Night Lights Classic Jazz

Louis Armstrong and Little Rock, Midi-on-Tatum, and more in the Monday round-up

Louis ArmstrongThe day Louis Armstrong told the U.S. government to go to a very choice place: David Margolick’s article in the New York Times yesterday provides some historical elaboration. (Margolick is the author of Strange Fruit: the Biography of a Song.) There’s also an online NPR story, Remembering Louis Armstrong’s Little Rock Protest. For more about Armstrong and how the politics of the era mixed with jazz, check out our previous program Jazz Goes to the Cold War.

Is it Tatum or is it MIDI? Yesterday this message appeared on one of my listservs:

Sony BMG Masterworks and Zenph Studios have announced that a “re-performance” of legendary jazz pianist Art Tatum’s 1949 recording “Piano Starts Here” will be held on Sept. 23, 2007 at 5 PM at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles – the site of the original live concert performance.

The re-performance, which is achieved through Zenph’s music software technology, will be recorded by Sony BMG before a live audience for a forthcoming hybrid multichannel SACD/CD, to be released in early 2008. The re-performance will also include four songs Tatum recorded in 1933 that appear on “Piano Starts Here,” including the jazz standard, “Tiger Rag.”

Zenph’s technology captures the musical nuances of the original piano recording’s every note, with details about the pedal actions, volume and articulations ” all with millisecond timings. The digital data is transcribed into high-resolution MIDI files and played back on a state-of-the-art Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert grand piano, allowing for the production of brand new renderings without the limitations of the original recording.

“It will be like going back to the moment of creation and hearing Tatum play in person,” said John Q. Walker, President of Zenph Studios.

The producers and engineers will also record a binaural version of the re-performance; headphone playback will provide an experience that replicates what Tatum would have heard while he sat at the piano.

The Zenph re-performance also corrects problems that have accumulated since the original. A track on the current album titled “The Man I Love” omits excerpts from “Porgy and Bess” which Tatum performed during the original concert; Zenph has restored about two minutes of lost material.

Playback speed, slowed down on the album tracks, has been corrected, so Tatum actually plays faster than has typically been thought. And, a tape glitch during “Humoresque” that mars the current re-issue will be corrected.

Zenph’s first album, a re-performance of pianist Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, received critical acclaim and spent nine weeks on the Billboard Classical Top Ten chart this summer.

The dead live–just in time for Halloween!

New links added this week: a great new Carmen McRae website and Behearer.com, a very good compendium of 1970-1990 jazz albums.

Online audio for this past weekend’s show, Trane ’57 is now available in the archives.

Each day this week I’ll be posting one of a series of Duke Ellington Big Bands programs I did two years ago devoted to Ellington’s Treasury shows from the spring and summer of 1945–weekly broadcasts that were Ellington’s contribution to the drive to sell war bonds. The programs featured pop hits of the moment, standards from the Ellington songbook, and new compositions that were sometimes rarely ever heard or recorded again, along with occasional pitches from Duke and the emcee to help the war effort. Today’s post draws on the April 1945 Treasury shows.

For southern/central Indiana readers of the blog: I’ll be emceeing this Saturday evening for saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen at the Lotus Festival in Bloomington. Cohen will be performing at Bloomington’s downtown historic Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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