Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong All-Stars, Black and Blue, Verve ****

'Black and Blue' is one of the ultimate protest songs addressing the oppression of African-Americans through what feels so like personal pain both physical and emotional. A song that does not shy away from expressing the essential brutality of …

Published: 15 Oct 2021. Updated: 2 years.

'Black and Blue' is one of the ultimate protest songs addressing the oppression of African-Americans through what feels so like personal pain both physical and emotional. A song that does not shy away from expressing the essential brutality of violence and pertinent like a prophesy to inform a climate shocked still by the abomination that was the killing of George Floyd and ongoing police brutality.

This version, illuminated by a strolling Reginald Veal bass riff, of the venerable piece just released scales an impossible mountain by travelling along an ascending path up from the routes of traditional jazz to a new high altitude base camp designed by hip-hop culture that seems a galaxy away. No, the version is not reached via other styles such as MBASE or free-jazz but via trad and the building blocks of jazz going back to the early 20th century and the music of New Orleans. Leading musicians from New Orleans and particularly musicians who have radicalised trad in their own often ''modern'' (hard bop or swing big band) ways despite appearances are involved including Wynton Marsalis, probably the best known jazz musician in the world today. Don't think Wynton is a radical trad artist not that this needs to be the point here but where have you been since Blood on the Fields in 1997? His wake-up satirical album The Ever Fonky Lowdown last year probably gave us more of a recent clue about long established directions in his music (Black Codes, another exemplary statement of highly considered composition) often lost in the big suits and corporate institutional bigwiggery he rolls with on a day-to-day basis and all the offputting didactism that sometimes gets in the way when it shouldn't.

From The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong All-Stars (ft. Common, Wynton Marsalis) A Gift To Pops you'll find for instance Pops in 1964 on 'When It’s Sleepy Time Down South' while Wynton guests on another radical tradster Nicholas Payton’s arrangement of 'The Peanut Vendor'.

'(What Did I do to Be So) Black and Blue' was written by Fats Waller with lyrics by Andy Razaf and Harry Brooks and was first recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1929 when America was segregated and decades away from civil rights coming into federal law. Here many years since the days of Dr Martin Luther King and Malcolm X after civil rights changed America for the better but with still a lot of wrongs to be righted it's Payton singing Waller’s lyrics (back in the 1990s he also interpreted the song in more trad guise all easy with Doc Cheatham) and then Common rapping 'My school of thought is black openness/To define and redefine what the culture is.” SG. Out today

Louis Armstrong photo: Jack Bradley via Verve/Louis Armstrong House Museum

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Christopher Parker & The Band of Guardian Angels, Soul Food, Mahakala Music ****

Sometimes you forget how manicured and bland a lot of over-produced jazz can be. That's when free improvisation moves in and wins and it takes a record like Soul Food to stop forgetting. We have become too normalised to big corporate jazz culture …

Published: 14 Oct 2021. Updated: 2 years.

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Sometimes you forget how manicured and bland a lot of over-produced jazz can be. That's when free improvisation moves in and wins and it takes a record like Soul Food to stop forgetting. We have become too normalised to big corporate jazz culture when all the rough edges are smoothed out and blindsided producers forget about freedom and prefer to fake the feeling.

Hippie jazz? Yes, I suppose. There's no faking here. The sound has a great gravity-less sense of motion to it. Christopher Parker, you might know his work from the excellent Dopolarians, as a pianist might as well be a drummer. His touch has a Cecil Taylor-like elegance to it. He holds back judiciously when he needs to because he knows the sound is at the mercy of the overall pulse and rampaging beat.

Sometimes stark vocals and the very wide open percussive feel intervene in a raging swell as if an anarchy will destroy the whole sound. Quite a band with Gerald Cleaver on drums, although the mix does him no favours, the vocals of Kelley Hurt (Parker's wife) in the overall sound operate as much as painter of bold sonic brushstrokes as anything. And yet the album's strength is in a collective group-think. If you are looking for yards and yards of trumpet from Jaimie Branch you won't get any of that because Soul Food is not an extended blowing record at all.

Bass icon William Parker is the presiding genius factor, adding wicked shakuhachi flute as well in places. The wake up and smell the coffee moments are when reedist Daniel Carter comes in on the brilliant 15-minute long epic 'Truth and Fiction'. SG. Out on 29 October

Christopher Parker, photo: Brian Chilson