Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 19, 2014

Sounds of New Orleans: A Louis Armstrong Tribute

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
February 15, 2014
by Eric Sutter

This spectacular tribute to jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong covered a wide spectrum of emotions in song. The SSO performed "Black and Tan Fantasy" from the Duke Ellington song catalogue to start. The amazing trumpet soloist Byron Stripling performed a New Orleans Medley that included "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues." He used his powerful voice to convey the emotions of another blues' standard, "St. James Infirmary." The music evoked somber, sad, silly, and happy feelings and proved it could make the listener dance. Even though it touted New Orleans as the nation's musical birthplace, the audience had the uncanny desire to shout out our hometown pride to the music.

Not to be repetitive, but Stripling was simply sensational on trumpet. "Red Arrow" featured the Symphony horn section with Stripling hitting the high notes. He sang "Sweet Georgia Brown" with a slow soulful swing. In the second half of the program, Stripling captured the essence of New Orleans well. "Alexander's Ragtime Band" was sheer joy in which the horn section had a fun work out with another blast of Stripling's trumpet. Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" had the audience joining on the chorus in call and response.

A couple Fats Waller songs -- "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'"-- showcased the wonderful Jeff Holmes' piano. Stripling rose to a scat style centerpiece in the syncopated jazz of "Flat Foot Floogie" with a great supportive role by the brass section and a similar call and response approach with the audience. All on stage hit their melodic stride with the Louis Armstrong's songs; i.e. "Hello Dolly" sounded fresh with the Orchestra back up and "Mack The Knife" offered subtle swing crescendo. The nostalgic Satchmo, "Wonderful World" hit a deeply sentimental place with the audience. What a pleasurable send off "When The Saints Go Marching In" became with rousing with "jazzeriffic" horn blasts. Most of us know that music creates strong attachments with audiences. Stripling encored with a solo vocal, "Because Of You."