I see trees of green
February 8, 2019 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
posted by growabrain (24 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It's dusty in here.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:50 PM on February 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've been reading books about jazz published in the 70s and 80s - the ones I find in op-shops typically. An opinionated but interesting tome was Graham Collier's Jazz which had biographies of several musicians including Armstrong, and a refreshingly straightforward "how-to" for musicians in the second part.

I've found little textbooks on music like this having taken on a new life in the Youtube era - recordings referenced, once probably hard to find, can be pulled up in minutes to judge the writer's conclusions about them. One observation I found rather interesting was regarding swing; that the first four notes of Armstrong's West End Blues are a good candidate for capturing what's ineffable about it (as stated by many jazzers). Four even notes without any other reference rhythm sure isn't "swung", if you mean dotted rhythms, but it'd be hard to call it otherwise.

Something I also wonder about Armstrong (but cannot confirm - any help?) was whether his "growl" was an affectation or the way he would "typically" sing. I know growling as a very specific technique which pulls the tongue back (which I can do a very good version of but if I overdo it even a little I cough my lungs out) and I have been wondering whether, if he was a self-taught singer, that's just the best way he found to project his voice.
posted by solarion at 12:16 AM on February 9, 2019 [8 favorites]

That's lovely, of course, but I'm partial to Joey Ramone's cover, recorded when he was dying from lymphoma. My kids know I hope they play it at my funeral.
posted by she's not there at 2:02 AM on February 9, 2019 [12 favorites]

whether his "growl" was an affectation or the way he would "typically" sing

I'd always heard the growl came from years spent smoking mountains of reefer.
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:23 AM on February 9, 2019 [11 favorites]

Which makes this a likely unconscious but appropriate tribute.
posted by notquitemaryann at 2:59 AM on February 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

It is said that he would leave a reefer above the door of the dressing room for the next band. I keep checking...
posted by Jode at 5:56 AM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Miles Davis, who had a lot of cranky things to say on a lot of topics, said this about Louis Armstrong:

"You can’t play nothing on modern trumpet that doesn’t come from him, not even modern shit. I can’t even remember a time when he sounded bad playing the trumpet. Never. Not even one time. He had great feeling up in his playing and he always played on the beat. I just loved the way he played and sang."

(Miles's Jazz Quotes page, with this one and a couple other good ones.)
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:22 AM on February 9, 2019 [14 favorites]

whether his "growl" was an affectation or the way he would "typically" sing

Compare his 1967 singing with this live performance from 1933.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:46 AM on February 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

Re: the growl and 'mountains of reefer' check out this clip from What's My Line where his voice gives him away and he promises to get higher next time.
posted by parki at 7:25 AM on February 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

Could someone tell me what the link points to, more or less? Mystery meat youtube link. :(
posted by introp at 9:58 AM on February 9, 2019

The link is to Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World".
posted by plastic_animals at 9:59 AM on February 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

Not claiming I'm a connoisseur but while I find his singing great it's in a sort of comfort food way, it's his trumpet on good recordings that I love.

I had a classical music history written maybe in the '50s that was definitely *not* trying to suck up to young kids and their music. But it still had a section on Louis Armstrong and how he did things with the trumpet that no one had done before and made people re-imagine what was possible.

I can't find a link but supposedly in the '30s some virtuoso in an symphony somewhere claimed Armstrong was using a trick trumpet, since real trumpets could do that sort of thing. Armstrong of course offered to meet him anywhere, any time, and swap instruments and see who could do what.
posted by mark k at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was introduced to this song via its very heavyhanded ironic use as a soundbed accompanying the graphic portrayal of a fictionalized version of the Sand Creek Massacre in the 1970 film Little Big Man. In that context, the film is making a commentary on the commercial success of Louis' 1967 recording in the Vietnam era, and the slaughter portrayed in the film is analogous to the events at My Lai in 1968.

I have to say as pointed as the use is, I would have preferred to have an independent context for the song before I saw the film.
posted by mwhybark at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2019

Interesting to see him in the 30's. I saw him a lot on TV in the 60's (and I guess in High Society), but I never saw him as a young man.
posted by MtDewd at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2019

I’m trying to convince myself that BBC footage was actually recorded along with the audio, but I can’t quite. Some of it seems imperfectly matched. Was he maybe lip syncing for them? Or did they use better audio and the two performances were just that close to one another? That seems a little hard to credit, but we are talking about Louis Armstrong and I am reluctant to believe there was anything he wasn’t capable of.

I remember when my daughter was in third grade and her teacher asked the class for examples of famous Americans. She offered Louis Armstrong. “Yes,” the teacher said, and paused a beat, “the first man to walk on the moon!” My daughter couldn’t wait to tell me when she got home.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

Well, that just proves there wasnt anything he wasn’t capable of!
posted by twoplussix at 3:21 PM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just quite loved this, and I have heard his rendition of this song many times. But to see him sing it with such charm, is enchanting.
posted by Oyéah at 7:23 PM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

... I'm partial to Joey Ramone's cover ...

My cover band reached the same conclusion; come see us next time you're in Connecticut!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:38 PM on February 9, 2019

Thank you! This is lovely on a cold winter night.
posted by TrishaU at 11:14 PM on February 10, 2019

So, let me tell a story. I've been CIO/IT Director for a privately held company that did P&C insurance in NY/NJ/PA, and it's 1999. We actually had Y2K remediation to do, since the 4GL we were using ( Dataflex ) was long in the tooth ( Wyse-150 terminals FTW! ) they had to release a Y2K compliant version, which meant that WE had to patch, test and deploy Y2K compliant s/w. Which we did. So, I stop by the conference room where the old-management ( privately owned ) and the new management ( Progressive Insurance's experiment in owning retail locations ) were meeting and let them know I'm on my way down to Atlanta for Widespread Panic's NYEY2K shows at the Phillips Arena.

There's another 1000 - 2000 words that I'll save for another time.....

So, right after the NYE Y2K countdown, the very first song on 1/1/2000 is... What a wonderful world

( this was the year Dottie Peoples and the People's Choice Choir were special guests, and man, it was transcendent. )

And on the stopover in Chicago on 1/1/2000, my lead developer called me to report that all was well.

Then we got burned by the Y2K leap year thing on 2/29/2000.
posted by mikelieman at 11:48 PM on February 10, 2019

Louis had some difficulty with romantic relationships, but was fiercely loyal to family... he would take care of Clarence, a distant cousin who had intellectual disabilities, as if he were his own son, and when an affair wound up with a child that may or may not have been his, late in his life, he acclaimed her as his, and supported her and her mother for life. He may have been impotent. He was undoubtedly a flawed human being, and he was undoubtedly blessed with more love to give than most. The forced smile in this is harrowing, not allowing us to escape his circumstances with his transcendent music.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:55 AM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

y2k compliance ? I endorse the concept as one with merit.
posted by y2karl at 4:46 AM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

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