This review has been submitted to Jazz & Blues Report, and hopefully will be published in its August issue.
The celebrated Canadian Brass has issued a release “Swing That Music: A Tribute to Louis Armstrong” (Opening Day Entertainment Group), an album that puts a classical take on swing jazz. Louis Armstrong was of course one of the seminal musicians of the 20th Century, and I forget which jazz writer (it may have been Gary Giddins) observed he even influenced how classical trumpeters played. On this release, the Canadian Brass salutes Satchmo in a program of tunes associated with Armstrong and some of his contemporaries. The songs range from the title track, which was a big band hit for Armstrong, to James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout,” Jelly Roll Morton’s “Black Bottom Stomp,” and several George Gershwin compositions including “Promenade” from the musical “Strike Up the Band.”
Its entertaining to hear the various songs translated into a chamber group format, and much of the credit goes to the late Luther Henderson as a writer, arranger, orchestrator and more who worked with Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Victor Borge and the Canadian Brass, to whom he contributed over 100 arrangements including arrangements to 11 of the 17 selections here including recasting Johnson’s stride piano classic to the brass group, three Bach preludes, Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” Waller, Razaf and Brooks’ “Black & Blues” (which Armstrong was one of those who popularized along with “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” The arrangements allow brief solos with the other horns adding color or musical counterpoint. The playing is spirited and as expected the members of Canadian brass have marvelous tone and technique, yet they certainly bring enthusiasm and charm to a collection of performances that might be called chamber jazz. Particular performances that stand out might be the wistful melancholy of “Black & Blue,” along with the jaunty rendition of “Black Bottom Stomp,” and one of the classic Hot Five recordings “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” with its nice voicings and playful quoting of “Shortnin’ Bread,” during the performance. “Swing That Music” is worth hearing, and many will find this a delightful chance of pace.
The Canadian Brass website from which this can be purchased is http://www.canbrass.com. Downloads are available for purchase from itunes and amazon.