Louis Jordan and Gateways to Jazz

For sixteen years I drove cars that didn't have radios. Now I even have a CD player, and drive back and forth to work listening to Louis Jordan.

I grew listening to the late Romantic Symphonies--Mahler, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky. At age 15, riding in someone's car at 3AM, I heard music that transfixed me. I had no idea what it was, and didn't figure it out for six months, until I heard Santana on the radio. So Moonflower was my first album, and I had every Santana record before I had any other record!

In college I discovered lots more rock music, and became obsessed with The Police and Joe Jackson. The latter is crucial, for two reasons. First, Joe did an arrangement of Monk's 'Round Midnight on Hal Willner's concept album "That's the Way I Feel Now." I had no idea at the time, but I'd hit something of a motherlode. Carla Bley, Steve Lacy, Charlie Rouse, and of course Monk's compositions.

Jackson also did an album dedicated to Louis Jordan, and other "jump" music of the forties. I'm sure it was a great shock to his record company. But the music was just plain fun. Slightly amateurish arrangements of Cab Calloway and Jordan, solos copied from the originals in some cases... it wasn't great art, but it felt great to hear, and soon enough I went to the original source.

Twenty-three years later, I'm still obsessed with Jazz, most of it much more complex and modern than Louis Jordan, more art than entertainment. But driving home tonight, I sang along with "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby", and I was happy.


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