[Dixielandjazz] Who influences whom?

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon May 10 09:03:03 PDT 2010

Who influences who can be full of surprises. I think all of us are  
influenced to some degree by everyone who has gone before, directly or  
indirectly. In our formative years we listen to everyone. But who, for  
example, is our MAIN influence?  Let's take Artie Shaw. Many would say  
Trumbauer as there is some Trumbauer in Shaw's playing, but they would  
be wrong in terms of Main influence.  Would you believe Art Tatum and  
Louis Armstrong?

Here is the story as told by Artie Shaw himself, in the 1998 interview  
for Ken Burns.

Steve Barbone

Yesterday you talked a little bit about the first jazz records you  
heard — Bix Beiderbecke and Tom Bower.

Alright. Well, I was just playing and listening to everybody I could  
hear. I didn't know good from bad. As a matter of fact I would do  
things on the job that I thought was knocking the guys in the band  
out. Instead of which I found out I was making them laugh. And one day  
the leader of the band turned to me and said, "Cut out that antique  
crap." The word was antique instead of cornball, which we now call  
corny. And I was chagrined, I was, it was devastated when I found I'd  
been a joke to these guys. I was doing things you shouldn't do, but I  
didn't know who to follow, I didn't know who to copy. And until many,  
many months later, after I'd been playing months in those days was  
equivalent to years as I was in a hurry. And finally I heard Bix and  
Trombauer and I, there's, that's, those are the guys. Being a white  
guy, I was subjected to white music and I heard Bix and Trombauer and  
they were the exemplars.


Something about what they did. We had the words in those days, "He  
played clean." And they played like they knew where they were going,  
there was a direction to what they did, there was a definition, a kind  
of discipline to what they did. And I heard these two guys and I  
thought, "Oh, boy, that's the way to go." Trumpet and and a C melody.  
And that went on for, oh, about a year and a half. And by that time  
I'd become well known. In New Haven I was the guy. And finally I was  
heard by some people in Cleveland. So I went to Cleveland and there I  
found out about Louie.

When you first found about Louie, what was the message, what did you  
find out?

With Armstrong? It was different. It didn't sound like the other guys  
who were playing. It had its own inner structure. Something about, I  
couldn't have used words like that. But I knew there was somethin'  
goin' on there that I had to figure out. And I remember hearing his  
first record was, the first record I stumbled on was "Savoy Blues." I  
can sing it for you right now, I can write the whole out, his, his  
solo. And something about that, I realized I was no longer playing  
music, I was playing an artform, something bigger than music, and I  
had to learn what that was all about. I didn't know, it was very, I  
was in, all of this was inarticulate, very chaotic in my mind.

Where did that come from in him that he could bring you the to idea  
that this was an artform?

Oh, I, his assurance, he knew what he was doing. I knew that he knew  
what he was doing. And I knew that it was something I had not heard  
before. It was like, I remember, who was it, the composer here who  
listened to Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." He said, "It was  
something else." Well, that's what I heard with Louie, something else.

You went to see him in Chicago. Do you remember that story?

Oh, that was later, after I'd listened to Louie for, oh, months and  
months. And I began to develop a, a style of music, a self-expression  
if you want to call, I don't think in music I was thinking of  
expressing something. And interesting 'cause I played clarinet here, I  
was ????? learning for a trumpet player asked me, people asked me, who  
I was influenced by. I was influenced by piano players like Art Tatum,  
and Louie, Louis Armstrong. And none of the other guys, Earl, Earl  
Hines a little bit too. But anyway, I went to Chicago, I made a  
pilgrimage, I took a week off and went up to Chicago, had a little  
car. I drove up to Chicago from Cleveland and I found my way to a  
place called the Savoy. And I sat on a bandstand which is about, oh,  
two feet off the ground. And I sat on a rug-covered bandstand and just  
waited and he came on. And the first thing he played was "West End  
Blues." And I heard this cascade of notes coming out of a trumpet. No  
one had ever done that before. And so I was obsessed with the idea  
that this was what you had to do. Something that was your own, that  
had nothing to do with anybody else, that I was influenced by him, not  
in terms of notes, but in terms of the idea of doing what you are, who  
you are.

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