For years, Gaetano Alberto “Guy” Lombardo was synonymous with playing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. He also was considered a stodgy conservative dance band leader, perhaps just to the cool side of Lawrence Welk.
Our access to YouTube and its documentation of much of the last fifty or sixty years may lead us to forget just how remarkable these videos are. The video above shows Lombardo playing New Year’s Eve 1957/1958 at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. I was about 10 months old and presumably asleep in Queens at the time. About halfway through, the scene shifts to Times Square and correspondent Robert Trout.
I am having a little trouble finding it spelled out explicitly, but apparently these conservative bands that focused on dancing rather than innovative music were call “sweet orchestras.” Muzak, I suppose would be the closest equivalent today, though that’s doesn’t really capture it. Lombardo, however, had fan who wasn’t dismissive, according to the Jazz Research Journal:
Though Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians were always considered the sweetest of American dance bands and the antithesis of what is usually called jazz, Louis Armstrong regularly named them as his favorite orchestra. This judgment is usually dismissed as an odd quirk, but by exploring it we can learn something about what made Armstrong unique. Likewise, it is worth examining Armstrong’s admiration for classical virtuosos like Herbert Clarke of the Sousa band. In broader terms, we cannot understand the evolution of jazz if we do not explore the deep African-American classical tradition and the extent to which artists like Armstrong and Lombardo shared a single world, and appealed to a broadly overlapping audience. Sweet orchestras and classical concert music, rather than being the opposite of jazz, were among the many inspirations for Armstrong and his peers, and our understanding and appreciation of these musicians is increased when we realize the breadth of their interests.
That’s sort of like nobody thinking you’re a good basketball player except Michael Jordan. In fact, Lombardo was a pall-bearer at Armstrong’s funeral.
In addition to Auld Lang Syne, the band plays Irving Berlin’s Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.by
This is the first trombone player featured at TDMB. It’s nice that he is a next step in the proud tradition of New Orleans horn players. Indeed, he seems to play trumpet — which of course is the heart of that tradition — as much as the bones.
Here is the beginning of his Wikipedia entry:
Troy Andrews (born January 2, 1986), also known by the stage name Trombone Shorty is a trombone and trumpet player from New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. He has worked in jazz, funk and rap music. Andrews is the younger brother of trumpeter and bandleader James Andrews as well as the grandson of singer and songwriter Jessie Hill. Andrews began playing trombone at age six, and since 2009 has toured with his own band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. (Continue Reading…)
Stanley Clarke is a highly regarded jazz bassist most widely known for his work with Chick Corea and Return to Forever. However, his career is extremely varied, from cutting edge jazz to scoring movies. Clarke even wrote music for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, a 1990′s children’s show starring Pee Wee Herman. A comprehensive Wikipedia profile is here.
This is the start of an interesting interview with Clarke at the Arts App Blog:
Ehe xploding into the jazz world in 1971, Stanley was a lanky teenager from the Philadelphia Academy of Music. He arrived in New York City and immediately landed jobs with famous bandleaders such as: Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, and a budding young pianist composer named Chick Corea. (Continue Reading…)
Above is School Days, the title track from his first big album. Below, he Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller play Beat It in a tribute to Michael Jackson.by
I didn’t know anything about Dinah Washington — whose real name was Ruth Lee Jones — other that she was a terrific singer. It was sad that this is how her NPR bio begins:
Singer Dinah Washington, the Grammy-winning “Queen of the Jukeboxes,” left her turbulent life behind at the tender age of 39. In that short period, a volatile mix of undeniable talent and deep-rooted insecurity took her to the heights of fame and the depths of self-doubt. (Continue Reading…)
Here is Washington’s discography. Above is a clip from The Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, at least according to the comments. It’s great, from the music to the shots of the late 1950s crowd to Washington’s grabbing of the mallets (I’m guessing that is what you call the hammers with which a vibraphone is struck). Through the magic of Google, I found out — in literally five seconds, which actually is a bit frightening — that the good-natured vibraphonist is Terry Gibbs, who led the sextet. Max Roach is the drummer.
The clip’s high quality is due to the fact that it shot for a movie, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, by Bert Stern.
Below is another great clip, this one of Lover Come Back to Me.by
Trumpet player Freddie Hubbard, as the first two paragraphs of his AllMusic profile show, was one of the mainstays of jazz during the latter half of the twentieth century:
One of the great jazz trumpeters of all time, Freddie Hubbard formed his sound out of the Clifford Brown/Lee Morgan tradition, and by the early ’70s was immediately distinctive and the pacesetter in jazz. However, a string of blatantly commercial albums later in the decade damaged his reputation and, just when Hubbard, in the early ’90s (with the deaths of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis), seemed perfectly suited for the role of veteran master, his chops started causing him serious troubles.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Hubbard played early on with Wes and Monk Montgomery. He moved to New York in 1958, roomed with Eric Dolphy (with whom he recorded in 1960), and was in the groups of Philly Joe Jones (1958-1959), Sonny Rollins, Slide Hampton, and J.J. Johnson, before touring Europe with Quincy Jones (1960-1961). He recorded with John Coltrane, participated in Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (1960), was on Oliver Nelson’s classic Blues and the Abstract Truth album (highlighted by “Stolen Moments”), and started recording as a leader for Blue Note that same year. Hubbard gained fame playing with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1961-1964) next to Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller. He recorded Ascension with Coltrane (1965), Out to Lunch (1964) with Eric Dolphy, and Maiden Voyage with Herbie Hancock, and, after a period with Max Roach (1965-1966), he led his own quintet, which at the time usually featured altoist James Spaulding. A blazing trumpeter with a beautiful tone on flügelhorn, Hubbard fared well in freer settings but was always essentially a hard bop stylist. (Continue Reading…)
Above is I Remember Clifford and below is The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.by
Visitors to New York should keep in mind that lots of great sites are outside of Manhattan. One of those is the Louis Armstrong House, which is in Corona, Queens. It’s a museum that is housed in the only home that Armstrong owned, and it is kept as it was when he passed away. It is not far from Citi Field.
Check out this nice feature from a while back at Retro Renovation.by
Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton was a New Orleans-born “Creole of color” who is considered to be one of the most important figures in early jazz.
Many peoples’ impressions of early jazz are distorted by the primitive recording equipment. The quality of the sound can be thought of as the equivalent of what people’s movements look like in silent movies. These two recordings of Morton show how subtle the music — at least his — really is.
A comment at the YouTube page featuring The Crave (above) writes that the recording was taken from a piano roll. I am not sure if the person knows that or is guessing, but it makes sense. In any case, the piece is absolutely beautiful. Ted Gioia at Jazz.com came to the same conclusion — and he actually knows what he’s talking about.
Red Hot Jazz has a nice profile of Morton:
Jelly Roll Morton was the first great composer and piano player of Jazz. He was a talented arranger who wrote special scores that took advantage of the three-minute limitations of the 78 rpm records. But more than all these things, he was a real character whose spirit shines brightly through history, like his diamond studded smile. As a teenager Jelly Roll Morton worked in the whorehouses of Storyville as a piano player. From 1904 to 1917 Jelly Roll rambled around the South. He worked as a gambler, pool shark, pimp, vaudeville comedian and as a pianist. He was an important transitional figure between ragtime and jazz piano styles. (Continue Reading…)
The writer of the profile points to a site — it’s name isn’t clear — which offers a tremendous amount of information about Morton.
King Porter Stomp is below.by
New Orleans has a genius for producing great food and great trumpet and cornet players. Indeed, Louis Armstrong — who Wynton Marsalis pays homage to above — wasn’t the first. There was Buddy Bolden. And Joe “King” Oliver, a mentor to Armstrong, was raised in New Orleans even if he wasn’t born there. More recently, the city produced Al Hirt and Nicolas Payton. There are many others.
But Marsalis is special, as a musician and as an ambassador of jazz. This is from the bio at his site:
Wynton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At an early age he exhibited a superior aptitude for music and a desire to participate in American culture. At age eight Wynton performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by legendary banjoist Danny Barker, and at 14 he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic. During high school Wynton performed with the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands and the popular local funk band, the Creators. (Continue Reading…)
Here is the beginning of a review of a 1999 work, All Rise, which was presented at Avery Fisher Hall:
Wynton Marsalis’s tap didn’t turn off in 1999. Eight new discs bear his name, ranging from new extended jazz works to rearranged Jelly Roll Morton and Thelonious Monk; he has a seven-CD boxed set of live material; six months of the year were spent touring worldwide and playing the music of Duke Ellington. And finally, in its premiere performance on Wednesday night at Avery Fisher Hall, there was ”All Rise,” a symphonic piece commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in a collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Continue Reading…)