AL BASILE: WORDS & MUSIc
FAVORITES

Favorite Male Singers who have influenced me (in the order and way that I was influenced)

1.  Frank Sinatra - I began to learn about phrasing for the meaning of a lyric from him. Breath support, notebending for the style. Unshakeable self-confidence.

2.  Louis Armstrong - The voice as horn - the horn as voice. Improvising rhythm in your phrasing, and sincerity.

3.  Nat Cole - Enunciation and smoothness.

4.  Sam Cooke - Back of the throat melisma. Refined joy.

5.  Ray Charles - Manipulating coloration with the inside surface of the lips. Controlling screamin in the lower throat without hurting myself. Passion.

6.  Marvin Gaye - Changing pressure within a phrase. Hard rhythmic phrasing, improvising rhythmic phrasing.

7.  Smokey Robinson - Breath control in light applications. Falsetto high up in the head

8.  Muddy Waters - Force. Blues notebending and alternate pronunciation for personal authenticity.

9.  Little Willie John - Emotional tension from singing up near the break. Intensity. Expressing pain.

10.  Claude Jeter - Different kinds of falsetto from full to light and ecstatic. Changing timbres and volume levels within a phrase.

11.  Julius Cheeks - Roughening up the voice in the bottom of the throat (“Squalling”) for a raspy, explosive effect.

12.  Stevie Wonder - Modern very tight ornamentation, well back in the throat but controlled behind the lips. Powerful breath control.

Some favorite Armstrong recordings and why they stand out for me

1. Wild Man Blues (1927) - in the stop time passages, he carries the time deeper.

2. Potato Head Blues (1927) - again, you can feel the time stronger when the rhythm section has stopped.

3. Weather Bird (1928) - duet with Hines allows us to feel the time in a more modern way, with out the rest of the rhythm to date it.

4. Blue Again (1931) - he thinks rhythm first - not harmony, not even melody: rhythm.

5. When Your Lover Has Gone (1931) - declarative opening of solo and where he takes it.

6. Stardust (1931 - issued take) - using the saxes to accent the one and the three leads to majestic rolling phrases.

7. Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long (1932) - who wrote that the solo starts like Beethoven? This one's deep.

8. Laughin' Louie (1933 - issued take) - sublimity in the playing, and a life-force which laughs in the face of doom.

9. Song of the Vipers (1934) - otherworldly glissandos.

10. Swing That Music (1936 - not the later one) - in the last part of the solo, on the repeated notes, rhythm so deep I can barely listen to it, much less play it.

11. My Walking Stick (1938) - he scales back his sound to blend with the vocal horn imitations of the Mills Brothers. Vocal horns, indeed!

12. Snafu (1946) - first cut of his with Hodges and Ellington that I encountered. Tone and tone.

13. Raymond St. Blues (1946) - hard to find (recorded for the film "New Orleans", but unused, and issued on Definitive in 1999) - he changes his tone and growls the beginning of this old NO tune. It lasts less than a minute, but there's a phrase where the growl makes him sound like Sidney Bechet. If you know their history, it's delicious.

14. Short But Sweet (1966) - pure distillation of sound and economy of means makes this my favorite example of his poignant late style.

These are deep scratches on the surface, but only scratches: one lifetime is not enough to listen to Louis. You may begin...

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