Echoes of a Note – A Tribute to Louis ‘Pops’ Armstrong

COMPOSERS: Leroy Jones,Louis Armstrong
LABELS: JVC
ALBUM TITLE: Tiger Okoshi
PERFORMER: Tiger Okoshi (t); Mike Stern (g); Bela Fleck (banjo); Gil Goldstein (p, elec p, acc); Jay Anderson (b); Peter Erskine (d, perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 2022-2 (distr. New Note)

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Leroy Jones was a senior pupil and trumpet pace-setter at schools attended by his juniors Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard, and he’s thoroughly schooled in contemporary jazz. However, he and his fellow New Orleans musicians brilliantly evoke the spirit of Louis Armstrong in this delightful tribute album.

There’s an air of excitement in the performances: risks are taken, the band swings mightily with uninhibited New Orleans dance rhythms and fresh life is breathed into old Armstrong favourites such as ‘Struttin’ With Some Barbecue’ and ‘Jeepers Creepers’. Jones dominates the proceedings, his warm, non-brassy sound glowing with feeling, his quicksilver imagination full of surprising twists and turns and he also sings in a light, pleasant voice in six of the fourteen performances.

  

Jones composed four excellent pieces in the Armstrong vein for the occasion, but all the other numbers, except Horace Silver’s ‘The Preacher’, are associated with Louis. The raunchy, brassy trombone of Craig Klein provides the perfect complement to Jones’s airy trumpet. Japanese trumpeter Tiger Okoshi has lived in America since 1972. His two great inspirations have always been Armstrong and Miles Davis, and Okoshi has something of the majesty of both in his playing.

  

He is also an excellent composer/arranger and, for his tribute, has translated ten pieces associated with Armstrong into contemporary musical terms. The results are breathtakingly imaginative. Classics like ‘Basin Street Blues’ and ‘On The Sunny Side of the Street’ have been recomposed and rearranged for his sextet of leading jazz stars, while unpromising material such as ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘What a Wonderful World’, have been reinvented and transformed into subtly resonating musical experiences.

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For ‘St James Infirmary’, Okoshi uses harmon mute with bass, drums, banjo, accordion and guitar accompaniment – a totally fresh sound, superlatively achieved. This is one of the most original albums of the decade. IC