Archive for June 12, 2009

Potato Head Blues

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , on June 12, 2009 by telescoper

I’ve just spent several hours ploughing through yet more examination scripts – first year ones, not needed before the finals Examination Board. By way of a bit of refreshment I thought I’d listen to this, and enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share it on here.

At one point in the film Manhattan, the character played by Woody Allen makes a list of the things that make life worth living. This record is one of them. Potato Head Blues was recorded on May 10th 1927 in the Okeh Studios in Chicago by Louis Armstrong and the Hot Seven. It’s not actually a blues, but we won’t quibble about that because whatever it is not it is definitely a timeless Jazz masterpiece.

The other members of the band are Johnny Dodds (clarinet, heard to good effect in the solo before Louis Armstrong), Johnny’s brother Warren “Baby” Dodds (drums), Louis Armstrong’s first wife Lil Armstrong (née Hardin, piano), Johnny St Cyr (banjo), Pete Briggs (brass bass or tuba) and John Thomas on trombone. But the star of the performance is, of course, Satchmo himself, who was at the absolute peak of his powers when this record was made. If you have any doubts about what a musical genius he was, go straight to the point (at about 1:50) where he launches into his famous stop-time solo chorus which is just breathtaking in its power and inventiveness. Built from a succession of dazzling impromptu phrases, it explodes into a joyous climax which is beautifully sustained into the final ensemble chorus that follows.  Enjoy!

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