Classic (1920s) Jazz

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Classic Jazz refers more to a transitional era (1920s), rather than any specific style. During the 1920s jazz slowly shifted from the exuberant New Orleans and Dixieland styles toward a more sophisticated and urbane swing style. Many artists who participated in this transition had careers that overlapped into Dixieland in the early 20s, and into swing in the middle 30s. Not only was the music shifting during this time, but the performing ensembles were growing bigger as more dance orchestras began to use jazz elements creating a big band jazz/pop hybrid that would lead to the classic big bands of the swing era.

The leaders of classic 1920s jazz are orchestra leader Fletcher Henderson and his star soloist, Louis Armstrong. The Henderson orchestra did away with the constant polyphonic soloing of New Orleans jazz and replaced it with cool relaxed riffing which provided a background for Armstrong's expressive melodies and exciting solos. Classic jazz is still played by jazz lovers all over the world, although not always with the right feel.

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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Album Cover Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
4.86 | 7 ratings
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Satch Plays Fats: A Tribute to the Immortal Fats Waller Album Cover Satch Plays Fats: A Tribute to the Immortal Fats Waller
4.62 | 4 ratings
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THE PALOMAR TRIO The Song in Our Soul

Album · 2023 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
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The Palomar Trio is an all-star three piece made up of some of the top names in early jazz performance. Dan Levinson on clarinet and saxophone, Mark Shane on piano and Kevin Dorn on drums are all first call performers when it comes to 20s classic jazz and early 30s swing. Dan has worked with Wynton Marsalis, Dick Hyman and Mel Tome, while Mark continues to work with the Smithsonian Jazz Ensemble and the Twyla Tharpe Dance Company, and Kevin has worked with Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski and others. Despite the number of other artists available to these three, they all maintain that their favorite group is with each other in The Palomar Trio, which is why they have kept this group alive for over 20 years. All three point to how much the swing feel is in them and how much they see this in each other, or as Mark says, “There’s a center of deep swing inside of me, which emerges every time I play with Dan and Kevin.”

The band points to various influences, pointing out that the make-up of their trio, sans-bass, was inspired by their favorite tgroup with a similar makeup, Bennie Goodman’s trio with Teddie Wilson and Gene Krupa. They also perform a lot of tunes from Jimmie Noone’s swing band that played nightly in Chicago during the late 20s. Mark likes to point to Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Alex Hill as some of his favorite piano inspirations. For their latest album, “The Song in Our Soul”, the band purposefully left out tunes that have been over recorded and settled on their personal favorites such as the uptempo party flavor of “River, Stay Way from My Door, the sentimental balladry of “Sweetheart of Mine”, the noire blues of “Delta Bound” and the pounding backbeat of “Wake Up Chillun Wake Up” that almost leans towards RnB. The production on the album is kept simple with very little, or none, modern digital candy coating and compression. Sounds like they just used a simple room mic and that is all. Overall the clarinet sounds better in the room than the tenor, which can get a little boomy with the room reverb, but that’s easy to get used to.

There are those that find some of this 20s to 30s music hard to listen to, it seems corny or old fashioned as our ears have become accustomed to a certain heavyness and dreariness centered around the power of the minor third and a big pounding beat. Yes, this music has a different tonality from a different era, and some can’t get past that. A good way to open one’s ears up is to get away from heavy western music and enjoy field recordings from Africa, the Orient, South America or Eastern Europe. Once liberated, our ears now find it much easier to enjoy music from cultures we are not used to. Late 20s jazz had a lot of wit and sass to it, this element in jazz seemed to disappear with the passing of the bebop era. Some artists still come along, Henry Threadgill or Anthony Braxton for example, that still have that early jazz wit.

DUKE ELLINGTON Duke Ellington, Volume 1 - Mrs. Clinkscales To The Cotton Club (1926-1929)

Boxset / Compilation · 2005 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
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The lengthy title to “Duke Ellington: Mrs Clinkscales to the Cotton Club Volume 1 1926-1929” pretty much tells you what you will find on here, or does it? Actually, despite the misleading title, this massive collection of music contains many tracks from 1924 and 1925, when Ellington was part of The Washingtonians. You would think the producers of this CD would be proud of this, as many Ellington collections don’t go back that far. Why they got part of the title wrong remains a mystery, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a great collection of music that often sells for a reasonable price. If you are wondering about the rest of the title, Mrs Clinkscales is the unlikely name of the piano teacher who set young Duke on his musical journey, and the Cotton Club is where Duke will find fame in the early 30s.

Late 20s jazz is a style you rarely hear from anymore. Other early jazz styles such as Dixieland, swing and New Orleans have so many revivals and re-constitutions that they have never really left us, but the high octane exuberant nature of 20s jazz makes it hard to incorporate into other styles. The late 20s was also a time of experimentation, with arrangers staying on top of the latest developments in concert hall compositions, as well as developing some tricks of their own. Although as his career will develop, Ellington will become a master of cool and sophisticated music, in the late 20s, his compositions matched the high speed tempos and bright major key tonalities of his contemporaries. In fact, as you listen to this collection chronologically, you can hear Ellington begin to introduce his slinky minor key noire sounds when songs like “East St Louis Toodle Oo” and “Black and Tan Fantasy” start to show up. As jazz began to change in the 30s, those relaxed minor key melodies stayed in the Ellington set, while the more ‘20s’ sounding fare got left behind.

Lots of good tracks on here, if you looking for the numbers with imaginative arrangements; CD 1 has “I’m Gonna Hang Around My Sugar” and CD 2 has “Hop Head”, “Washington Wobble” and Jubilee Stomp”. CD3 has “Hot and Bothered”and CD 4 has “Tiger Rag”. If you have any curiosity about late 20s jazz, this is a great place to start. For Ellington fans, this is a chance to hear the Duke in a style that he (or anyone else) never returned to.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946)

Boxset / Compilation · 2009 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
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“This man never disdained what was served up but always found a way to enhance it” ,taken from the Mosaic set notes compiled by Dan Morgenstern: and these Decca recordings contain precisely that with the soaring trumpet and gravel voice taking on any composition or style from New Orleans, Standards, Gospel, Polynesian, Spoken word or narrations, with any other popular or novelty song suggested, and Louis and the band took it all away with absolutely superb musicianship. Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, Decca Mixed Chorus, Glen Gray and His Casa Loma Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald and even an appearance from a young Dexter Gordon albeit only in a support role but they are all included within the seven discs. Often one hears concerning his Decca output that it was not up to the same quality of the early Hot Five and Seven‘s or in the later forties onwards to the sixties with his All Star Band material that were all primarily recorded with Columbia Records and then we also have his later Verve recordings that are included in that list with his Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson collaborations being the high point but during the period of 1935 to 1946 with Decca nobody really has been taking notice or listening except for the good folks at Mosaic and they certainly have rectified the problem with putting out the entire catalogue with alt takes included but still had the extremely good sense to keep away from false starts, studio banter etc by just keeping to all the wonderful music that Louis recorded during this time.

Where does one start when digging out a massive gold vein as you may miss some gorgeous big nuggets and there are plenty here to find with quite a lot of the material being recorded here for the first time that would become his show regulars and perhaps his finisher would be the most memorable of “When The Saints Come Marching In” or was it at the beginning with “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”, “Pennies From Heaven”, “Jeepers Creepers and ”Rockin’ Chair” are also included. Not to mention there is a few 2nd takes of his earlier material comprising “West End Blues”, “Mahogany Hall Stomp”,” Savoy Blues” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”. Then there is so many of my favourite old Trad Jazzers with, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Save It Pretty Mama”, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, “Dipper Mouth”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and they keep coming but my top will always be “(I’ll Be Glad When Your Dead) You Rascal You” (7th disc). Duke Ellington’s “Solitude”, Billie Holiday’s “I Cover The Waterfront” ( Louis recorded it first) are covered with one of the most interesting being his first duet with Ella Fitzgerald (“You Won’t Be Satisfied” and “The Frim Fram Sauce”) albeit more from an historical viewpoint but still quite enjoyable. The Polynesian themed sessions are a delight simply for the variety with the tropical feel of “On A Coconut Island” often bringing a smile. “La Cucaracha” is covered so we better light one up for Louis with the songs meaning as we all know he didn’t mind a bit of kif. The two most different tracks would be Elder Eatmore’s Sermon’s with Louis of course handing out some quite humorous sermons with quite a Southern viewpoint from that period in time with both being narrations. ( Disc 6). Yet, still there are still so many more songs that would be later redone by him in the later part of his career still included and we even have “Happy Birthday” with Louis giving a dedication to the recipient Bing Crosby before the number.

Louis Armstrong’s trumpet soars over the sets contents, his vocals fill it with so many memories from a time that has long gone but his music with always live on,as he is The King of Jazz or any other music that he chose to play. I doubt if ever another greater musician/entertainer is, or ever will be out there. Fantastic Box Set absolutely essential to any Louis Armstrong devotee with myself included or even if you have never heard him before, grab one as there is only 5,000 of these little gold nuggets for sale. Highly recommended and absolutely essential music.

By the way, my first song that I remember hearing as a child was “Hello Dolly” and although in later life I have found out it was not one that Louis thought that highly of, I still love to hear it. I am still learning about this gentleman as there is so much more to find out and I only have 20 years left, if I’m lucky.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG Chicago Concert - 1956 (aka The Great Chicago Concert)

Live album · 1980 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
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They nearly threw the lot out at Columbia records in 1980, someone had decided to get rid of some old tapes and "The Great Chicago Concert" was on a desk ready to go when Michael Brooks who was producing reissues strolled by and enquired what they were. George Aviakan was the original producer behind the live recording of the concert but at the time decided to shelve it due to techinical issues with the recording as well as there being a lenghty narration by Helen Hayes at the begining concerning Jazz with Louis included. Louis had practically stepped of the plane and here he was with The All Stars straight into this concert. Things are a little out of order due to issues that arose during the event with sound quality problems with some of the material and also there really was not much new material which George Aviakan was hoping for so he decided to shelve the tapes. George was expecting a few more new numbers as Louis Armstrong was not renowned for changing his song list often in concert and usually had the same fifty tunes or so that he and the All Stars performed. Always opened with "When It Is Sleepy Time Down South" and usually wound it up with "When the Saints Go Marchin' In". There is a bit of mix with "When It Is Sleepy Time" coming in at a later spot and only briefly but still we have some great stuff. The All Stars at this time are Edmund Hall, clarinet, Trummy Young, blasting trombone and vocals on two songs, Billy Kyle, piano, Dale Jones, bass, Barrett Deems on drums and Velma Middleton does her thing with Louis doing vocals on three numbers. How many concerts Louis performed would be anybody's guess but he always gave it his best shot and although things do not gel technically they still do with the music as the poorer quality material was dropped with the narration by Helen Hayes and still we have two discs of material with 26 numbers included with four of them being medleys and it is all Live.

Two medleys in a row is what gets the first cd underway with the first being a New Orleans funeral march "Flee As A Bird To The Mountain" and "Oh Didn't He Ramble" which was the only section of the concert ever released until 1980. The second medley has "Memphis Blues", "Frankie And Johnny" and "Tiger Rag" with no vocals but plenty of that gorgeous New Orleans tradition is applied and if one listens close you can hear some of the techinical issues with the recording volume as a wagon was used on stage making it difficult to mic' up to say the least but it does not cause any problems as the small fault is at the begining. What are the best songs that are performed for the next eleven on this first disc, one would be hard pressed to decide with so many classics. "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", Fats Waller's absolute classic "Black and Blue which is one of my standouts but that was preceded by "Basin Street Blues" and followed by King Oliver's composition "West End Blues" which Louis transformed back in 1928 to become one of the greatest Jazz tunes ever played."On The Sunny Side Of The Street" needs no introduction, "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" another of Louis's classics from the twenties followed by three superb takes of "Indiana", "The Gypsy" and a great take on "The Faithful Hussar" which Louis made his own from an old German song that he performed at practically every concert.

Disc 2 has another German number as well which was a hit for Louis being "Mack The Knife" but the disc opens with "Rockin' Chair "with Trummy Young doing vocals as he does later on "Margie" but I love the old standard that follows "Bucket's Got A Hole In It" which was the original way to pick up ones beer. "Perdido", "Clarinet Marmalade" is giving the band a go with "Mack The Knife" after but we have another medley that follows with "Tenderley" bridged with Billy Kyle's piano solo followed by the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein composition "You'll Never Walk Alone" and Louis wrings it right out with his beautiful interruptation of these two ballads playing them entirely instrumental and even someone yells a comment that Billy plays so sexy during his piano solo. Louis does take a bit of back seat with the second disc as Thelma Middleton gets do the majority of vocals for three numbers with Louis introducing Thelma with the quote "and now it is blues time" with "Big Mama's Back In Town" coming first with plenty of swing included. The ballad "That's My Desire" is given the Thelma treatment as the following "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)" with that swing back and Louis joining in for this one on a duet. Do you know I still have not mentioned another famous classic form the swing period that Louis used to include being Louis and Chick Webb's "Jumpin' At The Savoy". At closing time he always played "When The Saints Go Marchin In" which I have known all my life and cannot even remember when I first heard the tune it is like you are born with it already there but no matter how many times one hears this, it is always enjoyable and an instant singalong and who better to do it with his beautiful trumpet than the great Louis Armstrong. The concert finishes with Louis playing "The Star Spangled Banner"

There are small sound faults at times but they are only on three numbers and not that noticable as they are at the start of the songs with "Sleepy Time Down South" being the major issue and when the volume picks up, just think it is the band moving a little closer to the audience. Wonderful material, wonderful concert, wonderful album but most of all what is really wonderful is the sound of Louis Armstrong's trumpet and there is no shortage of that for "The Great Chicago Concert".

LOUIS ARMSTRONG Satch Plays Fats: A Tribute to the Immortal Fats Waller

Album · 1955 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
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Recorded in 1955 a year after his masterpiece "Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars Plays W.C.Handy","Satch Plays Fats" is another classic New Orleans flavoured album. Sure "Fats Waller" did not hail from there but came from "New York but "Pops" definately did and that was the way he played with that original form of Jazz that emanated from his trumpet in the 1920's. The "All-Stars" are exactly the same as for the W.C Handy album with "Thelma Middleton" providing vocals again and although sometimes criticised for her range she most likely did what Louis Armstrong always wanted and that is to accompany him and not make things unbalanced and I myself absolutely love to hear Louis sing but you would have to agree he was not "Frank Sinatra". "Trummy Young" is blasting on trombone with his usual approach and poor "Barney Bigard" on clarinet is still trying to be heard by blowing as hard as he can to keep up."Billy Kyle" is on piano,"Arvell Shaw", bass and "Barrett Deems" is on drums. Fats was a stride pianist who often used humour in his lyrics but he still passed along the message of being black in the first half of the ninetenth century with his composition "Black and Blue" and his songs that he composed in the 1920's and 30's are still played today and are considered Jazz Standards as "Fats Waller's" place in Jazz history is considered to be a cornerstone for the genre. His tunes were part of Louis Armstrong's standard repertoire with "Ain't Misbehavin" and "Keepin' Out of Mischief" being two of his regulars and as usual he breathes new life into them with a traditional approach that only he could do with only the best trumpet playing in Jazz.

"Honeysuckle Rose" begins the album and the whole band has a quick shot with a solo and Thelma with Billy on piano lead us in ,with Louis coming in on vocals and Barney's clarinet just underneath with some superb quick solos from everybody with Louis going first. "Blue Turning Grey Over You" is down tempo and New Orleans as it can get with Louis opening with some wonderful trumpet and singing this one without Thelma. "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby and My Baby's Crazy 'Bout Me" with "Squeeze Me" follow with both being superb." Keepin' Out of Mischief' Is one of the highlights with a wonderful rendition by the band and who else could sing it better, than Louis, even Frank Sinatra could not have had the feel that Louis had for this song. "All That Meat and No Potatoes" is often pointed out as low point and it does not really seem to gel with the vocals between Thelma and Louis but does it matter when Trummy and Barney play two great solos respectively. The last two tracks are more high points with the first being a wonderful version of "( What did I do to be so) Black and Blue" with the closer being a stunning take of "Aint Misbehavin" and given beautiful spirited feel with some of that top note Louis Armstrong trumpet. Trummy's trombone with Barney's clarinet are superb but Louis just blows them all away with his solo that just keeps getting higher.

"Satch Plays Fats" is just as essential as "W.C Handy" in your jazz collection with both being New Orleans traditional masterpieces from the greatest musician ever that played trumpet and one who's own exuberance always showed through with his joyful approach to life as well as his music. Both these albums are my favourite "Louis Armstrong " albums and both are pure Jazz with that original New Orleans influence.This review was only taken from the original issue of the cd which was released way back in the late 1980's and all those extra bonus tracks were not issued on this edition.

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