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Jazz Appreciation Month - The Three Louis'

Another week of April goes by and here's another blog about inspirational jazz music in recognition of Jazz Appreciation Month. This week, I'd like to talk about three Louis' that I've enjoyed listening to since I first discovered them: Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, and Louis Jordan.

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Like a lot of people, my introduction to a lot of music came from my parents. I remember, at the age of six, being on a long car journey on a holiday trip and we stopped outside an electronics store, into which Dad disappeared. Emerging a short while later, Dad produced from a bag a cassette of the BBC Radio 4 1978 series of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. He had recalled how he had loved hearing the series when it first aired and, having noticed it for sale, thought it would be great for us to listen to in the car. As soon as the first cassette was put into the car's player I was transfixed and enjoyed the adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect immensely.

I remembered this memory recently when, on a weekend away in the Peak District, I came across The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book trilogy in a bookshop in Bakewell which, without hesitation, I purchased.

Mentioning all this might seem unrelated to this blog's subject, and certainly to jazz itself, but one of the moments I remember the most from listening to the radio series is the ending of the first series, which has the main characters crashland on a pre-historic Earth. As the characters realise where they are, Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World plays as the series finishes. I remember it so well because it was one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard.

From that moment on, I relished recognising Armstrong's husky voice when his songs were used in television productions, films, and video games, like 1998's Fallout 2 featuring A Kiss To Build A Dream On in its opening video cutscene and, to this day, Armstrong's version of La Vie En Rose remains one of my favourite songs recorded by him as both his singing and his trumpet playing is sublime.


Around the same time, my aunt would regularly come and visit us on the Isle Of Wight and, each time, she would bring with her a new Disney animation VHS. I believe, for most children (myself included), whether they realise it or not, their first introduction to Louis Prima is as King Louie in 1967's Disney classic, The Jungle Book. Hearing I Wan'na Be Like You for the first time was so much fun, immediately contrasted by the terrifying fire that starts in the film after the song ends.

Again, like Armstrong, I would later come across Prima in other forms of media, including last week's referenced video game, Mafia. Hearing I'm Living In A Great Big Way while playing the game, I immediately recognised Prima's voice. A few years later, with the dawn of YouTube, I was able to discover many more of Prima's songs, including some of my favourites like Closer To The Bone, Just A Gigolo, Oh Marie, Pennies From Heaven, When You're Smiling, and You Rascal You, which Prima performed with Armstrong. A few of these featured, to my delight, in Mafia 2's soundtrack when it was released in 2010.


As I write this, I notice there's a pattern with some of these introductions; that being the video game, Mafia. Louis Jordan's song You Run Your Mouth And I'll Run My Business must have left quite an impression on me as it's the only Louis Jordan song in the game's music soundtrack and only plays once, during a story mission. The lyrics fit so well with the game and I enjoyed the rhyming:

'If I'd followed your advice on how to make dough, I'd have been in the jailhouse long ago'.

Upon doing some digging around for more of Jordan's songs, I discovered that a lot of the lyrics were comedic and full of wit, especially in the song Friendship, where he sings about some peculiar habits his 'friend' has around his wife, not realising that his wife is cheating on him with his 'friend':

'What about that night you came and took my wife to the show? I asked her what movie she saw and she said she didn't know. I told her she couldn't see so good, so don't sit back that far no more.'

I was also happy to discover he played saxophone, which I had just begun to play myself, and his lyrical style could be heard in his playing as well as his vocals. Mum was also very pleased to find me listening to a lot of Jordan's boogie-woogie swing songs as it was a form of jazz/blues she had grown up listening to herself.

Although I have quite a few Jordan favourites, including Keep-A-Knockin', Choo Choo Ch'Boogie, and Open The Door, Richard!, there is no other song I will happily burst into song singing than There Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens as I love, and find very funny, the idea of a chicken thief hiding amongst them saying that upon seeing the farmer toting a gun shouting 'who's there?!?'.

Thank you to the three Louis' for contributing to my early appreciation of jazz music.

Do you have any fond memories of jazz you heard during your childhood that you still like to listen to? P.S.

If you are looking for clarinet lessons or a saxophone teacher near you, I offer face-to-face music lessons in Wells, UK and online music lessons to anyone worldwide. Feel free to get in touch!


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