The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 24, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Leone’s “Legends”

I'm back! Yes, friends and neighbors your boy is back, with my "Legends" column. But this time it will not only cover the legends of rock and roll, but also the legends of jazz, blues and country music. Those of us who are fans of music realize either consciously or unconsciously that all of these genres of music have added to the gumbo that is popular music today. My new column will run monthly, so I hope you all will enjoy it, and make it part of your reading regimen.

Being that this is my "return" or "comeback" to the friendly confines of the Mountain Times; I'm compelled profile a couple of the "greatest comebacks" in music history.

Elvis Presley's Comeback Special
This monumental musical event happened on December 3, 1968, and unlike most musical events of this nature it happened on television. This special is now known as the "Elvis Comeback Special" but it was originally just an Elvis TV show on the NBC network. When Elvis hit the little screen for the first time in many years he looked young and strong, his voice in great form and his star power apparent. The special was supposed to be a Christmas special but the director of the show saw it as an opportunity for Elvis to make a statement. The statement was "I'm still here, and I'm ready to rock," and rock he did. After a few obligatory scripted sketches Elvis showed why he was and always will be the "King."

It happened in an ironic twist of fate. The director of the special and network suits witnessed Elvis and his musicians jamming some old blues and gospel tunes backstage. After some intense convincing, and alleged financial remuneration (via Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker) an impromptu jam session was arranged in the NBC studio using Elvis' original band featuring guitar god and rockabilly foundation Scotty Moore, as well as bassist Bill Black, and drummer DJ Fontana. Elvis was still very insecure as he had not performed live since 1962, so the director again used his noodle and enlisted a few of Elvis' entourage to come onstage with him, and it worked. This show is available on DVD under the title of, what else Elvis Presley's Comeback Special.

Louis Armstrong, Paris "Victory" Concert
Taking place at the historic Champs de Elyses only a short four years after the devastation of World War II on  November 5-6, 1949, the architect of jazz himself the great "Satchmo" put together an all-star small group featuring legendary 20's and 30's jazz icons like trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Barney Bigard, drummer "Big" Sid Catlett, and pianist extraordinaire Earl "Fatha" Hines. This band was a foreshadow to the "Louis Armstrong's All-Stars" small group that were to be Louis' touring group after the disbanding of Armstrong's Big Band in 1953.

The concert took on epic status as soon as the band hit the stage due to the crowds reaction to having their heroes return triumphantly after the Germans forbid jazz music to be played in Paris during their occupation.

As a sidebar to that aspect of the concert, in the late forties and early fifties "bebop" had taken over the world of jazz music. Bebop was championed by jazz innovators Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as a very young Miles Davis. Bebop had pushed Armstrong and his contemporaries to the rear, and they were considered to be old school before old school was cool.

The return to the friendly confines of Europe where old jazz was still king, was just what the players in Louis' all-star band needed. After about a half dozen shows in Italy, the band was ready, willing, and able to tear it up on those cool and rainy nights in November of 1949 dans "La Ville-Lumieré.

Okay, that's it for me friends. Keep music alive, support live music, and look for my column here in The Mountain Times.

Peace, Joey

Tagged: Joey Leone