Herb Ellis: Tin Roof Blues

In October 1957, as the final tour of Jazz At The Philharmonic was winding down, Norman Granz brought many of the JATP musicians into his Los Angeles studios for a flurry of studio recordings. The Stan Getz/Oscar Peterson summit comes from this period, as does Ella Fitzgerald's "Like Someone In Love" (with Getz as major soloist), Ben Webster's "Soulville" and Herb Ellis' "Nothing But The Blues", a wonderful collection of original and classic settings of the blues. As the blues were (and are) the great common ground of all jazz musicians, the front line of swing master Roy Eldridge and cool icon Stan Getz was a very effective team and the piano-less rhythm section of Ellis, Ray Brown and Stan Levey fit together seamlessly. "Tin Roof Blues" was the oldest of the songs recorded for the album, and Ellis' melody statements consist of only the song's second strain. Ray Brown plays a scintillating vamp to open the track and after one chorus of melody, Eldridge (in cup mute), Getz and Ellis plays single-chorus solos that seem complete despite their brevity. Eldridge's solo starts simply and grows more complex as it goes, Getz elegantly works over an old blues riff, and Ellis plays a straight-forward primarily single-string solo with perfectly balanced phrase lengths. This tune was probably considered a quick throw-away that would go down in one take, but the musicians involved were such masters they could create a little gem like this with very little planning.

September 17, 2009 · 0 comments

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Louis Armstrong: Tin Roof Blues

In his spoken introduction to "Tin Roof Blues", Louis Armstrong tells the crowd at Los Angeles' Crescendo Club that the song was made famous by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (correct), a group that was organized in Chicago (technically correct, but all of the main horn players were from New Orleans), and that they were before Louis' time "believe it or not". The last point is definitely correct as the NORK recorded "Tin Roof Blues" a month before Louis made his first records with King Oliver. In revisiting this jazz classic, Armstrong gave his fellow All-Stars a chance for some relaxed blowing on an old favorite. The All-Stars version follows the NORK's in its arrangement, with solos by trombone and clarinet between theme statements, and if there are a few attempts at "entertainment", it must be remembered that the All-Stars aimed for a wider audience than just jazz fans. There's nothing terribly gimmicky about anything that's played here, but one suspects (especially from hearing the verbal encouragements by the other band members) that these solos were probably worked out in advance and played the same at every show. The slow-drag feeling established by Barrett Deems and the growling trombone of Tyree Glenn did not create as elegant of a performance as the original NORK recording, but taken on its own, it is a fine version of a Dixie standard.

September 17, 2009 · 0 comments

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New Orleans Rhythm Kings: Tin Roof Blues

"Tin Roof Blues" was one of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings' greatest successes, and it's easy to hear why: this may be one of the most elegant records in early jazz. Here, in the weeks before Louis Armstrong made his first recordings, a group of white jazz musicians recording in the middle of Indiana proved that they had already learned the maxim that "less is more". They also showed that playing from the soul could make up for any technical limitations, which must have been a fairly revolutionary concept in those days. Only the early classic blues singers were recording by this time, and I suspect that the NORK listened to and learned well from many of those early sides. "Tin Roof" also shows us that the horn men had a simple, but effective solo concept (something else that wasn't common in early 1923). After the delicate and mournful opening theme, Brunies and Ropollo play solos that aren't virtuosic displays, but effective and complete statements. Brunies' rhythm is quite loose and Ropollo gets a lot of mileage out of simple bent notes. Mares' fine lead playing brings up the intensity just enough to create a definite but subdued ending.

September 17, 2009 · 0 comments

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