Darling Nellie Gray (Variations sur la musique de Louis Armstrong)

COMPOSERS: Armstrong,Various
LABELS: Label Bleu
ALBUM TITLE: Caratini Jazz Ensemble
PERFORMER: Caratini Jazz Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: LBLC 6625

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The big debate in American jazz is between the modernist ideology of continuous innovation and the insistence of the neo-classicists on the priority of the jazz tradition. Part of the neo-classicists proposition is that jazz is America’s classical music and its great works can be revisited on the concert stage by a jazz orchestra in the same way a symphony orchestra revisits Mozart or Beethoven.

This manipulation of past styles and technique, with musicians becoming custodians of the past can be heard in the work of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and seems to suggest a static notion of what jazz can be, a music whose past is more important than the future. By contrast, the Caratini Jazz Ensemble’s masterful deconstruction of Armstrong allows for elements of his music to provide a stepping stone into the future.

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Armstrong’s own version of ‘West End Blues’ is heard, contrasted by the ensemble’s nine-minute fantasia inspired by it, ‘East End Blues’. Elements of the whole jazz tradition swirl through these pieces which have a style, erudition and poise absent in bland recapitulation. Stuart Nicholson