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Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, "Do You Know What It Means?":
In 1947, the movie "New Orleans" featured a number of jazz greats performing songs interspersed with the rest of the plot. A few of the songs can be found on YouTube, and the best of the lot is this clip of Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong — along with several other important early jazz musicians — performing "Do You Know What It Means?" It's a short clip, under two minutes, mostly featuring Billie. Check it out:
(Okay, so it's obviously dubbed for the movie, but it's still worth a watch and a listen. I particularly like the sailor leaning against the piano playing the beer; he's a very skilled beer player. For an introduction to the real musicians in the band, watch this clip.)
byomtov (mail):
Great song.

It was also the theme for an unfortunately short-lived TV series called "Frank's Place."
6.9.2007 1:45pm
SenatorX (mail):
So people really do like jazz huh? I've always harbored the suspicion that "people who love jazz" were fakers.
6.9.2007 4:17pm
frankcross (mail):
The two greatest, IMHO.
6.9.2007 4:57pm
byomtov (mail):
Well, we're up to three fakers. Wonder if we can get a minyan.
6.9.2007 5:21pm
Waldensian (mail):

The two greatest, IMHO.

What's so interesting to me about Holiday is that (a) she is so obviously great, but (b) it's actually quite difficult to explain why, in a way that actually conveys that greatness with any precision.
6.9.2007 5:28pm
dearieme:
"So people really do like jazz huh?" Geez, yes: DOZENS of us.
6.9.2007 6:13pm
OrinKerr:
Waldensian,

Interesting point. I tend to think it's because she uses her voice like an instrument, and it's a pretty interesting instrument. (No, I'm not pretending that's precise...)
6.9.2007 6:15pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, it's in her phrasing, and I can't think of anyone who could replicate it.

And she conveys such great emotion. Ella clearly had better pipes, but her versions just sound beautiful, while Billie brought such feeling to the songs.
6.9.2007 6:18pm
Kovarsky (mail):
orin,

was the clarinetist (barney bigard maybe) creole or white? i know there were integrated groups at this time, although i was surprised to see that they were putting them in major motion pictures (if indeed the clarinetist is white)?

it's a nice song, and nice to see the two performing together, but neither was performing as the force of nature each was capable of. of course the composition didn't call for it, but i just get disappointed whenever louis doesn't get that uptempo lilt going.

on a completely unrelated note, i just watched cachet (hidden) and when i turned it off, braveheart was on the movie channel. juliet binoche stars in both - wow, what a change.
6.9.2007 8:32pm
SenatorX (mail):
Ok, I can certainly see appreciating Billy Holiday for her singing. I was more making a snarky comment about the chaotic rythems of most jazz bands I guess and how I mostly dislike everyone I have met that loves jazz.
6.9.2007 8:56pm
David Matthews (mail):
"it's in her phrasing"

Amen. As some famous composer or classical singer (I can't remember who it was) said about gospel great Mahalia Jackson:

"She breathes in all the wrong places and it comes out perfect."

To SenatorX about not really liking jazz: I know the feeling, I guess, about certain kinds of jazz. I was in a rock band many years ago, and our guitarist described his dislike of many forms of jazz as "when I'm supposed to be enjoying music, I shouldn't have to work that hard." On the other hand, he would spend endless hours dissecting solos by Earl Klugh or George Benson, or many other jazz guitarists.

But there's nothing difficult or chaotic about Lady Day, or Satchmo. And I'm sorry about the losers you've run into that love jazz. I'm guessing there was a level of pretensiousness in those folks that you found a bit nauseating, as would I.
6.9.2007 9:24pm
Waldensian (mail):

And I'm sorry about the losers you've run into that love jazz. I'm guessing there was a level of pretensiousness in those folks that you found a bit nauseating, as would I.

I think this is essentially the Soccer Problem, in a different venue.
6.9.2007 9:35pm
David Matthews (mail):
Waldensian:

I think you're right. Different venue, but, I'm afraid, many of the same faces....
6.9.2007 9:50pm
SenatorX (mail):
Yes you are probably right David and I shoudn't let that interfere with my own perceptions and enjoyment. I think what brought it to the fore was this video clip. Maybe it was the clothes of the white people...
6.9.2007 10:42pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Yeah, on the "i don't like jazz because of the association with the people that like jazz" thing, i can certainly empathize with the distaste for effete monomaniacal coffe-house jazz condescension. i have a difficult time listening, for example, to Phish or the Dead, because of the association I make with their fans.

That being said, I don't think you have to appreciate the innovativeness of modal progression to like satchmo, and if you like someone like thelonious monk, you get it on the first listen. My brother's a professional musician and i'm an ex (sorta) music critic-type, but I don't pretend to appreciate all the technical attributes of the music. That being said, like any musical genre, there's certainly a glimmer of genius there for everyone. It's just annoying when people insist on the virtue of jazz to the exclusion of other musical appreciation.
6.9.2007 10:44pm
Judge H. Lee Sarokin (mail):
Orin
It may surprise you to know that in addition to being a "flaming liberal" I have played jazz drums since I was 12 and still play with a group today at age 78. During college I traveled to Europe with a jazz group and played for a summer at a Paris jazz club and sat in with some of the world's greatest jazz musicians. When I was young, Zutty Singleton was one of my favorites, but when Buddy Rich came along there was no one else who could touch him. I frequently heard Barney Bigard play at Nick's in New York. Those who don't love jazz don't know what they are missing!
6.10.2007 12:03am
frankcross (mail):
I think Bigard was white, as was the trombonist, Jack Teagarden. Louis typically had integrated players.
6.10.2007 12:03am
dearieme:
Bigard was creole, I think, as was "Kid" Ory, the trombonist. Louis did use the white trombonist "T" after WWII. At one point, Louis's post-WWII band was all black, except for his white drummer Barrett Deems, who presumably had a natural sense of rhythm.
6.10.2007 11:05am
byomtov (mail):
I think Kovarsky has it right at 9:44. There is a bit of annoying insider snobbery among some jazz fans. But you can just enjoy the music without all that. Start with the vocalists maybe and explore from there.
6.10.2007 11:09am