothers.

            The latter however also offer the spectacle of even Louis balking at the
            risible 'happy darkie cotton picking plantation' material and gently
            subverting ---only gently.





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