Louis: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin and the Birth of Jazz – Barbican, London

By Mark Youll | 15th November, 2011 | gig reviews, reviews |

Related posts

Latest gig reviews reviews

Despite whispers of the great musical contribution Wynton Marsalis brought to the project prior to this, the grand European unveiling of Dan Pritzker’s silent film loosely based on the life of Louis Armstrong, nothing could have prepped this London audience for the highly-charged and emotive live score his long-serving sidemen belted out alongside it’s ninety-minute roll.

Assembled on a dimly-lit bandstand beneath the screen, aglow with just the heavy gleam of gold from the brass instruments held by the front row , this heavily-tailored mob – carried by the rasping trombone and growling tuba playing of Wycliffe Gordon, bassist Reginald Veal and the second line-style drumming of Herlin Riley – effortlessly tailed the movie’s thick humour and natural pathos, with a stomping suite of Marsalis-manned arrangements made up of 1920s standards like Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy, as well as originals like speedy swinger Express Crossing - a reoccurring theme here, ablaze with inspired mute and plunger work from this band’s typically fiery trumpet section.

“this heavily-tailored mob effortlessly tailed the movie’s thick humour and natural pathos, with a stomping suite of Marsalis-manned arrangements”

Contrast to the tread of New Orleans jazz Louis obviously favours, and perhaps more fitting with the movie’s more melodramatic moments, were virtuoso pianist Cecile Acherie’s romantic, Gottschalk-inspired passages, which would eventually reach equal footing with her swinging associates amidst a dramatic denouement that would not only stress the film’s teary expiry, but bring this full-house to its feet.

Mark Youll