Friday, October 3, 2008

Early Satch

I have listened to Jazz for something like 30 years now. For the longest time, I would hear people go on and on about Armstrong. Of course the images it called up for me involved Louis being very gentlemanly--all suited up maybe doing a duet with some white woman singer. It would usually be saturated with strings or soft horns. You know what I am talking about. And I just never got what made him great. It was all sentimental, and frankly kind of, well, tommish. Nice and all--sweet, classy, soulful--sure, but worth the hype? I saw Louis like this:It wasn't until years later that I got hip to the early Satch and its boldness. I guess I had heard some of it, but to my then untrained ear, it just sounded like dixieland. It wan't until I saw the raw power of the visual image of King Louis that it began to make sense to me. Seeing him young and in his prime, at times struggling to control his power--strutting all over the stage unashamed--the beast unleashed that it was like a kick in the face. Watch Louis play with "Dinah" here. Kicking the rhythm all around like a four legged ninja. Look at the raw attitude. And remember this is in 1933.

Yeah. Now if you want to see Louis get full on hip hop and totally non PC and with even more crazy frenetic energy, check out Rhapsody in Black and Blue from a year earlier. The actual song is "I'm Glad You Dead You Rascal You". Then he ramps it up even more with "Shine". This is the energy and power that I had missed. Later on it was all about class and style. Early on it was pure unadulterated power in the face of Jim Crow.Starting to make sense to you?

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