Saturday, 17 April 2010

De Paris Hot Club

I spent a very pleasant hour yesterday afternoon listening to the last of the music I have which was recorded in Stratford, Ontario 1956 as part of the Shakespeare Festival.

The music of Wilbur De Paris, Live in Canada 1956 is suited perfectly to a sunlit afternoon in early April. It is light, joyous music in the tradition of New Orleans.

The urge to preserve the music of New Orleans seems to have set in early. A delicate bloom, its most ardent admirers seemed to fear it would be flattened by the Swing Era – hence the founding of the Hot Record Society.

I must admit this kind of music is largely off my radar partly perhaps because I fear it had all but disappeared by the time recorded music began. There are no records by Buddy Bolden. Its greatest outpouring is, I suppose, in those records of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens – and how they were used in evidence and held against him down the years; how quickly they said Louis had ‘sold out’. Evolved, rather, I would have said – the Promethean fire of his horn setting first the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra ablaze and then on to those great big band sides of the thirties…

That’s what jazz does: moves on. And part of my resistance to the kind of music purveyed by the De Paris group is that in some ways it represents a quite deliberate step backwards. Perhaps De Paris was the Wynton Marsalis of his day.

The waters are muddied further by the music’s adoption in the ration book Britain of the fifties where it became known as ‘Trad’. In my opinion, the music of New Orleans is like fine wine – it doesn’t travel well. Transplanted across the Atlantic and played by the likes of Humphrey Lyttleton and Kenny Ball, it makes no sense whatsoever. What is the music of Louisiana doing in Luton?

I do find the music presented in this set as much about preservation as improvisation (‘jam yesterday’ as it were) and this is accentuated by De Paris’s pedantic and rather learned introductions. Omer Simeon, who played with Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, is presented as much as a living museum piece as a soloist. Within twelve months of this recording, though, Simeon had perished, dying at the age of fifty six from cancer of the throat – another link to that past Wilbur DeParis cherished so much vanished.

We do still have the records to treasure, though, and I do, pearls of great price, spilled for one afternoon at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival where The play’s the thing met Oh! Play that thing

1 comment:

  1. I would love to have written that line about Shakespeare meeting King Oliver. But I worry about the notion that Louisiana can't meet Luton. Why not? Close your eyes; consider the music. If the Beijing Wanderers sound good and your foot taps, who cares where they are and what their names are? I hope this doesn't sound pedantic or disapproving, but such boundaries might deprive us of pleasures. It is true that much marketed or proferred under the name "New Orleans Jazz" is not up to the originals -- the same could be true for any art coming along after the originators are dead. But I would rather hear a version of, say, POTATO HEAD BLUES, clearly not the equal of the Hot Sevens, than to think of a universe where no one played it. Is this wrong?

    Cheers from your fellow blogger and enthusiast, Michael Steinman