From the summer of 1926 to the summer of 1927, Louis Armstrong entered into a partnership at the Sunset Café in Chicago with a husband-and-wife dance team called Brown and McGraw. In doing so, he took part in a long-forgotten tradition of early jazz trumpet players accompanying dancers. The practice began in 1924 with pantomime artist Johnny Hudgins and his many trumpet-playing assistants. Like these trumpeters, Armstrong appeared on-stage with the dancers, playing rehearsed—though not written—solos that closely matched their steps, movements, or facial expressions. Dancers Brown and McGraw had Armstrong's lines notated in an arrangement, allowing them to hire other trumpet players to accompany them whenever they went out on tour. They were known for a dancing style that was fast, acrobatic, and unpredictable—attributes that also describe Armstrong's playing from this period. The rhythmic sensibility the three of them shared seems to have produced fertile interactions. During the time of their collaboration, Armstrong made a major shift in his approach to rhythm. Whereas previously he had tended to rely on more or less fixed rhythmic modules, some of which he inherited from ragtime, his recordings in late 1926 and 1927 reveal a rhythmic vocabulary that is free, flexible, and endlessly inventive—the foundation for the new jazz language that would emerge in the Swing Era.
Research Article| April 01 2008
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Brian Harker; Louis Armstrong, Eccentric Dance, and the Evolution of Jazz on the Eve of Swing. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 April 2008; 61 (1): 67–121. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2008.61.1.67
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