I don’t think I need to post a Louis Armstrong bio here. Instead, allow me to share with you the first of “Beautiful Grandma’s Crackpot Theories About Famous People.” Yes, she had quite a few. My Grandmother was convinced that the handkerchief that Louis used to wipe his brow as he performed was filled with cocaine so that he could discretely snort it while he was on stage. (Yeah, I have no idea how that was supposed to work either.) In fact I found no evidence that he battled addiction of any kind. He was probably overly fond of an herbal laxative called Swiss Kriss which he used for weight control. But I certainly can’t fault a man for enjoying a meal too many!
This version of “Just One Of Those Things” is from the 1957 album “Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson.”
“Teo” is from the 1961 album “Someday My Prince Will Come” and it’s written in honor of Miles’ friend and producer Teo Macero. I listened to an interview Teo gave about working with Miles. You could hear the love as he talked about his quirky but gifted friend. Coltrane is featured in two songs on this album. This one and the title track. It was the last time the two men recorded together.
My friend says Coltrane’s face melting solo in this song predates mug melting electric guitar solos. With chest puffed out, gut sucked in, and arms akimbo I cry my haughtiest “No way!” Clearly my friend does not listen to the blues! Why, B.B. King’s electric guitar solos could give whole audiences the jowly cheeked basset hound look by ‘56. He was easily melting faces Raiders Of The Lost Ark style by ‘61. There are many artists who predate King by decades whose guitar licks could melt people from the knees up! Go to any blues festival and you’ll see that most of the audience is held together with duct tape and Spackle. I’ve a good mind to go to Twitter and write that man a scathing 140 character rebuttal for having a different opinion than mine! I’m not going to do it. I’m just saying I’ve got a good mind for it is all.
I doubt melancholia is ever beautiful but “Blue in Green” and “Flamenco Sketches” certainly are. They’re both on the album “Kind Of Blue” which is probably the best selling jazz album of all time. Authorship of the song “Blue In Green” has been debated. In this album’s liner notes Davis is credited with composing the tune. But when pianist Bill Evans covered the tune on later recordings his notes say Evans-Davis. One source even says Evans alone wrote the song. Either way, both songs were very heavily influenced by Bill Evans. Please enjoy!
Melancholia is an oddly pretty word for such a devastating disorder. It’s a severe mood disturbance characterized by persistent depression and psycho-motor disturbances. It is easy to imagine Davis or Evans suffering from melancholia. It seems so many of our most brilliant creative minds struggle with mental illness. Does beauty come from suffering? I’d love to think it doesn’t but I honestly don’t know. I choose to believe that if there was some sort of genius centrifuge that could separate the madness from the gift, we would end up with a lot more Lady Day and a lot less Lady GaGa.
Totally left field train of thought inspired by today’s video: I think the improved ability to detect and diagnose “disorders” in children is a mixed blessing at best. (Thought has nothing to do with my kiddo. She’s fine.)
Charlie “Bird” Parker was brilliant and, like many geniuses, left us too soon. The internet says there aren’t many live performances by him on film but You Tube has a few. I chose this one with pre-bent trumpet Dizzy Gillespie because I love them both. It’s from 1951 and the tune they’re playing is called “Hot House.” Apparently the two men were not friends. All accounts indicate that Charlie’s addiction did not make him very pleasant company. Luckily, for these two men, friendship was not a prerequisite for great music.
Back in the late 90’s when I lived in California I drove a 1978 Dodge. It didn’t have a rag top but a couple of the windows sorta worked. When the wind blew just right, I could actually detect the aroma of springtime orange blossoms over the scent of burning motor oil. To this day the smell of imminent engine failure makes me pine for my San Fernando Valley home.
“Someday My Prince Will Come” was written for the 1937 Disney animated classic “Snow White”. It was “found” by the jazz world about 20 years later and quickly became a standard. Here is the 1961 Miles Davis version of the song.
Okay, yes, “Snow White” is a masterpiece. It’s visually stunning and it’s a remarkable achievement frankly, I find the original version is a bit grating. I don’t know, were cheek clenchingly high falsettos really hot in the 1930’s?