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 place, where my pal Duane Earl took a shot over her head, muttering something about “revenuers.” Now, Annie, you know you weren’t in any danger — it was just a warning shot. But I can understand your trepidation, and I apologize. (So does Duane Earl, of course — he feels just terrible.)
The recent chaos in Bootleg City is subsiding. Annie found the mayor (I told you he was messing with Latina women), and even our pal Matt Wardlaw is calming down. I mean, the last time somebody went that nuts over losing an election, he wound up growing a beard and making a PowerPoint presentation about how our cars are killing polar bears or some such nonsense.
However, that guy’s PowerPoint presentation eventually won (in descending importance) an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Peace Prize. Plus, he’s made like a zillion dollars from it. So, Wardlaw, pay attention in your Microsoft Office class at the local Adult Learning Annex — it could work out aces for ya.
To commemorate the blanket of peace and love around here, I tried to find a show that every single Popdoser would like. I present to you the American legend, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, performing with his group of All Stars in Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 8, 1954.
We can start with the easy ones: If you’re a Popdoser who’s into jazz or even the blues, this show is obviously right up your alley. Slow ballads like “Tin Roof Blues” and rocking numbers like “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” will get your blood flowing.
The emo/goth folks out there will get a kick out of the re-creation of a New Orleans funeral, including band members acting as the grieving survivors. Of course, if any of you have any familiarity with New Orleans funerals, you know that the goth kids will quickly lose interest once the mourners “put the casket in the ground.”
If you’re into live comedy, especially comedy in a “blue” style, check out the All Stars’ version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” This duet between Armstrong and guest vocalist Velma Middleton features alternate lyrics and might be the only version I’ve heard that actually makes plain what the song is about: a guy trying to get into a girl’s pants, with the girl protesting just enough so she won’t seem easy. Kind of appropriate for a concert taking place on a college campus, even if the year was 1954. Trust me, you won’t be playing this version next Christmas while sitting around the family tree.
Even metal fans will feel a pang of familiarity when a short drum solo that consists of nothing but bass drum and cymbals fills the air. Tommy Lee would’ve killed to re-create that solo 40 years later.
Do you like pop music? Two words for you: “Blueberry Hill.” In ’54 it didn’t get any more pop than that.
As for the show itself, I’m not even going to pretend to know what I’m talking about; jazz aficionados can argue about whether Armstrong’s band members are all-stars or not. The Wiki page for pianist Billy Kyle contains this criticism: “His playing with Armstrong, although appealing, tended to be very predictable.” So I guess there’s some room for argument there.
However, as a live-music lover I can definitely say that Kyle sounds mighty good to me. He has obvious classical training, throwing in some famous licks during his solos.
Besides Kyle and Middleton, this particular lineup of the All Stars consists of Kenny Johns on drums, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Trummy Young on trombone, and Arvell Shaw on bass. A true professional bandleader, Armstrong lets the band actually be part of the proceedings instead of just a set of anonymous backing musicians.
During this concert, which took place in the afternoon, there’s a 20-minute stretch where each of the All Stars gets to be the leader — Satchmo appears to have left the stage. I found something interesting during this portion: when Young sings his lead vocal, he’s obviously singing through the same mike he uses for his trombone. The end result is that the volume of his vocal is pretty much nonexistent, giving you a good idea of the technology that was available for a live show at that time.
All in all, you can tell Armstrong and his band are having a good time, cracking jokes and laughing throughout. Two digs — one at the expense of white fraternities (“frat court”) and the other comparing Kyle to Liberace — seem to get the biggest laughs from the audience. Actually, the audience is a rowdy bunch throughout the show; enthusiastic and vocal, they easily predate how crowds would react during rock ‘n’ roll shows in the coming decades.
So, please enjoy my attempt to sew the torn fabric of Bootleg City back together. Annie, Matt, Mayor Cass, and everyone else here in Bootleg City, you’re more than welcome to come up to the homestead anytime. We can sit on the porch and dabble a little with what’s out in the barn, if you know what I mean; mixed with a fizzy soda, you should be able to drink it right down. But please call first — deer season won’t be over until the end of February, and we don’t want another “accident.”
As a bonus, I’ve included a short interview with Satchmo that was recorded right after the show. I don’t think there was any kind of student radio at the time, so perhaps the Q&A was conducted by a reporter for the school paper. But I have to ask anybody out there who’s ever been involved in student-run media: can you imagine an artist today with Armstrong’s stature being as gracious and forthcoming with an amateur interviewer?
When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
The Bucket’s Got a Hole in It
Tin Roof Blues
Struttin’ With Some Barbecue
All the Things You Are
The Man I Love
Big Mama’s Back in Town
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Stompin’ at the Savoy/[intro of second set]
New Orleans Function: Flee as a Bird/Oh Didn’t He Ramble
C’est Si Bon
Shadrack/When the Saints Go Marching In, Pt. 1
When the Saints Go Marching In, Pt. 2
When the Saints Go Marching In, Pt. 3
Pennies From Heaven
The Dummy Song