Greg Osby: East St. Louis Toodle-Oo


East St. Louis Toodle-Oo


Greg Osby (alto sax)


St. Louis Shoes (Blue Note 81699)

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Greg Osby (alto sax), Nicholas Payton (trumpet),

Harold O’Neal (piano), Robert Hurst (bass), Rodney Green (drums)


Composed by Duke Ellington


Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, January 22-23, 2003


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Duke Ellington gave two differing explanations for the derivation of the title "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," his theme song for many years before "Take the 'A' Train." He told Stanley Dance that the title grew out of a sign the band would pass on the road while touring New England, "LEWANDO CLEANERS," which would inspire them to sing, "Oh, Lee-wan-do!" However, he also once wrote that the title concerned the "old Negroes who work in the fields year upon year," and at the end of the day walk home "with a broken, limping step locally known as the 'Toddle-O'."

For Greg Osby, the title simply reminded him of his teenage years in St. Louis, when he would cross the bridge on weekends to play R&B and funk in the after-hours joints of East St. Louis. His reinterpretation of Ellington's early classic mixes the traditional with the modern, as Nicholas Payton's brash New Orleans sound hints at Bubber Miley and Cat Anderson, while Osby's cool angularity rests squarely in the 21st century. Osby and Payton play the brooding, rather sinister-sounding theme, with Payton taking the expected trumpet lead. Bassist Robert Hurst bows the next section unaccompanied before Payton's choppily exultant hard bop-styled solo. Osby prances through an inviting improvisation that features short bursting phrases and cascading runs, his tone unquestionably more out of Dolphy than of Hodges. Osby's fresh, provocative arrangement, even with its fairly free contrapuntal interlude for alto and trumpet, still partially preserves the tuba-banjo oompah vibe of the 1927 recording, as Hurst's arco bass creates a resonantly deep foundation.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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