Saturday, September 03, 2005

Jumpin' Jive!

glisten: Louis Jordan

Louis Jordan - "How I Love My Teacher"
Jordan's precocious and swingin' ode to apple polishing one ups Van Halen in every way.
"Can you take what I can shake"? Hot shit!

One of the goals of The Tofu Hut has always been to draw ears to important or exciting sounds that have been unjustly overlooked by the majority, whether obscured by complexity, scarcity or the veil of time. Few artists fit the bill of the latter more than Louis Jordan. Once known as one of the most famous, popular and influential musicians in the United States; Jordan's name now evokes blank looks from the vast majority of pop music listeners. The tragedy is that Jordan's exciting mix of novelty, jazz and rnb themes played a pivotal role in the creation of what we understand to BE modern pop (and, I think, modern rnb and hip hop). He has certainly been acknowledged for his contributions by musical cognoscenti; what I bemoan is the lack of dap he gets from the vox populi.

In the 1940's, Louis Jordan was a musical giant. Between the years of 1943 and 1950, a Jordan track was number one on the R+B charts for over twenty-one months. More than a dozen of his singles crossed over to the pop charts. Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and B.B. King have all acknowledged Jordan as a progenitor. If you haven't heard his music yet, now's the time; if you're already a fan, hopefully you'll find something new in this big ol' chicken-fried mess of Louis goodness.

Louis Jordan - "The Green Grass Grows All Around"
A rollicking round-robin novelty take on 'There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea', 'Green Grass' is bar-none one of the happiest, most enjoyable songs I can think of.
If you can listen to this without smiling, I'd check for a pulse.

The recordings I've included in this post are culled from a number of Jordan albums I've picked up over the years, some out of print and some not. Most of Jordan's considerable back catalogue IS still commercially available, but as with many other greats (James Brown, John Coltrane, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Johnny Cash) the neophyte listener is probably best served with a greatest hits disc. Your gateway drug in that case is available to buy at Amazon: the NPR 'Basic Jazz Library'-certified Best of Louis Jordan.
For less than ten bucks, it might be the best musical bargain you'll ever find.

Louis Jordan - "What's the Use of Getting Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again?)"
A crunk anthem for the roaring forties, everything about 'What's the Use' satisfies; from the mammy/pappy call and response of the first verse, to the swill-around-the clock second verse, to the weaving, wobbling chorus.

Explore this extensive Jordan fanpage.
Sadly, this is pretty much the only exclusive Jordan site I could find.
Read this brief Jordan bio from the Ken Burns 'Jazz' page.
"This was a really funny song about a fox trying to get the chickens and fool the farmer into thinking everything was alright."
Technically, kid, the idea is that it's a big bad black man in the coop; but it's reassuring that Louis' stuff ages well enough to sidestep racist tropes and just be FUN, even (and especially) to an uninformed listener.

Louis Jordan - "Azure Te (Paris Blues)"
This light-hearted blues wears its heart on its shoulder. 'Azure-Te' highlights Jordan's phenomenal sax playing and shows a glimpse of the genius in a romantic mode.

Read Atlantic Record founder and fellow Rock+Roll Hall of Famer Ahmet Ertegun's Rolling Stone "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" profile of Jordan.
Explore these amazing (and desktop-worthy) photos of Louis Jordan and his band from William P. Gottlieb's Golden Age Jazz Photos Archive.
Want to hear more?
Listen (in realaudio) to five more Jordan tracks, including the classic 'Caldonia' and the now-standard, Jordan penned "Let the Good Times Roll".

Also, scroll down and listen to Louis Jordan's 'Ration Blues' (in WMA format), courtesy the excellent archives of Jan's 78 RPM Record Warehouse.

And, finally, don't miss the three month R+B chart topper of 1949, 'Saturday Night Fish Fry', courtesy of the always laudable Vocal Group Harmony Web Site.

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