Tag Archives: Louis Armstrong

Remembering Kenny Davern (1935-2006)

There can be few sounds as thrilling as clarinettist Kenny Davern cutting loose with one of his characteristically passionate and exhilarating solos – as anyone who heard the American jazz star during one of his countless visits to Scotland over the last 20 years of his life will testify. Davern was widely regarded as the foremost exponent of his instrument in the world; a musician whose sound was immediately identifiable and who brought a touch of class to everything he did.

Amongst regulars at the Edinburgh and Nairn Jazz Festivals, and at the former Glasgow Society of Musicians, Davern was also known as an intimidating character who did not suffer fools gladly, and who reserved his greatest contempt for anyone who tried to make him play in front of a microphone. Woe betide any sound engineer who hadn’t been alerted to Davern’s strongly held views on acoustics.

Similarly, festival organisers were known to vanish mysteriously when Davern went on the attack – and he never let anything like an audience get in the way of a rant. Indeed, he often treated his listeners with derision too: one trick was to ask for requests and then shoot them down with an acerbic comment.

However, the cantankerous clarinettist was a part he enjoyed playing. It wasn’t the whole story. The intimidating Davern was my first-ever interviewee. Forty-five minutes into the nerve-wracking session, the significance of the fact that the wheels on my borrowed tape recorder weren’t turning dawned on both of us: I had forgotten to lift the pause button.

After a terrifying five minutes, during which I was ready to jack in journalism for good, the unthinkable happened: he softened. At 11.30pm, as I tried to make a break for the door, he offered to start the interview again. Not only did the second version turn out better than the original, but, years later, I learned from mutual musician friends that Davern was dining out on the story of how he launched my career in journalism.

The soft centre shouldn’t have been so unexpected. Davern was a player of great warmth and passion. He routinely sent shivers down the spine and made hair stand on end when he broke out of his hitherto controlled solos and let rip. There was absolutely nothing like it when he soloed, exploding unexpectedly into the upper register and then swooping back down again.

Playing ballads or blues tunes, he had a seductive style, coaxing the sound from the horn the way a snake charmer would draw the reptile from a basket. His playing embraced extreme musical characteristics in the same manner as his personality was, by turn, intimidating and charming. His sound was sweet, fluid and polished one minute; thrillingly spiky, raw and plaintive the next. It is impossible to think of his signature songs – especially Sweet Lorraine – without hearing him playing them.

Born in Huntington, New York, the self-taught Davern began his jazz career at the age of 16. He played with many older greats, including Jack Teagarden, and despite flirting with avant-garde jazz during the 1950s, his primary influence was always Louis Armstrong. In the 1970s, he and fellow clarinettist/saxophonist Bob Wilber formed the super-group Soprano Summit. Davern then formed The Blue Three with pianist Dick Wellstood, before operating as a touring soloist after Wellstood’s death.

He leaves an impressive, though not vast, legacy of recordings. He once told me: “Just to record for the sake of being in a studio is masturbatory.” He is survived by his wife, Elsa, his two step-children and four step-grandchildren.

* Kenny Davern, jazz clarinettist and saxophonist, born January 7, 1935; died December 12, 2006.

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Darn That Dream

Louis Armstrong as Bottom and Maxine Sullivan as Titania in the ill-fated 1939 Broadway show Swingin' the Dream.

The history of jazz has many fascinating footnotes, but few as intriguing as an event which took place 70 years ago, and which has been glossed over in most of the biographies and autobiographies of those involved.

The event was the opening of a unique musical – a jazz version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at the end of November 1939. It starred jazz’s most important innovator, Louis Armstrong, as Bottom, and the vocalist Maxine Sullivan, who was enjoying popular success with her swing versions of Loch Lomond and other folk songs, as Titania.

Entitled Swingin’ the Dream, the show boasted musical supervision by clarinet king Benny Goodman, whose sextet was one of three bands playing in the production, and it had scenery based on Walt Disney cartoons (with Disney’s permission).

If the name of the show is familiar, it’s probably because its only legacy – and the only reason it is ever mentioned in sleeve notes and books – was the classic ballad, and jazz favourite, Darn That Dream, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie DeLange. Reference books, the internet, and record notes yield little information about Swingin’ the Dream, and nothing comprehensive appears to have been written about it – undoubtedly because it was a huge flop, running only 13 performances.

There is some photographic evidence of the eccentricity of the whole affair, however. The superb 1987 documentary profile of Maxine Sullivan, Love to be in Love, showed two still photographs of Sullivan and Armstrong kitted out in togas and hamming it up for the camera. But neither is as amusing as the one that is included in the booklet of the Chronological Classics Louis Armstrong CD – of the trumpeter in ass attire.

Swingin’ the Dream had a predominantly black cast which, in addition to Armstrong and Sullivan, included Butterfly McQueen – who was about to find fame as the hysterical maid Prissy in Gone With the Wind, released in mid-December of that year – as Puck, and Dorothy Dandridge as a pixie.

Jimmy Van Heusen’s score borrowed themes from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the rehearsal pianist was no less important a jazz figure than the stride pianist James P Johnson. While Benny Goodman’s group was positioned in a box on one side of the stage, Don Voorhees conducted the pit band, and the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra, a hot Chicago band which boasted such talent as guitarist Eddie Condon, clarinettist Pee Wee Russell and saxophonist Bud Freeman, was stationed in a box on the opposite side from Goodman’s outfit.

The project, the brainwave of a European producer called Erik Charell, was clearly viewed with much cynicism by many of the musicians involved – even before it opened. Eddie Condon, in his autobiography We Called it Music, devotes only half a page to the show which he portrays as an enormous waste of talent. It had, he says, ”a cast large enough to found a small city” and was a complete shambles. By opening night, the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra’s involvement had been cut to two numbers, leaving time for the musicians to go for a drink.

Condon says: ”I got into the white uniform I was forced to wear and went across the street to Dillon’s bar. By then I knew we were swinging a flop; it was the first time I had ever worn white to a funeral.” The reviews confirmed what Condon and his colleagues had suspected (Billboard described the show as ”an orgy of wasted talent”) and the band – convinced that they would soon be out of work – began scouting for other work.

Condon’s Scrapbook of Jazz includes a telegram, dated December 4, which he sent to a friend in Chicago. It says: ”Swingin’ the Dream not going over. Goodman leaves next week and although we are contracted until December 29 we could leave any time too.” However, before the Summa Cum Lauders could jump ship, it sank – without a trace. Having grossed a measly $12,000 in its first week, Swingin’ the Dream swung to a halt on December 9, leaving little in the way of evidence that it had ever existed…

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Five Star CD Reviews Vol 2

Gerry Mulligan: Lonesome Boulevard (Verve 0602527068756)
Anyone who heard the great baritone saxophonist, composer and bandleader Gerry Mulligan when he played the 1988 Glasgow Jazz Festival will recall that he was a player of terrific elegance and lyricism. Those qualities shine through on every track of this superb 1990 quartet album. Highlights include the train-mad Mulligan’s only recording of the thrilling piece he wrote as composer-in-residence at Glasgow, The Flying Scotsman, which was played with a full big band and recorded by the BBC – though never yet released on CD…
Download: Lonesome Boulevard, The Flying Scotsman
Gerry Mulligan-Paul Desmond Quartet: Blues in Time (Verve 0602517995789)
So busy were the saxophonists Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan in the mid-1950s that it took three years to finally get together to make this classic 1957 recording. Accompanied by Mulligan’s regular, piano-less, rhythm section of bass and drums, the sweet-sounding altoist (Desmond) and the wonderfully lyrical baritone player (Mulligan) prove to be a great team, on the same wavelength yet able to keep the music spontaneous and exciting – as the title track, in particular, shows.
Download: Blues in Time, Standstill
Humphrey Lyttelton and His Band and The Paseo Jazz Band 1953-56 (Upbeat Jazz URCD223)
There’s a great deal of previously unissued material on this CD which features the late, great trumpeter and bandleader Humphrey Lyttelton at the peak of his powers. Among the 24 tracks included here are a trio of terrific recordings he made with London-based West Indian musicians under the name the Paseo Jazz Band, and a quartet of songs recorded with the American vocalist Marie Bryant, best remembered as having sung in the iconic short jazz film Jammin’ the Blues.
Download: Paseo Blues, Georgia On My Mind
Johnny Dodds: Definitive Dodds (Retrieval RTR79056)
Johnny Dodds was the definitive New Orleans-style clarinettist of the 1920s, and this superb new CD comprises the recordings he made over a 15-month period from 1926 – at the peak of his powers. Although the five groups featured have different names, the personnel is drawn from a mouth-watering list of Chicago-based jazz greats including, most notably, Louis Armstrong (trumpet), on whose Hot 5 recordings Dodd was well featured. It’s all great stuff, particularly the Black Bottom Stompers sides, with Barney Bigard on sax and Earl Hines on piano.
Download: Wild Man Blues, Melancholy
Billie Holiday: The Ben Webster/Harry Edison Sessions (Lonehill Jazz LHJ10355)
The recordings on this new double CD are essential listening for anyone with an interest in jazz: they represent the last blast of greatness of the greatest jazz singer of them all, Billie Holiday. Comprising three classic 1956/57 Verve albums (Body and Soul, All Or Nothing At All and the peerless Songs for Distingue Lovers), plus a set from the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, this swinging, soulful, and uplifting CD finds Holiday (who died in 1959) with one of her best line-ups – including Ben Webster (tenor sax), Harry Edison (trumpet), Jimmy Rowles (piano) and Barney Kessel (guitar).
Download: But Not  For Me, Stars Fell From Alabama

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Celebrating Satchmo

It’s entirely my dad’s fault that I turned out the way I am: a jazz fan. The seeds had been carefully sown during my early childhood – and one of the more cynical and calculating (but fun) methods my father used to brainwash me was to organise annual midnight feasts to celebrate the birthday of the great Louis Armstrong.
My brothers and I were aware of Louis from an early age. We couldn’t not be: his photograph (signed, because Dad won a competition to meet him during his 1962 visit to Glasgow) hung in our bathroom for years. Which, given his famous fondness for Swiss-Kriss laxatives, seems entirely appropriate.
Anyway, the midnight feasts (which, it has since transpired, actually took place well before the witching hour) were a family tradition and were always held on July 4, the date Louis claimed to be his birthday. Now, of course, that date is generally believed to be a month out, but it’s the date we remember and so it’s the date for my offspring’s inaugural “midnight feast for Louis”, on July 4.
To mark Louis’s chosen birthday, and to commemorate the anniversary of his death (on July 6, 1971), here’s a piece I wrote for The Herald in 2001, at the time of his centenary.
JAZZ anniversaries come and go, but there is none as significant or as worthy of celebration as that of Louis Armstrong. He was jazz. No other jazz musician has had the impact or the profile that Armstrong had. While the general public remembers him primarily as a much-loved entertainer who came from a jazz background, the jazz world regards him as the singlemost important figure in 20th century American music. Armstrong invented jazz as an art form, and he revolutionised popular singing. His influence was universal and enduring.
Genius springs from unlikely sources – and Louis Armstrong was no exception. He was born on August 4, 1901 in the seedy Storyville section of New Orleans. Just 21 years later, the waif who learned to play trumpet while in a home for wayward boys had musicians queuing up to hear him, and all of Chicago buzzing with talk of his brilliance on the bandstand with his mentor King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.
His impact on jazz was immediate. His dynamic, driving playing revitalised the Fletcher Henderson band in New York in the mid-1920s. What he played one night would be copied by musicians all over town the next day. And when he first got into a studio with his own bands, specially created for recording sessions, the results turned the jazz community upside down.

The 64 “sides” Armstrong recorded between 1925 and 1929, with his Hot Five, Hot Seven and Savoy Ballroom Five line-ups shaped the course of jazz and are now regarded as the singlemost important body of work in jazz history. These were the records on which his genius burst out in all its glory for the first time: his fantastic playing – dazzling lyricism and originality, innate swing and daring stop-time solos – threw down the gauntlet to musicians everywhere, and inspired everyone who heard it. The Hot Five records are the DNA of jazz.

The late guitarist Danny Barker once said: “The Okeh record company released a record by Louis about every six weeks, and everybody waited for the records because each one of them was a lesson in something new; in things to come.” Armstrong had already inspired other musicians who came to hear him, but the Hot Five records had an even greater impact. These recordings taught the world how to swing.

Trumpeter Max Kaminsky later wrote: “Above the electrifying tone, the magnificence of his ideas and the rightness of his harmonic sense, his superb technique, his power and ease, his hotness and intensity, his complete mastery of his horn – above all this he had swing. No-one knew what swing was until Louis came along. It’s more than just the beat; it’s conceiving the phrases in the very feeling of the beat, moulding and building them so that they’re an integral, indivisible part of the tempo. The others had an idea of it, but Louis could do it; he was the heir of all that had gone before, and the father of all that was to come.”

Even if Armstrong had never made another record after 1929, he would still be the most important figure in jazz. Gary Giddens, one of the most eloquent voices in the Ken Burns documentary, Jazz, says: “In those [Hot Five] recordings, Armstrong proves for the first time that an improvisation can be just as coherent, imaginative, emotionally satisfying and durable as a written piece of music.”

As he played, Armstrong unselfconsciously wrote the language of jazz, transforming an ensemble music into a soloist’s art. One of his contemporaries, the trumpeter Mutt Carey, later remembered: “He tried to make a picture out of every number he was playing to show just what it meant. He had ideas, enough technique to bring out what he wanted to say. He made you feel the number and that’s what counts.” Miles Davis, the trumpeter who himself broke plenty of new ground, said: “You can’t play anything on a horn that Louis hasn’t played – I mean, even modern.”

Not only did Armstrong influence his contemporaries, he has continued to influence generations of jazz musicians. Cornettist Warren Vache, says: “He was the 20th century Beethoven as far as I’m concerned. Nobody ever swung before Louis. He taught us all how to play in 4/4 time and swing like mad. He also invented the language of the trumpet and pretty much the language of improvisation too. It just doesn’t get any better than him.”

Marty Grosz, the guitarist and singer, echoes the sentiment. “Let’s put it this way, Louis Armstrong was to jazz, or is still to jazz, what Shakespeare was to English literature. He somehow, innately, just knew what to do and when to do it. He was the bellwether of everything that followed. He pointed the way. That’s not to say that there weren’t many other talented people but somehow Louis rhythmically freed up the whole thing.”

Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton says: “There is no other single person who has had the kind of impact on how we play music than Louis Armstrong had, and his Hot Five records were pioneer examples. He continued the rest of his life to influence people, and he continued to make influential recordings, but those ones from the 1920s were the ones which first showed the way.”

It’s also important to note that Armstrong showed the way not only to trumpeters, but to players of every instrument – a rare legacy, as clarinettist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski points out. “There are a few people who have come through the jazz pantheon who do that: Charlie Parker’s one, but Armstrong was the first.”

Armstrong’s phenomenal achievements as a pioneer don’t end with his trumpet playing. He was also, as Gary Giddens said in Jazz, “the singlemost important singer that American music has produced”. His first big hit, Heebie Jeebies, introduced the world to his gravelly, mumbling style of “scat” singing, and his way of improvising with his voice as freely as if it were an instrument was enormously influential. Danny Barker said: “That’s when the song stylist came in.

“People began to buy records because they liked a certain personality – Louis Armstrong was responsible for that.” Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra are among those who were directly inspired by his looser style of singing, his way of personalising songs.

Ken Peplowski is one of a huge number of musicians – including clarinettist Artie Shaw and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins – who has credited Armstrong with inspiring him to create his own music. Shaw said that Armstrong taught him “that you should do something that is your own”; something that expresses who you are. Peplowski says: “He was a great entertainer and a great artist. He didn’t compromise either of those aspects – and almost refused to. He was one of the first people that presented himself in a very natural state – take it or leave it; this is what I do.”

But the last word goes to the late trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie who memorably summed up the feelings of thousands of jazz musicians the world over, when he said of Louis Armstrong: “Without him – no me.”

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The Contender

Amongst the many notable jazz anniversaries of recent months, one important one has been pretty much universally overlooked. December 2008 was the centenary of a trumpet legend with whom jazz history has been particularly careless. He was lost, found and lost and found again – so it’s almost fitting that his centenary went by unnoticed. Even in death, he’s an elusive character.

His name was Jabbo Smith, and, at the peak of his powers and the height of his celebrity, he was regarded by many as the only serious challenge to Louis Armstrong’s position as the greatest trumpet player of them all. But just over a decade later, he had slid out of the limelight and was all but forgotten.

Born in Georgia in December 1908, Jabbo Smith was christened Cladys to complement the name of a cousin, Gladys, who was just a few days older. His mother, who played the church organ, struggled to raise him by herself. Eventually, when Jabbo was six, she was forced to hand him over to the care of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. This institution supported itself by teaching the children to play music and then sending its student bands all over the country, to all the major cities. Jabbo quickly mastered trumpet and trombone and was duly sent out on tour from an early age. He invariably used these excursions as a launchpad for an escape bid..

When he was 14 years old, he ran away and remained free for three months, during which time he worked with a professional band in Florida. Two years later, he left the orphanage for good and headed for his half-sister’s home in Philadelphia. There, he immediately found work.

In 1925, at the age of just 17, he was playing in one of the most popular bands of the day, the Charlie Johnson band in New York – having already made his recording debut with no less a bandleader than Clarence Williams.

Jabbo – whose nickname came from an Indian character in a William S Hart western – was already beginning to be regarded as something of a sensation when he replaced Bubber Miley for the Duke Ellington band’s November 1927 recordings of Black and Tan Fantasy. So impressed was Ellington with Jabbo’s playing that he offered him a job. Happy with the Charlie Johnson band and unimpressed by the money being offered, Jabbo turned him down – a move which he may not have regretted, but subsequent generations of his admirers undoubtedly have.

He went on, in 1928, to join Fats Waller, James P Johnson and Garvin Bushell in the band playing for the Broadway show Keep Shufflin’ – the results can be heard on the four numbers this band, known as the Louisiana Sugar Babies, recorded together.

Keep Shufflin’ closed suddenly in Chicago in 1929 when its backer, Arnold Rothstein, notorious as the mobster who had fixed the 1919 baseball World Series, was the victim of a gangland murder. Jabbo may have found himself stranded in the Windy City, but the show’s impromptu closing had fortunate results for jazz recording history: the Chicago-based Brunswick Record Company offered him the chance to record 19 sides designed to compete with Louis Armstrong’s hugely successful Hot Five and Hot  Seven records, which were making money by the bucket-load for the rival Okeh label.

For what became the definitive Jabbo Smith sides, Jabbo not only led the band, which was assembled by the banjo player Ikey Robinson and christened the Rhythm Aces, but he also wrote all the numbers and sang on many of them – in his distinctive scat style.  He was still only 20, and his youthful energy simply explodes out of tracks such as Sau-Sha Stomp, Take Your Time and Boston Skuffle.

Not only that, but his style of playing is dazzling. He was technically brilliant, completely at ease playing in the upper register and able to deliver one fantastic break after another. In 1955, the bass player Milt Hinton was quoted as saying: “Jabbo was as good as Louis then. He was the Dizzy Gillespie of that era. He played rapid-fire passages while Louis was melodic and beautiful.” Another trumpet great who was around at the same time as both Jabbo and Louis was Doc Cheatham who said that in the late 1920s, Jabbo was as good as Armstrong but that they were “very different players and that Jabbo shouldn’t be judged by comparisons”.

Despite having his astonishing and highly individual style of playing showcased on the Brunswick sides, Jabbo couldn’t shake off his image as an Armstrong imitator – much to his chagrin. The record company pulled the plug on the Rhythm Aces recordings because the records weren’t the commercial success that they’d hoped for. A year after their release, Jabbo went to Milwaukee and spent several years playing with different bands there and in Chicago. He seems to have drifted between the two cities. Late in his life, he told the trumpeter Michel Bastide: “You get into a little trouble in Chicago – you run to  Milwaukee… You get into a little trouble in Milwaukee – you run to Chicago.”

In 1936, the bandleader Claude Hopkins heard Jabbo as he passed through Milwaukee and signed him up for two years. Then, in 1938, Jabbo made what would turn out to be his last recordings for over 20 years, when he recorded four more of his own compositions for Decca – including the gorgeous ballad Absolutely and the jaw-droppingly complex Rhythm in Spain.

Jabbo slid into obscurity but seems to have been content to do so. Although he was wild and unruly as a young man, he has been described by many who knew him later in his life as a quiet, introverted character – something of a loner – who seems to have been quite happy to take whatever came his way. He certainly never sought fame – which is just as well, because he never again reached the heights he scaled when he was just 20.

Jabbo was more or less forgotten about by the mid-1950s when Milt Hinton’s comments for the Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya oral history prompted renewed interest in him. However, it wasn’t until 1961 that he was tracked down to Milwaukee and brought to Chicago for a recording session with a local rhythm section which included the guitarist Marty Grosz.

Grosz has described Jabbo as a free spirit, someone who followed his own path. It’s an assessment which ties in with Milt Hinton statement that if Jabbo made enough money for drinks and women in any small town, he would stay put. Michel Bastide, whose Hot Antic Jazz Band toured and recorded with Jabbo in the trumpeter’s seventies, believes that Jabbo was easily distracted by women and might have fared better in his musical career if he had had someone to look after him and advise him in the way that Lil Hardin did for Louis Armstrong.

When Jabbo was tracked down in 1961, he hadn’t touched his trumpet for nearly two decades and had been working for Avis car hire for many years. He said that he had married and settled down in Milwaukee, playing trumpet in a nightclub at first. When the club closed down, he simply put his horn under his bed and found himself another job. But he did continue composing.

After his rediscovery in the early 1960s, Jabbo seems to have retreated from the limelight once more. He next popped up in the mid-1970s when the impresario George Wein invited him to New York to receive an award as one of the greatest living musicians in jazz history. This time, he was back to stay: he began practising the trumpet again thanks to the encouragement of the clarinettist Orange Kellin who invited him to New Orleans, to play in his band. This led to his being hired for the show One More Time which earned him euphoric reviews.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jabbo enjoyed a last blast of glory. He played the New York jazz clubs and worked with such diverse names as Thad Jones and Don Cherry. He also toured in Europe,  in the company of a French jazz band which had been born out of a shared love of his recordings. The members of the Hot Antic Jazz Band – led by trumpeter Michel Bastide  – spent three years mastering Jabbo’s 1929 repertoire and were thrilled when he agreed to come on tour and record with them.

Their affection for him and enthusiasm for his music clearly paid off: the resulting LPs (Zoo and The European Ccncerts) are delightful and provide a happy ending for what could have been yet another sad jazz tale.  Jabbo Smith died in January 1991, leaving his trumpet to the Antics’ Michel Bastide.


* Jabbo Smith’s Rhythm Aces 1929-1938 (Classics Records 669)

*  Jabbo Smith: The Complete Jabbo Smith Hidden Treasure Sessions (Lonehill Jazz LHJ10352) is newly out, and comprises the original Hidden Treasure LPs, recorded in 1961 with Marty Grosz etc, plus previously unreleased material

* Hot Antic Jazz Band: Jabbo Smith (Memories CD04) features the music from the two Hot Antic LPs with Jabbo. It’s available to buy at Hot Antic Jazz Band concerts and from its producer – jeanpierre.daubresse@free.fr

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Jazz for Babies

Promoters are always going on about creating new audiences for jazz but you don’t often see jazz gigs aimed at kids, in the way that there are hugely successful series  of classical concerts for children. The Baby Einstein CDs and DVDs have been popular with my five-year-old twins since they were introduced to them, at the age of 18 months, by a savvy older toddler.

Children just soak up these gentle orchestrations of Mozart, Beethoven and the other classical greats, which is wonderful for the classical music loving parent hoping to brainwash the offspring before they’re old enough to voice their own preferences. But what is there for the jazz fan seeking to plant the seeds of a lifelong love of their music in the next generation? Well, nothing as obviously geared to young ears. You have to do it yourself – and get used to playing the same two CDs in every car journey for, oh, about nine months.

An old tape of Louis Armstrong’s 1930s recordings became an unexpected favourite in our old banger for many formative months – the jubilant and fast-paced Swing That Music would produce an effect on the backseat passengers akin to the head-thrashing method of time-keeping favoured by heavy metal fans, while little voices would moan “Oh baby … ” along with Louis at the intro of If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight – long before they could actually talk.

More recently, Bix Beiderbecke has provided the soundtrack to car journeys with the inevitable bickering about whether he was as good as Louis or just different. Yup, they’re shaping up to be typical jazz fans – devoted to their heroes and blinkered to anyone else’s..

All this nostalgia for my boys’ early exposure to jazz was prompted by the visit on Saturday afternoon of a 6-week-old baby, Jacques, who was guest of honour at a little tea party which I was hosting. In a rush to get ready for his arrival, and influenced no doubt by the balmy weather which always seems to trigger a bossa phase, I grabbed my Getz-Gilberto CD.

It – along with a Sinatra-Jobim chaser – proved to be the perfect accompaniment to Jacques’  first visit, as it was gentle, lyrical and soothing. It would be difficult to think of a nicer introduction to jazz – at any age.

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