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Marcus Belgrave and the Louis Armstrong Tradition

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Marcus Belgrave Octet
Cain Park
Cleveland Height, Ohio
July 22, 2003

Following the torrential downpours of the previous day that hit a good part of Ohio, the Cain Park grounds were definitely soaked, but fortunately a repeat performance was not in the offing and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was unhampered in his efforts to take a stroll down “Memory Lane.” Fronting an octet that included banjo, a trombone man that also doubled on tuba, and some vintage drum gear as part of Pete Siers’ kit, Belgrave arranged all the charts for the program he billed as “The Louis Armstrong Tradition.” This feisty ensemble, clad in black vests, bow ties, and derby hats, conjured up a spirited gumbo that was true to the New Orleans tradition, the material spanning several decades- from “Struttin With Some Barbeque” to “What a Wonderful World.”

True to the original, Belgrave offered his “Satchmo-like” vocals on a large number of tunes, including “Hello Dolly,” “A Kiss To Build a Dream On,” and “Stardust.” The elder statesmen of the group, Charlie Gabriel also pitched in, contributing a few choice vocals and often stealing the show with his jubilant clarinet and tenor saxophone solos. On the downside, Belgrave’s lively trumpet work took somewhat of a back seat to the vocals and his handiwork with the arrangements. However, he did get in some incendiary runs while jamming with Siers on “Ol’ Man Mose.” Fittingly, the evening came to a close with a quintessential romp through “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the front line literally making a b-line through the audience while stirring up the excitement among the small, but appreciative crowd.


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