A couple of years ago I found myself writing a song called “Louis Armstrong.” Despite the title, it’s not about Louis Armstrong per se, but it seemed to have a life of its own straight out of the box, so much so that I assembled a large cast of acoustic players to record it at my old stomping ground, Creative Workshop, where I’d been recording and stock-piling various “live in the studio” performances over the previous five years for my Skelly Trilogy project. I used the same core band as before, augmenting the ensemble considerably, and with the invaluable assistance of the great engineer and my close cohort, Joe Funderburk, the result was most pleasing (to me, anyway). This led me to listen to the various acoustic pieces we’d made in this unique musical space, including some songs that had not yet seen the light of day, and the result is “Berry Hill Buzz,” named for the area of town where Creative Workshop has existed since the early seventies, but also as a tip of the hat to its originator and owner, my dear old friend, Buzz Cason, who roared up one afternoon in his sports car to make it to a photo shoot for the album that’s finally going to be released. If it hadn’t been for “Louis Armstrong,” this material might continue to gather dust.
The conclusion to the Louis Armstrong Never Got It Wrong series! If you missed the first three installments you can find them here:
Before I ever heard a rock ‘n’ roll record I heard plenty of Louis Armstrong’s music, thanks to my sax-playing Uncle Jack . . . the Hot 5 and Hot 7 recordings, particularly, so I knew there was a lot more to the avuncular showman of the Fifties than cavorting with Bing and Frank on film, mugging on TV, and donning the persona of Jazz Ambassador, although he did all of that with his usual style, grace and good humor.
He provided, almost single-handedly, the instrumental and vocal vocabulary for the generations that followed. Whether we realize it or not, there’s a little bit of Louis in everyone who picks up an axe or walks up to a microphone.
By the age of eleven, I’d read his first autobiography (ghosted, one assumes) three times. Whether his own words, or someone else’s, the flavor of the man came through strong and clear, so even the tidal wave of early rock ‘n’ roll didn’t diminish my big soft spot for Satchmo. There were occasional accusations of Uncle Tomism from the emerging militant groups, but it didn’t seem to phase him, and he just went ahead doing his thing the way he always had, becoming a global icon in the process.
This is part 1 of a 4 part series … stay tuned for more