All posts tagged: Louis Armstrong

Kenny G, from the cover of "Classics in the Key of G." (Arista)

World’s Worst Songs: “What a Wonderful World” by Kenny G with Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is one of the most important figures in the history of music. Critic Gary Giddins says he “invented modern time.”  Kenny G is one of the most polarizing figures in jazz. Although he sells records by the zillions, critics and serious jazz fans dislike his work mostly for its sugary sweetness, but also because the man doesn’t improvise—which, some say, means he’s not a jazz player at all. In 1968, Armstrong cut a sugary sweet record of his own: “What a Wonderful World,” which became a hit in the UK, although it wasn’t until 20 years later that it became widely known in the States thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack of Good Morning Vietnam. And in 1999, Kenny G decided to give the record his own stamp. On Classics in the Key of G, he overdubbed himself on the Armstrong recording of “What a Wonderful World.” The original “What a Wonderful World” is sappy enough, and it’s only the grit in Armstrong’s voice and the charm of his performance that saves …

CD Review: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall”

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has always been rooted in tradition, and at this point, the group is a tradition itself — to the point that quite a few of its albums are compilations with the kind of sepia-toned artwork usually reserved for artists who have been dead for decades. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the band has enjoyed an artistic renaissance over the last decade, and the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — whose destruction forced the temporary closure of the historic Preservation Hall, their home base for nearly 50 years — has only fueled their fire. They don’t venture into the recording studio often — their last album of new material, the wonderful Shake That Thing, was released in 2004, and Preservation Hall Recordings mostly functions as an archival label — but when they do, they make it count. For proof, look no further than Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall, an album whose matter-of-fact title doesn’t even hint at the many treasures it holds in store. For …

Bootleg City: Louis Armstrong & His All Stars, 5/8/54

Hello, denizens of Bootleg City! Mayor Cass here, and I’m happy to announce that I’m finally back! … starting next week. See, I left some of my Simply Red CDs in Spain, and I need to retrieve them before my ex-girlfriend, Anita, barters them for a new pair of flamenco shoes. She may think I’m not fiscally irresponsible enough to waste taxpayers’ money on a chartered flight to Spain just so I can pick up a few tchotchkes, but I’ll show her! And now a jazz interlude, courtesy of Bootleg City’s own Minister of Fast Food and Entertainment, Matthew Boles … Life here at Bootleg City is starting to get back to normal. But before I start this week, I want to issue an apology to our own Annie Zaleski. See, over the past couple of weeks she was channeling her inner Nancy Drew while sneaking around looking for Mayor Cass, who had gone AWOL. However, she didn’t call ahead and ended up getting a little too close to the barn out back at my …

Way Out Wednesday: The Best of Big Daddy

Big Daddy is a musical group with a rather unusual back story. I’ll let the liner notes explain: While on a USO tour of Southeast Asia in 1959, Big Daddy was captured by Communist forces and held captive until the mid 80’s at which time they were rescued by CIA forces and subsequently returned to the United States. While being held at Camp David for de-briefing, they were given sheet music of contemporary hit songs so that they could re-build their repertoire and get back to the only work they knew…making music. Of course, not having heard the evolution of Rock music during the quarter century they spent imprisoned in the jungles of Laos, they arranged and performed these songs the only way they knew how…in the classic styles of the 1950’s. So basically you have a mashup of songs from the ’80s and ’90s done in ’50s style, and these guys pull it off pretty well. Sometimes the newer song is in the style of a specific older song, and sometimes it would just …