DUKES OF DIXIELAND
LOUIE AND THE DUKES OF DIXIELAND
|Side 1:||Side 2:|
|Bourbon Street||Just A Closer Walk With Thee|
|Washington and Lee Swing||Sheik Of Araby|
|New Orleans||Sweet Georgia Brown|
|That´s A´ Plenty||Limehouse Blues|
There is a clarity and brilliance of tone in Louis Armstrong´s playing that has been unexcelled by any other trumpet player. I had never heard this quality so fully and accurately preserved on record until his previous Audio Fidelity set, Sulciimo Plays King Oliver (AFSO 5930; AF1.P 1930). Now, again, in this meeting with the Dukes of Dixieland, Louis´ strikingly clean sound can be heard entirely unmuffted. undistorled, and ungimmicked. Sid Frey of Audio Fidelity was in charge of these sessions at New York´s Webster Hall, and pointed out during one of the dates that he had no respect for ping-pong stereo recording or for manipulated monophonic recording. "I like," he explained, "a broad panorama of sound so that each of the musicians is placed—and heard—according to where he´d actually be standing in a performance. Also, we record with very little reverberation. There´s already enough in, the room. And we get all the presence, intimacy and warmth of sound we can so that the listener can identify himself with what´s going on. Louis, for example, leaves me emotionally exhausted; but it seems to me that until we recorded him, no one else had been able to capture his full impact."
Louis was in expansive spirits during the session and took charge—setting the routines, recommending changes, and generally buoying up the Dukes by his encouragement and enthusiasm" They´re home boys," he pointed to them at one point. "Whenever we´re playing in the same town, I go and sit in. We have a ball."
The Dukes in turn felt honored—using the term quite literally — to be playing with Louis. They had worked together formally once before; and Frankie Assunto, recalling that occasion, spoke for his colleagues. "I always thought I´d be afraid to play with him, but he´s the easiest person in the world to work. with. As soon as he comes into the room and says ´Hello´, everything changes. He can relax you more than anyone else I´ve ever known."
The Dukes as a unit have been gradually changing their approach in recent months, and have become looser. One factor has been the addition of clarinetist Jerry Fuller who had been with Jack Teagarden for some five years. Jerry has a liquid tone, fluent technique, and a rhythmic conception that is essentially based in the swing era. This past November. Rich Matteson came on the band to play bass and helicon. The latter is a remarkably flexible, tuba-like instrument that can do a great lively new is drummer Mo Mahoney whose experience in jazz is comparatively broad and has encompassed several idioms.The long term members—brothers Frank and Fred Assunto, "Papa Jac" Assunto, and pianist Stanley Mendelsohn — have a wide - ranging interest in jazz, up to and including Miles Davis, despite the essentially Dixieland nature of their own work. It seems to me that on this album. Louis Armstrong, acting as a ever achieved on records.
As for Louis himself, he remains one of the marvels of jazz. He is still capable of soaring, classically complete solos that are beautifully organized and marked by that total individuality which once caused Bobby Hackelt to say, "You can hear just one note, and you know it´s Louis."
The opener is BOURBON STREET PARADE, a light-hearted salute written by veteran drummer-leader, Paul Barbarin. Louis´ vocal foil is Frankie Assunto. Louis, by my criteria, is easily the most, horn-like jazz singer alive and his vocal work on this album is among his most euphoric in recent years. Dig his obbiigalo-like breaks against the latter part of Frankie´s vocal. Fuller sounds in his solo somewhat like a young Irving Fazola; and then, after Mo Mahoney´s parade introduction, Louis drives the band down the street.
SOUTH, mostly associated with midwestern, Kansas City based jazz, is taken at a relaxed but deliberate tempo. In his strutting vocal. Louis parenthetically pays tribute to his favorite aid to wholesome living, Swiss Kriss. Note the cynibal epilogue to SOUTH — part of Frey´s desire to make a recording as close to the natural "live" listening experience as possible.
WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING is played at a bristlingly fast tempo and the high point
is Louis´ cracklingly intense solo. AVALON was one of the first tunes cut for the
album. Louis couldn´t remember all the lyrics, and accordingly, he made up his own
paraphrases, which kept changing with each take. For example, this is one that isn´t on
the final record:
The tender NEW ORLEANS follows. In the opening, Louis indicates how closely he can stick to a melody, and yet make it a thoroughly jazz and a thoroughly individual interpretation. I think too that Frankie Assunto deserves credit for his tasteful background to Louis´s vocal. Louis own sole is so rich and vibrant that one can understand a friend´s comment during the afternoon, "That man really lives his life for that horn."
The venerable THAT´S A PLENTY comes most alive in Louis´ wholly committed solo. Another quality of Louis is that he gives all of himself—emotionally and physically—to his playing. Listen too to the way he takes the band, as if in a giant fist, and carries it through a climactic closing ride, much in the way Sidney Bechet used to.
JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE, a spiritual that was often played by New Orleans bands while accompanying a departed lodge member on the way to the graveyard, is handled by Louis with moving simplicity. Louis learned long ago that a mastery of understatement can be extraordinarily powerful. Although it contains no Roman candies. I feel this track is one of Louis´ major performances. Hearing DIXIE with Louis leading the way, I was reminded of Louis´ uncompromising statement about Little Rock and also of the student sit-in leaders I had met a few weeks before this session. I also remembered a white Southern historian who was proud of the sit-ins and said, "These students are also Southerners, and they are being true to the best Southern traditions of self-assertion and courage." Dixie will never be the same again.
Louis has as much fun with standards as the late "Fats" Waller used to. He starts SHEIK OF ARABY with almost austere solemnity; but in his vocal, he gradually "puts on" the song (and note, by the way, how clearly and completely Louis´ voice has been recorded.) Louis again guides the Dukes on WOLVERINE BLUES and his own playing glows with a simplicity and integration of thought and feeling that are so difficult for any artist to attain.
SWEET GEORGIA BROWN is played in a jam session groove and contains another crisply burnished Armstrong solo. The final LIMEHOUSE BLUES is fired by one of Louis´ most penetratingly masterful solos of the album, one that is also a lesson in how to build to climaxes. "The old man is too much," Frankie Assunto shook his head after the session. Louis was listening to a playback, smiling.
"Sounds like an old marching band," Frankie said to him. "Yes, indeed," Louis laughed. "And they´ve all got their caps on!"
Co-Editor, The Jazz Review
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and The Dukes of Dixieland
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