Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Louis Jordan: Possibly the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of

This band helped set the stage in the mid-1940s for rock ‘n roll ten years later but nobody knows them today and that’s a shame, because this is great stuff in its own right.

They called him “King of the Jukebox” for a reason. 

Rather than me spending time and a bunch of words trying to tell you why it’s great, you could listen to a few tunes and hear it for yourself. Let’s do that.

Listen to the way this tune swings ... Caldonia, 1945

Slowing it down a bit ... the classic Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby, 1944

A live version of the classic Let The Good Times Roll, sometime in the 40s

This tune is rollicking barrelhouse piano and funny too ... just a good time and you will want to hear it again ... Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Original 1947 

Same, 1956 rock ‘n roll version ... not necessarily better I would say, just different ...


Same, Live 1974 ... very hot

More from his Wikipedia entry

Jordan was a talented singer with great comedic flair, and he fronted his own band for more than twenty years. He duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his time, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Jordan was also an actor and a film personality—he appeared in dozens of "soundies" (promotional film clips); the one for "Caldonia" is the most readily available for viewing on various websites. He also made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, and starred in two musical feature films made especially for him. He was an instrumentalist who played all forms of the saxophone but specialized in the alto. He also played the piano and clarinet.

Jordan began his career in big-band swing jazz in the 1930s, but he became known as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of jump blues, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Typically performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted, highly syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It strongly emphasized the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; after the mid-1940s, this mix was often augmented by electric guitar. Jordan's band also pioneered the use of the electronic organ.

With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock-and-roll genres with a series of highly influential 78-rpm discs released by Decca Records. These recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and exerted a strong influence on many leading performers in these genres. Many of his records were produced by Milt Gabler, who went on to refine and develop the qualities of Jordan's recordings in his later production work with Bill Haley, including "Rock Around the Clock".