Archive for Louis Armstrong

Jazz and Physics

Posted in History, Jazz, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 26, 2016 by telescoper

No time for a full post today, so I’ll just share this intriguing picture I found on the interwebs of two great figures from very different fields: Jazz trumpet legend Louis Armstrong and pioneering quantum physicist, Niels Bohr.

Armstrong-Bohr

When I first saw this I assumed it had been photoshopped, but I’m reliably informed that the picture is genuine and that it was taken in Copenhagen in 1959. Other than that I know nothing of the circumstances in which it was taken. I’d love to hear from anyone who knows the full story!

Potato Head Blues

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , on February 2, 2015 by telescoper

Up very early this cold and frosty morning to get a train back from Cardiff to Brighton, I listened to this track on my iPod and no longer felt either tired or cold. I have posted this before, but that was six years ago, so I hope you won’t mind me posting it again too much.

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 announces his intent with a characteristic three note BA-DA-DAA, a device he used very often to kick off a solo. In this case it provides an entry into his famous stop-time chorus which is just breathtaking in its power, inventiveness and sheer beauty. 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.  If I ever had to go on one of those radio programmes that involve people picking their favourite pieces of music, this would definitely be one of my selections.

 

 

Cornet Chop Suey

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , on April 11, 2014 by telescoper

Just time for a short lunchtime post in between loads of end-of-term business and travelling up to London for this afternoon’s meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society. I’m a bit tired, to be honest, largely owing to a late night last night at the Sussex University Mathematics Society Ball, but this is an excellent pick-me-up. You can dip into the classic “Hot Five” recordings at any point and come up with something wonderful, but I think this is one of the very best. Recorded in Chicago on February 26, 1926, Cornet Chop Suey was written by Louis Armstrong and features him on trumpet, at the centre of the amazing front line that also included Kid Ory on trombone and Johnny Dodds on clarinet. Johnny St. Cyr plays banjo and on piano is the superb Lil Armstrong (née Hardin), Louis’ first wife, who plays a very fine solo on this track.  Above all, though, it’s a vehicle for Louis Armstrong himself who is on absolutely superlative form, especially in the stop-time choruses from about 1:47 onwards. The ending’s pretty good too…

Enjoy!

 

Let’s call the whole thing off

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on April 12, 2013 by telescoper

I’m up early to travel up to the Big Smoke where I’ll be all day todayday today so here’s something nice while I’m away. Music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and vocals by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Who could ask for anything more? Take it away, Ella & Louis!

Lonesome Waterloo Sunset Blues

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , , , , on July 27, 2012 by telescoper

Just saw the song Waterloo Sunset by the popular beat combo The Kinks in a list of the ten best songs about London in this week’s New Statesman. I wonder if anyone else has noticed the remarkable resemblance between that tune and the classic Lonesome Blues recorded by Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five in 1926, with the main theme played by legendary clarinettist Johnny Dodds:

I wonder if, by any chance, they might be related?

Muggles

Posted in Jazz with tags , on May 10, 2012 by telescoper

A bit fed up today, and too tired to post anything substantive, so I thought I’d cheer myself up this lunchtime the old-fashioned way with a bit of Louis Armstrong. This was recorded in 1928 by Satchmo with the later incarnation of the Hot Five, which naturally numbered six people in total. The title, Muggles, has nothing to with Harry Potter but is a slang word popular in 1920s Chicago that refers to a certain smoking material of an illicit nature, to which Mr Armstrong was rather partial all his life and which no doubt contributed to the relaxed atmosphere pervading this recording session..

 

Weather Bird

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on January 15, 2012 by telescoper

Time to try countering the melancholy mood that has settled on me over the last few days. I just heard this track on the radio and coincidentally it came up on a random play on my iPod on Friday too. Clearly someone up there is telling me to share it with you.

This gem, recorded in New York city in 1928, is a duet between Louis Armstrong (on trumpet) and Earl Hines (piano). Both were marvellous musicians in their own right but in combination they were dazzling. This piece  is obviously totally spontaneous and it’s almost miraculous how it holds together while the two men attempt mischievously to pull it in different directions. But hold together it certainly does; this piece takes “making it up as you go along” into another dimension altogether and the result is 2 minutes and 38 seconds of the most joyful music-making you can ever hope to hear..