Welcome to Basin St. to Birdland!

by mikeconklinmusic


I thought that it would be fitting for my inaugural post to be a discussion on the classic tune, Basin Street Blues. And who better to use as an illustration than the great ambassador of jazz, Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)!

Here is a 1959 recording in Stuttgart Germany.

Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars

Louis Armstrong – trumpet
Trummy Young – trombone
Peanuts Hucko – clarinet
Billy Kyle – piano
Mort Herbert – bass
Danny Barcelona – drums

The tune starts off with a brief intro by Billy Kyle on piano. The entire band kicks in with the main theme of the tune, also known as the head. It consists of an eight bar phrase, which is repeated and then continues with the B section (another 8 bars, once repeated). So, the entire tune AABB form is 32 bars.

Then…Pops takes his turn, as only he could, at the mic. With his signature gravelly voice he mixes the lyrics with a little bit of scat singing…all with a beautiful swing.

Billy Kyle gives Armstrong a little breather and takes a solo. He is probably one the most under-rated pianist of the era — such a lyrical approach, somewhat reminiscent of Teddy Wilson — what a tasty player!

After Billy’s solo, Danny Barcelona kicks it up a notch! After his brief solo, the entire band takes it away with a swinging collective improvisation. (For some of my more discerning readers, I hear a little quote from “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” around 4:18 and “Jingle Bells” around 4:28!

Peanuts Hucko steps up to the mic for his chance to blow for 16 bars, followed by a slowing of tempo and a solo by Mort Herbert.

At 5:19, Trummy Young blows a tasty little morsel.  The entire band collectively closes out the tune…Ahhh….what a joyful sound!

For greater detail on Louis Armstrong, please visit my good friend, Ricky Riccardi’s blog. He’s an absolute authority on Satch!

For a more thorough, analytical discussion on Basin Street Blues check out my Jazz Theory and Analysis page!