As mentioned a few months ago, the wonderful people at Mosaic Records have decided to give Armstrong's Decca recordings of 1935-1946 the "Mosaic treatment," releasing all the material completely in an upcoming seven-disc box set. As discussed in recent weeks, my friend, the late Gösta Hägglöf, did a knock-out job on this material on his Ambassador label, but the Ambassadors were never easy to find in America. Also, Decca itself abandoned its own CD-reissue project of this material in the 90s, quitting after only three volumes.
Thus, for many people, Armstrong's Decca recordings have sadly become some of his least known works, though they were the favorites of many musicians coming up in the 30s and 40s and have continued to be the favorites of authorities as Gus and Michael Cogswell. I've written love letters to the them numerous times in this blog and look forward to doing it again when the set officially ships out in mid-April.
Until then, to whet the appetite, the world-famous "JazzVideoGuy," Bret Primack, took his camera over to the Institute of Jazz Studies and filmed a nine-minute promotional video for Mosaic featuring a typically informative interview with Dan Morgenstern. Few people know this material better than Dan and he makes a pretty convincing argument as to the importance of this period in Armstrong's career. The generous audio samples and beautiful photos just hammer home the point even more convincingly. Here's the video:
And here's the link to the Mosaic page for the set, where you can read the discography, listen to music samples and pre-order a copy. Do it...NOW!
And for the New York readers, I need to call attention to a concert that is going to take place tomorrow evening, Wednesday, March 25 and in my opinion is an absolute music event. I've mentioned my good buddy John Wriggle in this blog before. John and I graduated together from Rutgers Newark's Master's program in Jazz History and Research. Before I even met John, I knew about him because I heard Lewis Porter telling Dan Morgenstern that a new student was entering the program who was "the world's foremost authority on Chappie Willet."
Who? Chappie Willet was a dynamite Swing Era arranger who is sadly almost completely forgotten today. However, John Wriggle hasn't forgotten him and has done everything in his power--a Master's thesis, an Institute of Jazz Studies lecture, journal articles, a doctoral dissertation--to spread knowledge of Willet's music. Well, tomorrow, everything John has worked for is coming to a head as he will be presenting an evening of Willet's arrangements as performed by none other than the superb Vince Giordano and His Nighthawks. Unfortunately, your friendly blogger will be unable to attend this once-in-a-lifetime show but I'm sure my colleague Michael Steinman will be there so I'll point the way to his "Jazz Lives" blog in the coming days.
You might not know Chappie by name but if you're an Armstrong fan and you're familiar with the Decca period, you've heard his "Struttin' With Some Barbecue":
Or perhaps "Alexander's Ragtime Band":
And if you're familiar with the Fleischmann's Yeast broadcasts, then you're very familiar with Chappie's work as it features a bunch of unrecorded Willet arrangements, three of which will be played at tomorrow's concerts (but John won't tell!). Here's Chappie's "Rhythm Jam":
And "After You've Gone:
That's all Chappie Willet, folks (well, with help from Pops)! But enough from me. The following is John's official e-mail about the concert with all the official particulars. If you can get there, don't miss it!
Blue Rhythm Fantasy: The Music of Chappie Willet
March 25, 2009, Elebash Recital Hall
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue @ 34th Street, New York City
Presentation 7:30pm, Concert 8:00pm
At 7:30pm on Wednesday, March 25, John Wriggle will present Vince Giordano & His (Augmented) Nighthawk Orchestra in performance at the City University of New York Graduate Center's Elebash Recital Hall. The program features the jazz big band music of composer and arranger Francis "Chappie" Willet (1907-1976), one of the forgotten giants of the Swing Era music world. Willet was best known for providing the production music for such iconic New York City venues as the Cotton Club
and Apollo Theater; his arrangements were originally performed by the jazz orchestras of Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, Jimmie Lunceford, Lucky Millinder, and Red Norvo, among others.
Many of the selections on this unique program were never commercially recorded, and have been reconstructed from archival manuscripts, obscure stock arrangements, or radio aircheck recordings. Celebrate the legacy of Chappie Willet and the great swing big band arrangers with this live performance by an augmented version of the leading period jazz orchestra in New York City, Vince Giordano & His Nighthawks. Admission is free,limited to the first 180 attendees (no reservations; hall opens at
7:00pm). Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is made possible through the generous support of the Baisley Powell Elebash Fund, the City University of New York Graduate Center Music Department, and the Graduate Center's PhD-DMA Concert Office.