Doc Cheatham: New Orleans
Doc Cheatham (trumpet)
The Eighty-Seven Years of Doc Cheatham (Sony 53215)
Doc Cheatham (trumpet),
Chuck Folds (piano), Bucky Calabrese (bass), Jackie Williams (drums).
Composed by Hoagy Carmichael.
Recorded: New York City, Sept. 17-18, 1992
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
In the span of his long career, Doc Cheatham played with Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Eddie Heywood (backing Billie Holiday), Machito, Tito Puente, and Wilbur de Paris, among others. But it was a stint with Benny Goodman's quintet in the mid-'60's (at age 60), that began Cheatham's true transition from accomplished lead trumpeter to a player both more capable and more confident as a soloist. During this self-imposed woodshedding period, Cheatham also took up singing for the first time, which enabled him to better rest his chops and pace himself as he further advanced in years. By the time of his first major label recording in 1992 (its title a take-off on The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake from 1969), Cheatham had been playing and singing at his regular Sunday afternoon gigs at Sweet Basil in New York for 12 years straight, and by then was considered the undisputed elder statesman among jazz trumpeters.
The group heard here on "New Orleans" is Cheatham's New York Quartet that appeared at Sweet Basil. Cheatham's initial treatment of the theme on trumpet possesses a majestic richness of tone and expression. He then sings Hoagy's lyrics in his ingratiating conversational, gentlemanly style, even rolling an "R" at one point. His sincere sentimentality is such that one might think he had been born and raised in The Big Easy, rather than Nashville. Folds' piano solo is wistfully restrained and bordering on impressionistic, which makes the trumpet blast announcing Cheatham's own solo all the more jolting. Doc's phrasing comes out of Louis Armstrong (who he subbed for in the '20's), but he imbues it with his own personality and originality. After another brief but welcome vocal, Cheatham ends with a brash fanfare that both evokes, and does justice to, Armstrong in his youth. And all this remarkably from an 87 year-old!
Reviewer: Scott Albin