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As we are saying goodbye to July, let’s jazz it up with ‘Pops’ and ‘Rabbit’


Again in 2013, I posted a celebration of Pops on July 4, explaining that it was a convention at my outdated jazz radio station.

After I was this system director of WPFW-FM radio, Pacifica, Washington, D.C., we broadcast his music from 6:30 AM until midnight, interspersed with interviews with musicians who knew him and beloved him.  

A number of musicians spoke of how he quietly took care of many older musicians financially, and never solely did he maintain them whereas dwelling, he took care of their funeral bills and sorted their households. His shut associates referred to as him “Pops.”

So July 4th, to me, is “Pops Day.”

The July 4 Armstrong birthday celebration occurs at different jazz stations as effectively, like New York’s WKCR. The Louis Armstrong Home Museum has a bio of his life—listing Aug. 4 as his birthdate.

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. He was raised by his mom Mayann in a neighborhood so harmful it was referred to as “The Battlefield.” He solely had a fifth-grade schooling, dropping out of faculty early to go to work. An early job working for the Jewish Karnofsky household allowed Armstrong to make sufficient cash to buy his first cornet.

On New Yr’s Eve 1912, he was arrested and despatched to the Coloured Waif’s Residence for Boys. There, underneath the tutelage of Peter Davis, he realized the way to correctly play the cornet, ultimately turning into the chief of the Waif’s Residence Brass Band. Launched from the Waif’s Residence in 1914, Armstrong set his sights on turning into an expert musician. Mentored by town’s high cornetist, Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong quickly grew to become one of the in-demand cornetists on the town, ultimately working steadily on Mississippi riverboats.

In 1922, King Oliver despatched for Armstrong to affix his band in Chicago. Armstrong and Oliver grew to become the speak of the city with their intricate two-cornet breaks and began making information collectively in 1923. By that time, Armstrong started relationship the pianist within the band, Lillian Hardin. In 1924, Armstrong married Hardin, who urged Armstrong to depart Oliver and attempt to make it on his personal. A yr in New York with Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra proved unsatisfying so Armstrong returned to Chicago in 1925 and started making information underneath his personal identify for the primary time.

The group fashioned in his “personal identify” was Louis Armstrong and his Sizzling 5.

For a extra detailed dive into his life, and music, I counsel you learn Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings.


The guide was written by Armstrong and edited by Thomas Brothers.

This unparalleled assortment of Armstrong’s candid writings reveals a aspect of the artist not broadly recognized to his followers. With idiosyncratic language and punctuation that remembers his musical virtuosity, Armstrong presents his ideas on his life and career–from abject poverty in New Orleans to taking part in within the well-known cafes, cabarets, and saloons of Storyville; from his massive break in 1922 with the King Oliver band to his storming of New York; from his breaking of coloration limitations in Hollywood to the notorious King of the Zulus incident in 1949; and at last, to his final days in Queens, New York.

Music historian Brian Harker reviewed the unique book for Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Affiliation.

Louis Armstrong in His Personal Phrases units significantly excessive requirements of editorial judgment and constancy. The guide comprises nineteen gadgets, all written by Armstrong and all beforehand inaccessible besides via analysis libraries or photocopies from decades-old periodicals. Brothers has made his alternatives properly, beginning with the indispensable “Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Household in New Orleans, La., the Yr of 1907.” Different important entries embrace supply materials for the primary Armstrong biography (the “Goffin Notebooks”) and the unfinished sequels to Armstrong’s second autobiography (“The Armstrong Story” and “The Satchmo Story”). To contextualize the writings, Brothers gives helpful ancillary supplies: an appendix of well-informed commentary on every of the entries, a bibliography of sixty-five extant writings by Armstrong, and an annotated index compiled by Charles Kinzer.

Brothers takes a scrupulous method to editorial coverage. He preserves Armstrong’s idiosyncratic makes use of of capitalization and punctuation, which he views as inflections of Armstrong’s prose just like the expressive gadgets of his trumpet taking part in. Brothers argues convincingly that such unorthodox writing model is neither meaningless nor constantly ironic (as some have proposed), however quite a manner of conveying a particularly vocal emphasis. Certainly, one can nearly hear Armstrong communicate the next sentence from a letter he wrote to his supervisor Joe Glaser in 1955: “I–Simply, Love, Your, Checks, in, My POCKETS–“OH” They give the impression of being so fairly, till, I hate like hell to money them” (p. 163). Since Brothers normalizes spelling, spacing, and different minor facets, this guide shouldn’t be seen as a essential textual content. Quite, it strikes a compromise between two considerably contradictory targets: “To make Armstrong’s writings accessible to the final reader and to protect the distinctive options of his model” (p. xxv).

When you’ve by no means visited the Armstrong Home Museum in New York Metropolis, make a journey out to Queens to take action. In any other case, Armstrong followers ought to visit their website.

Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald recorded my favourite duet model of “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess.

Much less well-known is Armstrong’s “Summer time Music” with Dave Brubeck.

The “Summer Song” lyrics really feel significantly related as summer season races towards fall.

Love, to me, is sort of a summer season day
Silent ‘trigger, there’s simply an excessive amount of to say
Nonetheless, and heat, and peaceable
Even clouds that will drift by
Cannot disturb our summer season sky
I will take summer season, that is my time of yr
Winter’s shadow, appears to vanish
Homosexual is swanee season
That is the explanation I can say
That I like a summer season day
I hear laughter, from the swimming gap

Youngsters out fishin’, with the willow pole
Boats come driftin’, around the bend
Why should summer season, ever finish…
Love, to me, is sort of a summer season day
If it ends, the recollections will keep
Nonetheless, and heat, and peaceable
Now the times are getting lengthy
I can sing my summer season tune
I hear laughter, from the swimmin’ gap
Youngsters out fishin’, with the willow pole
Boats come driftin’, around the bend
Why should summer season, ever finish…

“Summer time Music,” written by Brubeck and his spouse Iola, was a tune from The Real Ambassadors.

In 1961, Dave Brubeck put collectively a outstanding musical present. Utilizing the skills of Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars, Carmen McRae, the revolutionary bop vocal group Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, and his personal rhythm part, Brubeck and his spouse, lyricist Iola, wrote a largely upbeat play stuffed with anti-racism songs and tunes that celebrated human understanding.

For these of you who need to spend a piece of listening and viewing time with Pops, this video clip from onemediamusic has about an hour’s value!

Take a look at the observe listing!

Louis Armstrong — Satchmo At His Greatest – Legends In Live performance Additionally featured is footage of Armstrong taking part in with such jazz greats as Lionel Hampton and Jack Teagarden. A lot of the performances are in black and white because it was made up utilizing archive footage. In his early 20s, Armstrong moved to New York, the place his music influenced many high musicians of the time.

1. Whats up, Dolly!

2. I will Be Glad When You are Lifeless You Rascal You

3. Muskrat Ramble

4. On The Sunny Facet Of The Avenue

5. No one Is aware of The Hassle I’ve Seen

6. Jeepers Creepers

7. C’est Si Bon

8. Medley: Now You Has Jazz / Tiger Rag

9. The Start Of The Blues (feat. Frank Sinatra)

10. I Love Jazz

11. South Rampart Avenue Parade

12. When It is Sleepy Time Down South

13. Simply As a result of

14. St Louis Blues

15. Some Day You will Be Sorry

16. When The Saints Go Marchin’ In

17. The Umbrella Man

Altering devices, however not eras, let’s salute as we speak’s birthday nice, alto-saxophonist Johnny “Rabbit” Hodges, who was born on July 25, 1907 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Scott Yanow, jazz reviewer, historian, and writer wrote this detailed bio for The Syncopated Times

He had essentially the most stunning tone of anybody ever on alto-sax and probably of all saxophonists (though Stan Getz on tenor got here shut). When he was referred to as upon to play a ballad with Duke Ellington, he would method the microphone whereas wanting fully impassive at the same time as he performed luscious phrases together with his beautiful tone. His clean expression made it look as if he have been occupied with what he would possibly order for supper or fantasizing about being some place else quite than concentrating on what stunning phrase he can be taking part in subsequent. […]

Early on he was self-taught on drums and piano, taking part in the latter at dances. When he was 14, Hodges started taking part in soprano sax. At the moment the one important jazz saxophonist was Sidney Bechet, the grasp of the soprano. Hodges met him in 1922, impressing the older participant who gave him some classes and encouragement. Hodges quickly started doubling on alto as a result of it was simpler to search out work on that instrument.[…]

In mid-1928, Johnny Hodges joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra on the advice of clarinetist Barney Bigard. His boyhood buddy Harry Carney was already a member of the band, remaining as an essential fixture of the orchestra for the remainder of his life. Hodges can be with Ellington nearly as lengthy.

Give a hearken to his lyrical horn on this model of Duke Ellington’s tune of “I Acquired it Unhealthy and that Ain’t Good” on Johnny Hodges with Billy Strayhorn and the Orchestrarecorded in December 1961.

It’s no marvel that music critics have mentioned that Ellington didn’t want a vocalist to sing with the band when he had Hodges to sing together with his horn.

Right here’s Hodges soloing with the Ellington Band in 1969.

It’s laborious to consider, given his function in jazz historical past, that there’s just one printed biography of Hodges, and that it took so lengthy for it to his story to hit the cabinets. Many due to Con Chapman for writing it, and to Oxford College Press for publishing Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges in 2019.

Book cover.  Biography of alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges

In his eulogy of saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1907-70), Duke Ellington ended with the phrases, “By no means the world’s most extremely animated showman or best stage character, however a tone so stunning it typically introduced tears to the eyes–this was Johnny Hodges. That is Johnny Hodges.” Hodges’ unforgettable tone resonated all through the jazz world over the higher a part of the 20th century. Benny Goodman described Hodges as “by far the best man on alto sax that I ever heard,” and Charlie Parker in contrast him to Lily Pons, the operatic soprano. As an adolescent, Hodges developed his taking part in model by imitating Sidney Bechet, the New Orleans soprano sax participant, then honed it in late-night slicing periods in New York and a succession of bands lead by Chick Webb, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Luckey Roberts. In 1928 he joined Duke Ellington, starting an affiliation that might proceed, with one interruption, till Hodges’ dying. Hodges’ celebrated approach and silky tone marked him then, and nonetheless as we speak, as one of the essential and influential saxophone gamers within the historical past of jazz. As the primary ever biography on Johnny Hodges, Rabbit’s Blues particulars his place as one of many premier artists of the alto sax in jazz historical past, and his function as co-composer with Ellington.

Musician Steve Provizer reviewed the book for The Arts Fuse.

Alto and soprano saxophonist Johnny Hodges was one of the singular voices in jazz. He didn’t play the horn as a lot as sing via it. He made a big, long-term contribution to the music, each as a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in addition to on his personal. Hodges was additionally a considerably inscrutable, taciturn, and quiet man, with a comparatively uneventful private life. This makes him a tricky case for the would-be biographer, however writer Con Chapman carries off the duty effectively. Anybody who spends a number of pages simply parsing out how Hodges obtained his nicknames (Little Caesar, Squatty Roo, Jeep, however principally, Rabbit) has issues underneath management.

The guide presents several backstories for the nickname “Rabbit”—nonetheless I’m undecided I agree that he “seemed like a bunny.”

As a fan of ballads, I may hearken to Hodges all day, particularly after I want my nerves soothed. This medley is all the drugs I want.

For these of you who love the sheer fantastic thing about devices, jazz author Doug Ramsey posted this observe with a video from Tomoji Hirakata about Hodge’s sax on his Rifftides blog.

The video under is in regards to the horn performed by the good Duke Ellington alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1906-1970). The voice within the commentary is that of Frank Wess, a serious saxophonist of the era following Hodges who’s an lively participant on the age of 91. Mr. Wess explains that he owns the Vito saxophone, quantity 5000, and used it when he performed lead alto for the Toshiko Akiyoshi orchestra. You needn’t be a saxophonist to understand the intricacy and fantastic thing about the instrument. Tomoji Hirikata, a senior technical specialist in New York for the Yamaha instrument firm, created one thing approaching a minor murals when he crafted this video.

I can all however assure you’ve by no means seen an instrument like this one, so lovingly profiled.

What a tremendous piece of artwork!

Please be a part of me within the feedback part for extra music from July birthday celebrants from the world of jazz … and make sure to publish your favorites as effectively!