Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Kid Chocolate Has His Take On Louis Armstrong's Music

It was at 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that I first saw Kid Chocolate (real name Leon Brown) when he sung as part of the Marsalis Music Honors tribute to drummer, bandleader and teacher, Bob French. At the time, he was limited to singing as he had lost his trumpet chops due to illness. Thankfully the chops have restored and he has been able to resume playing trumpet under the name that Bob French gave him in 2000. Kid Chocolate has played with countless folks, including recently overseas with clarinetist Michael White, while establishing a reputation in New Orleans.

With a quartet that includes pianist Thaddeus Richard, bassist Richard Moten and drummer Ricky Sebastian, Kid Chocolate has produced and issued a recording, My Take (Funkin Horns Records), that pays homage the great Louis Armstrong as he provides his own renditions of a number of classic songs associated with New Orleans most beloved son. From the opening moments of Wild Man Blues, Kid Chocolate leads to the closing notes of I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead (You Rascal You), Kid Chocolate and band lays down plenty of ebullient music.

He mixes his spirited trumpet on the opening Wild Man Blues as well as on Shine. The latter tune sports his very effective understated vocals as well as trading fours between trumpet and drummer Sebastian. He also has a charming vocal on High Society Calypso, with its delightful Caribbean-tinge. Richard plays marvelous on this. I am with Jimmy Rushing’s vocal with Bennie Moten of the Hoagie Carmichael ode to the Crescent City, New Orleans. It is nicely sung by Kid Chocolate in an Armstrong-styled manner and segues into Up the Lazy River. Richard is stunning on piano both accompanying the vocal and in his short solo. The leader eschews his trumpet on this.

I’ll Never Be the Same” has a nice latin groove and after his vocal, Kid plays nice muted trumpet in a more contemporary vein, It contrasts with the extroverted trumpet that opens All Of Me, followed by a some horn-like phrasing in his vocal owing more than a little to contemporary jazz singers such as Jon Hendricks. Moten and Sebastian both take crisp solos on this. “Weatherbird Rag” is a duet with bassist Moten. His trumpet is a bit more relaxed than Armstrong was on his classic duet with Earl Hines on this Armstrong composition originally performed by King Oliver. Kid Chocolate employs his mute producing slurs and cries to open the venerable “St. James Infirmary Blues,” in a performance that is a terrific bridging of the jazz and blues realms.

He is marvelously complemented by his band who, like the leader, bring these performances to fruition as Kid Chocolate tells his stories. Most of these performances allude to Armstrong but none of them copy or imitate the master nor any familiar versions of any songs. Kid Chocolate has a more relaxed vocal and trumpet attack than Armstrong and invests his own musical personality in a consistently ingratiating manner. The Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans ( and other vendors have this available.

This was a purchase of mine.  Here is Kid Chocolate playing with the great drummer, Shannon Powell. 

And he he is with the New Orleans Moonshiners with Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson singing.

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