LOUIS ARMSTRONG / “West End Blues”

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5 Responses to “LOUIS ARMSTRONG / “West End Blues””

Rudy Says:
August 28th, 2006 at 6:53 am

Excellent analysis. Wynton seems to agree on the jazz significance of “West End Blues.” He also speaks of the musical genius of the opening flourish. One now hears “West End Blues” in a lot of settings. It may become one of the most recognizable jazz selections.

I’d like to repost all three responses in ChickenBones: A Journal. — Rudy

Qawi Robinson Says:
August 30th, 2006 at 11:55 am

Thanks for another classic. This one is interesting in a sense that “West End Blues” lives up to its title. It is BLUES, moreso than a Modern Jazz precursor per se.

I would look at the origin of Modern Jazz not as a road with multiple forks in it with a single path. I would characterize it more like roots from a tree. Whereas multiple paths/roots (or in this case artists and albums) converged into something brilliant.

One would like to think that Satchmo, Bird, Miles, Dizzy, ‘Trane, Wes, or even Ornette Coleman were the originators of Jazz. But EACH had their own inspiration, someone who taught them or they “borrowed” from. Where this fits in, is how to define the quintessential album. The album, that without it, the artform wouldn’t have existed. Honestly, there is NO album as such at least in a non-Divine sense. Individually, the albums were good, but they ultimately were part of the COLLECTIVE Jazz experience.

Saying all that, West End Blues had it’s time and place…and still does. Without it though, Jazz would still exist. The same goes for all of the above mentioned artists. Jazz was going to exist regardless. 🙂

youngblood Says:
September 1st, 2006 at 11:46 am

Somehow the term modern jazz seems redundant. The real shift in paradigm occurred when Jellyroll Morton and Buddy Bolden sounded the clarion call of jazz – that, to me, is the sonic boom creating the jazz universe. However Louis Armstrong, especially through the Hot Fives and Sevens, is the sun around which all modern jazz revolves. Whether whites wanted acknowledge publicly or not, none could deny what their ears heard or what was felt inside. Early on in the history of western music the church controlled music as well as musical thought. Beethoven was one of the first heretics who dared to use modes outside of what was prescribe by the cannon constructed by (Gregorian) priest of the Baroque period.

The western construct of chordal structure had previously been adjusted by blues musicians who, no doubt, retained elements of their African origins. Traditional African culture was not bound by the constraints of western music and thought. The early jazz musicians altered the music a step further by augmenting and diminishing steps here and there eloquently modifying inflections to convey the intellect behind emotions, the spirit and intent behind actions, the heroic soundtrack of Black life. Jazz is inherent genius expressed musically. The creative spirit soaring with profound comprehension finds an outlet. The music of Louis Armstrong exemplifies an intimate relationship with some thing or some energy beyond the realm of regular communication with music. Pops’ music proceeded with an urgency that could not be stopped by Jim Crow or Al Capone. Who else could have invented “scat” and have everyone believe nonsense were, in effect, sensible? The shear power of his personality is such that though sometimes his wide grin and big eyes were misunderstood Louis Armstrong’s persona transcended jazz and became internationally recognized as a man of great character unafraid to express and act upon what he knew was unjust for Black people.

The Music of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens eventually took a back seat to more pressing issues of equality. And though Pops continued to perform jazz music at a high level, the sacrifice and devotion needed to push the music forward became much less of a consideration when weighed against the immediate situation of racism in America. Jazz is definitely a potent indicator for the modern era charting how Black people see themselves and helped, through self-determination and dignified expression, to light a path illuminating a more erect way of being and being seen in the world.

Considering the period from which it comes and eventhough West End in New Orleans remanins basically a closed society for Black people, West End Blues proceeds with a joyousness unrestrained by external circumstances – the epitome of self-determination or man/womanhood for Black people. Asante Saint Louis.

Take that fleur de lis and stick it!

Jack Harris Says:
May 27th, 2013 at 12:08 am

My dad, who himself was a knowledgeable authority on jazz, New Orleans jazz, use to say, “The last four bars of West End Blues will tell you everything you need to know about New Orleans.

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