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Wynton Marsalis Evokes Louis Armstrong Within View of Lady Liberty

Daniel Kassell By

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Seated on his own executive swivel chair in the curve of the piano wearing sunglasses and a gray-green suit, Clark Terry commands a presence by fronting the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and enlivens the July 4th Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey audience with the opening passage of Louis Armstrong's theme song "Sleepy Time Down South". The tone of his huge shiny brass bugle-shaped flugelhorn is warm and fuzzy and the notes tumble out like they use to when he was with Duke Ellington's Orchestra. Immediately revealed on his next tune is Mr. Terry's use of syncopation and triplets while soloing on Armstrong's first composition "Struttin' With Some Barbeque" for which he receives appreciative applause.
Previously Wynton Marsalis warmed up the men with an Armstrong influenced "Mahogany Hall Stomp", a "Basin Street Blues" that trombonist Wycliffe "Pinecone"Gordon counted off after getting the voice microphone from Wynton (this performance was broadcast live by WBGO over the NPR and worldwide web network) then stood up, displaying his large frame, dark shades, shorty gold/maroon tie and suspenders under the standard gray LCJO suit to sing a personal version of this famous blues inflecting it with many of Satchmo's mannerisms. Trumpeter Marcus Printup's exuberant, hot solo also established him as into Pops style as he blew straight through and then embellished every phrase - a patent that Armstrong still holds. Mr. Gordon shone again on Armstrong's sidekick and trombonist Kid Ory's tune "Muskrat Ramble" complimented by clarinetist Victor Goines exciting interplay with drummer Herlin Riley that concluded with an authentic cymbal smash.
Following Clark Terry's performance, Wynton announced Don Redman's arrangement that opened with Wycliffe Gordon's falsetto voice emoting "Oh, It's Tight Like That, Louie". After a hot "Tiger Rag" Mr. Marsalis announced, "Louis Armstrong was a great hero of Hoagy Carmichael ( also a hundredth birthday celebrant in 1999) and popularized his "'Up A Lazy River'". Again Wycliffe's shouting vocal style captured the essence of this song while over one shoulder across the river is Manhattan and on his left Lady Liberty's torch. Young Mr. Printup rendered an inspiring, uplifting solo proving that Satchmo's style can still get an emotional response from an audience 70 years later. Although it's Wynton who captures our attention with the first solo of "Wild Man Blues", it's the laid back Lester Young inspired intonation of Walter Blanding's tenor sax that establishes him in my mind as another contemporary player who can successfully appeal to steadfast classic jazz fans. The LCJO concluded the "Hotter Than That" kickoff of the celebration of 100 Years of Armstrong with a fresh swing band arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues" highlighted by exceptional sax section work behind Ron Westray's double-tongued trombone solo, delightful train sounds that blended into a screaming effusively exciting Wynton Marsalis ending to a beautiful day of jazz memories.


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