Satchmo, A Tribute to Louis Armstrong
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Byron Striping, trumpet, vocals
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Remember the days when you would get all gussied up with your best guy or gal and go down to the local concert hall and take in a night of great swing and jazz music? I personally don’t, but I can easily imagine the fun that was had when a tight jazz band really got hot and had the joint jumping. That was the feel of Saturday night’s Louisville Orchestra POPS concert with Satchmo, a Tribute to Louis Armstrong with Byron Stripling.
I will not go into the biography or discography of one of the most influential jazz artists of the 20th century, whose influence still reaches us today. He was one of the first artists to move from ragtime, swing and jazz into the new genre of pop music; and to do so in a racially divided United States was proof that talent can overcome such a dark era of our shared history. The origin of the nickname, ”Satchmo”, differs from biographer to biographer, but there is no disagreement that he was a force to be reckoned with. From his ability to play the trumpet and cornet, to his gravelly voice and his ability to scat sing with dexterity, it is no wonder that we hold him in high regard in the evolution of American music.
Mr. Stripling, who has a rather impressive musical pedigree himself as a graduate of the prestigious Eastman School of Music and Interlochen, is a showman through and through. Before the audience’s applause in greeting to the LO’s guest had subsided the baton was raised and the Orchestra and Mr. Stripling took flight. I can understand how he has made a career out of paying tribute to Satchmo. HIs playing style is very similar and he holds his horn like it is an extension of his arm.
With the familiar song Sweet Georgia Brown Mr. Stripling showed his ability to sound similar to Satchmo, but, to my ear, his voice was not quite as gravelly as Satchmo, but it was close. During a long, entertaining, comical, but still reverent version of Kansas City Blues, Mr. Stripling’s vocal abilities shown through, as well as his ability to scat.
Aside from the fantastic trumpet playing and singing, Mr. Stripling loved talking with the audience, sharing stories of Mr. Armstrong’s beginnings and how humble he was throughout his life and career. He then talked of his own career path and his last visit to Kentucky, in Covington, which became a running gag the remainder of the evening that quickly became exhausted. But aside from that he was engaging and had the audience roaring with laughter many times, especially when he demonstrated how the Blues really sound.
The many highlights from the evening included the introduction of the band that Mr. Stripling brought with him, most notably a 16 year-old pianist, Micha Thomas, who played Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer in a way that I’ve never heard before. I think we will be hearing about him in coming years.
The evening closed with a blending of some of Louis Armstrong’s most notable hits including Hello Dolly, What A Wonderful World and the audience had a blast with Minnie the Moocher. I’ve learned that Louisville still has some learning to do on repeating Scat vocals.
Earlier I mentioned how much fun is had when a band is tight and doing everything right, the Louisville Orchestra WAS that band. I especially enjoyed St. Louis Blues, a tune on which Armstrong collaborated with Leonard Bernstein. Congratulations to Donna Parkes, Principal Trombonist, for her brilliant playing with Mr. Stripling on this piece.
Satchmo, A Tribute to Louis Armstrong
October 18, 2014
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]