Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St. Louis Blues - 1958 - A Jazz Dream?

[Note: I originally posted this blog on Tuesday night about a video that appeared on YouTube on Monday. Little l did I know at the time but it disappeared off of YouTube on Wednesday making my words look kind of senseless. The good news? I found it disguised under another name and am going to share it below. The bad news? The only other YouTube clip of the performance has an annoying tendency to skip every 20 seconds or so. It can get on your nerves but for now it's the only way to enjoy the priceless performance online. Enjoy!]
I've seen these video dozens of times but it finally showed up on YouTube the other day and I thought it would be worth sharing. I titled this post "A Jazz Dream" because the amount of talent showcased in shortly over five minutes is simply mind-boggling. Let's watch:

Just look at the assemblage in the very first frame of the video: George Shearing soloing (Pops digging him), Gerry Mulligan, Jack Teagarden and Chubby Jackson...we're off and running! Pops makes all the introductions, a natural as ever. I The camera swings around and catches the great Lionel Hampton, backed by his entire orchestra, who stand around and let Hamp solo...isn't that how things usually went? (I kid...I love Hamp.) Hamp doubles the tempo and now we're off and swinging.

Now, have you ever had a dream where someone you'd least expect decides to pop up? Well, look no further as Pops is joined by vocalist...Jaye P. Morgan!? Did I watch a "Gong Show" marathon before having this dream? Morgan almost dislocates her elbow trying to keep time but Pops is there to save the day with a righteous scatted obbligato and a delightful turn on the tune's minor strain, which Velma Middleton always sung in live performances. (Dig the reference to "chops"...hilarious!)

Now wait a minute...who else has appeared in this dream of mine? is that Gene Krupa peering from over Armstrong's shoulder? Yessir, I believe it is. The camera cuts back to Armstrong and Morgan in a two-show, Pops scatting beautifully, even quoting W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues," which he always played in his trumpet obbligato to Velma's vocals on the tune.

Hamp then substitutes Charlie Parker's "Blues For Alice" changes (a favorite of the vibraphonists), adding a slightly modern touch for four bars and allowing Pops to get his chops together for a smoking outing. Again, in his live performances, Armstrong tended to take the tune at a rocking, medium groove and he usually had his concluding solo minted in stone. But here, at a more lively tempo, Armstrong unleashes a steady stream of swinging improvisations, sounding very strong and undeniably creative, eventually coaxing his old friend Hamp into an engaging trade.

Hampton then signals another tempo change, ushering in the aforementioned Gene Krupa, who begins a furious drum battle with the great Cozy Cole. What's a good dream without a drum battle? Hamp's orchestra begins wailing, host Gary Moore appears from out of nowhere behind a makeshift kit of drums...and WHOA! An abrupt conclusion! We're awakened from our dream by the dreaded end of the YouTube upload (it's different than being woken by a crying baby...but no less jarring).

Truthfully, the video should have lasted about 40 more seconds. The credits began to roll with Hamp's orchestra wailing, Pops joining in and soaring over the uproar, which also includes the announcer making his closing announcements. For some reason, this version doesn't including these exciting final seconds but I'm just thankful for what we have. This year, numerous writers have been knocking themselves out about 1959 being jazz's greatest year. 1958 wasn't too shabby either, eh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that video didn't last long. Sigh...