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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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DUKE HEITGER with
KEN MATHIESON'S CLASSIC JAZZ ORCHESTRA

Celebrating Satchmo

Lake Records LACD 286

 

 


1. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me
2. Cornet Chop Suey
3. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
4. Atlanta Blues
5. Song of the Islands
6. Wild Man Blues
7. Down In Honky Tonk Town
8. Ev'ntide
9. Sweethearts On Parade
10. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
11. Among My Souvenirs
12. Coal Cart Blues
13. Mahogany Hall Stomp
14. What a Wonderful World

Duke Heitger - Trumpet, vocals
Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Orchestra:
Billy Hunter - Trumpet
Phil O'Malley - Trombone
Dick Lee - Clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax
Konrad Wiszniewski - Tenor sax
Martin Foster - Clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax
Paul Kirby - Piano
Roy Percy - Double bass
Ken Mathieson - Drums, arrangements

 

Louis Armstrong, almost certainly, was themost transformational figure in all jazz history. Both as a singer and a trumpet player, Armstrong's influence was felt well beyond the confines of jazz. He literally changed the structure of Western music of every genre. So, if you are going to undertake a musical assignment entitled Celebrating Satchmo, you better know what you are doing. Fortunately, for the most part, Duke Heitger along with the Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra got it right.

Heitger, who is a resident of New Orleans, has acknowledged that his trumpet playing and singing is Armstrong-influenced. The Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra, which was formed in 2004 to explore the varied back catalogues in jazz, was awarded the 2009 Scottish Jazz Awards as Best Band. The tunes featured on the disc, with a few exceptions, come from three distinct periods in Armstrong's early recording history: the Hot Five and Hot Seven bands of 1925-1928; the 1929-32 period when he was recording for the Okeh label; and finally 1932-42 when the Armstrong orchestra recorded for Victor and Decca.

Strangely enough, the lead tune, Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me, was never recorded by Armstrong although, given the rousing rendition by Heitger and the band, this was an omission he should have regretted. Both Cornet Chop Suey where Duke shines, and When It's Sleepy Time Down South were Armstrong staples with the latter becoming his signature theme. Heitger's vocal on this cut is well supported by the band but especially by Dick Lee on clarinet. The W.C. Handy composition Atlanta Blues falls outside the above-noted recording time period as it was done for Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy in 1954 for Columbia Records. While this tune is a group effort, Heitger shows some strong playing especially on the out chorus.

Armstrong was never afraid to tackle a tune that was outside the traditional jazz norm, and Song of the Islands falls into that category. While the melody is based on traditional Hawaiian music, Heitger uses it as a platform for a scat vocal supported by some fine clarinet by Martin Foster. Armstrong placed his signature mark on Wild Man Blues, Down In Honky Tonk Town and Mahogany Hall Stomp, so Heitger and the band take on these pieces with flair and commitment to the maestro's original intentions. While I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues has been more closely identified with Jack Teagarden rather than Armstrong, nevertheless Heitger's vocal on the track is more in the Armstrong style, and the trumpet out chorus is all Armstrong. Despite its saccharine sentiments, What a Wonderful World became more closely associated with Armstrong after his death in 1971 than before. AccordinglyHeitger and the band try to stay clear of the mawkish lyrics with an instrumental take on the tune.

In his lifetime, Armstrong believed jazz was a treasure that belonged to everyone. Heitger and the band now offer their contribution to this gift.

Pierre Giroux

See also review by Jonathan Woolf:



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