Today In Jazz

Happy Birthday Trummy Young and Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue”

January 12

Trombonist Trummy Young is born in Savannah, GA, 1912. Young’s rambunctious trombone and hipster vocalizing were highlights wherever he went. He is probably best known for his six-year association with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Young wasn’t only a formidable trombonist, but an infectious vocalist who sang with a sly, insouciant, yet ironic delivery. He combined both talents on the hit song, “Margie,”singing and playing a trombone solo that scholar/musician Gunther Schuller, in his book The Swing Era, termed “spectacular.” While still with Lunceford, Young also sang a tune he wrote with Sy Oliver, “Taint What You Do” that became one of the anthemic expressions of the Swing Era. Young had an open musical mind, which allowed him to record with Benny Goodman’s Orchestra–where he played on several hit records, including, “Gotta Be This or That”–and Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s pioneering bebop group, in the same year (1945). Young then doubled-back stylistically for a 12-year stint with Louis Armstrong & His All Stars, which included an appearance with the group in the 1956 film High Society. He semi-retired in the 1960s but lived until 1984. Let’s have a listen to “Margie,” from 1937, here:

In 1938, Louis Armstrong records his big band version of “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” a tune he’d recorded over a decade earlier with his Hot Five. See if you don’t get chills from Louis’s opening cadenza:

And dig that arrangement.

Bandleader/pianist Jay McShann is born in Muskogee, OK, 1909. Many jazz historians footnote McShann, whose nickname was “Hootie,” as the leader of a band that first revealed a not-quite-fully-formed Charlie Parker to the world. However, McShann was an excellent blues pianist, and his orchestra of the early-to-mid-1940s was arguably not just the last great band of the Swing Era, but one that at times, portended things to come. McShann had a penchant not only for the blues but also for progressive charts infused with humor, such as “Swingmatism” (my nomination for the greatest jazz title ever) Let’s listen: