[Dixielandjazz] Dixielandjazz Digest, Vol 94, Issue 16

Daniel Barrett danpbarrett at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 13 18:31:20 PDT 2010

Dear Steve,
I only saw the excerpt of what I assume was a longer message of yours, in which you say that "Mary Lou Williams was much more influential in the progressive development of this music throughout her life than were either Armstrong or Ellington."  By "this music," I assume you're speaking about bebop(?)  If so, I think Mary Lou had a great influence on the music--as did Ellington and the musicians in his bands before and during that time. However, Louis is by far the most influential, even on bebop.
Recorded evidence proves that Louis Armstrong truly revolutionized 20th Century music, and that influence can still be felt here in the 21st Century. Without Louis, there would be no Mary Lou Williams, or Ellington, or even the Beatles. Armstrong gave them all a conception, form, and thousands of beautiful phrases to play and harmonize.
Remember that Mary Lou's big influence on piano was Earl Hines, who spent a lot of time sharing ideas with Louis, and who most feel was (in spite of his comments to the contrary) was heavily influenced by his friend Armstrong.
It's kind of like this (oversimplified, of course);
King Oliver to Louis; Louis to Fletcher Henderson & Don Redman, et. al; Henderson to Benny Goodman; Goodman to the greater American public. 
Another branch: Louis to Django; Django to Europe.
Another branch: Louis to Coleman Hawkins (via Henderson): Hawkins to Mary Lou, and other younger, more "modern" players...
It was Miles Davis who said in a famous Down Beat magazine interview, "nobody is playing anything that Louis didn't play first." (I'm paraphrasing this from memory, but the message is intact).
Without Louis, no Roy Eldridge; without Roy, no Dizzy. And on and on.  Louis wasn't there first, but he was still there early on.  He was able to take what he heard around him, (along with opera and the classics), while inventing his own musical vocabulary, and way of playing music.  It was so profoundly great (by whatever scale one uses to define artistic greatness) that the whole world wanted to play like that: Earl Hines; Coleman Hawkins; Teddy Wilson (who always said that Louis was his own favorite musician); sax players; trombonists; guitarists; bassists, drummers, accordionists, and of course, generations of trumpet players.
Dig Cornet Chop Suey, the verse of which sounds like a bop "head," and indeed was often quoted by Charlie Parker.  Then there's the end of the verse to Louis's record (1928? '29?) of Some of These Days, whee he pulls off a triplet thing that sounds very much like Dizzy Gillespie of fifteen years later. There's also the origianl recording of Struttin;' wiht Some Barbecue (1927), wherein Louis--in his solo--plays some stuff that is, for all intents and purposes, what we would call "bebop." (chekc out his "break" mid-chorus, and the outlandish decending double-time phrase he plays in the middle of the last eight of his solo).
Ellington's Creole Love Call  (or is it Barney Bigard's?) has its origins in the King Oliver band's much earlier recording of Camp Meeting Blues. Louis of course was in the Oliver band at the time, and Bigard had spent time with Oliver's Dixie Syncopators.  I think Duke--like every other serious jazz player of that time--listened to the King Oliver band. Ellington (despite opinions to the contrary) must have also absorbed much of what Jelly Roll Morton had done with the Red Hot Peppers. The similarities in approach and ideas of Ellington's early records to Morton's are too frequent and striking to be coincidence.
Ellington's Cotton Tail is a veritable "storage unit" of bebop elements. From the way-out "head" based on I Got Rhythm, to the Ben Webster solo (which Charlie Parker and hundreds of other younger boppers memorized and quoted) to the final "shout" chourses, to the way drummer Greer drops "bombs" and plays unpredictable accents, to young bassist Jimmy Blanton's strikingly "modern" conception--all of this adds up to what was almost a prototypical bebop performance. If not out-and-out bop, it was sure leaning in that direction--and swinging all the way!
Dig Mary Lou's '30s charts of Walking and Swinging, and Roll 'Em. Armstrong phrases abound in each chart. (Not to mention a long phrase in the first tune that later became the basis for Thelonous Monk's Rhythm-a-ning. (sp?)  Louis probably played that phrase first too, someplace!
Well, it's all fascinating, but it's good to remember that without Louis Armstrong, jazz wouldn't be jazz as we know it, and indeed all popular music would have "taken a left," and--for better or probably much worse--become something entirely different than the melodic, rhythmic, joyful and soulful music it became, and was until..well, until it wasn't anymore.
Thanks for letting me get this out of my system.
Dan Barrett
Costa Mesa, CA
> From: eupher61 at hotmail.com
> Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2010 13:45:18 -0500
> Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Dixielandjazz Digest, Vol 94, Issue 16
> CC: dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
> To: danpbarrett at hotmail.com
> Steve Barbone quipped:
> Wonder if it will get the same flak that Ken Burns got? <grin>
> -=========
> Well, Mary Lou Williams was much more influential in the progressive development of this music throughout her life than were either Armstrong or Ellington. I think it's a pretty safe bet this will be better done, mainly due to lack of reliance on Wynton. 
> steve "now, ask me what I really think" hoog 
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