Has the weather got you down? Is post-summer depression setting in? Here’s a song from Louis Armstrong to take away the chill.
Do I even need to tell you about Armstrong? He was one of the inventors of jazz music as we know it. And if jazz is mainly about the expression of the individual, well, nobody sounded more “individual” than he did. When he started to sing or play, you only needed to hear a note or two to know it was him.
He was one of jazz music’s first real stars. He was also one of the first African-American artists of any kind to find a strong white audience, and this during a period of bitter racial division in America. It’s remarkable what he overcame.
(I saw him in person once, playing on an outdoor stage at Newport. Today I treasure that experience as if I had seen a live performance by Beethoven.)
In this number, he throws little scat phrases into his singing, which was another of his innovations. He had a natural flare for doing that. Although he pioneered jazz’s emphasis on the improvised solo, he doesn’t really improvise on this song. For a player capable of so much, he could be extraordinarily restrained, and that restraint gave special meaning to every note. Listening to this, I’m totally in his grip, wondering how long each pause will last, how many grace notes he’ll play, how long he’ll hold the final note of a phrase or how much vibrato he’ll use. It’s like hearing someone tell a fascinating story. You just can’t wait for the next detail.
– Charles Layton