[Dixielandjazz] Louis & King Oliver

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun May 4 17:51:33 PDT 2003

Louis Armstrong states the following about his opening night at Lincoln
Gardens with King Oliver:

" We cracked down on the first note and that band sounded so good to me
after the first note that I just fell right in like old times. The first
number went down so well we had to take an encore. That was the moment
Joe Oliver and I developed a little system whereby we didn't have to
write down the duet breaks. I was so wrapped up in him and lived his
music that I could take second to his lead in a split second. That was
just how much I lived his music. No one could understand how we did it,
but it was easy and we kept it that way the whole evening. I never tried
to go, over him, because Papa Joe was the man and I felt any glory that
should come to me must go to him. To me, Joe Oliver blew enough horn for
the both of us.. I could just sit and listen to him and play second to
his lead."

>From this, it would appear as if Louis was so familiar with how Oliver
played that the second part came naturally. Apparently neither written,
nor excessively rehearsed. Many musicians, I think, have great ears and
can sit in with a band and sound like they've been there 10 years. Louis
had, I think, like Bechet, extraordinary ears. And at this time in his
life, those ears enabled him to do things that elude the rest of us.

Even from my own experience with certain musicians, we just seem to know
what the other guy is going to do and the harmony flows naturally, by
ear. Especially true with me in straight ahead jazz quartet setting with
Glenn Dodson on trombone, with bass and guitar. It just flows, even when
we play tunes we've never done before together.

Why did Oliver hire Armstrong? Why does any bandleader go out of his way
to hire someone? IMO, because he felt Louis had a lot to bring to the
party, would enhance the band sound and bring more adulation to the
band's offering. And perhaps the King was feeling mortal and felt his
stay at Lincoln was in jeopardy? So Louis provided a solution.

Steve Barbone

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