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Collin Banks

MUS 545A 12/10/12

Louis Armstrong is, without a doubt, the most important figure in jazz. He set the standard for every budding jazz musician to follow. He has recorded many iconic recordings such as, What a Wonderful World and St. Louis Blues, among countless others. One other song that represents Louis in a very beautiful manner is his recording of Big Butter and Eggman from the West. This was written for Louis Armstrong and the vocalist May Alix by the record producer at the Sunset Caf, Percy Venable. The songs name, Big Butter and Eggman, is a nineteen twentys term for big spender, a traveling businessman in the habit of spending large amounts of money in the night clubs. While performing this song, it is said that Armstrong would sometimes forget the lyrics of the tune and stare at Miss Alix. He had a crush on her and the band mates knew it. When this would happen, they would shout to Armstrong, Hold it, Louis! Hold it! Even a man so talented can get tripped up by a woman. In this recording from nineteen twenty six by Armstrong and his Hot Five, he does not forget the lyrics. Instead he delivers a solid musical experience. His solo is very closely related to the melody of the tune and the triad is heard throughout, resulting in a clear melodic and cohesive form. He also uses other devices that add to his sense of swing and overall treatment of his solo. There are four major facets in Armstrongs solo that he uses to create an enjoyable experience for the listener. The most important and the easiest to hear is the use of melody throughout his entire solo. His solo is almost identical to the melody of the tune. The

Background Schenkerian analysis of both the melody of the tune and the solo is almost exactly the same.

As we can see, both analysis start on the third scale degree and end with the movement, three to one. Digging a little bit deeper, we see can see even more similarities throughout his solo. In the first A section, Armstrong sticks with the melody note, B, to emphasize his use of the melody. However, each time he plays each two bar phrase, he varies it slightly by using a rhythmic variation of the motif.

As he moves on through the next A section, he strays away from the melody of the tune slightly, but still hints at the melody, such as in bars eleven and fourteen.

When he reaches the bridge, he plays the melody of the tune, only changing the rhythmic feel of it to quarter note triplets. This effect adds to the overall cohesiveness of the solo very nicely because it reminds the listener of the melody, but it is delivered in a slightly different way, making it a bit more interesting.

However, in the next four bars he strays from the melody once again to build the tension. While he does this, he has a clear idea where he wants to take the line. He starts on a D and plays a chromatic line down to B, which is the melody note.

After he brings us back to the realm of the melody, he then throws us for a curve as he plays a line that has nothing to do with the melody; full of a few leaps that makes this spot of his solo a real high point. Even though hes playing an idea that is not related to the melody, he still has the melody in mind. We see this in the following bar on the first two beats of the last A section. He plays the melody notes there, giving the listener a feeling that the solo is almost finished.

The last five bars of Armstrongs solo is almost identical to the last five bars of the melody as noted in the figure below.

As we can see, Armstrong plays a slight variation of the melody, keeping the melody target notes as his main focal point (C and D in measures 30 and 31.) In the final two bars he

strays from the melody. In doing so, he gives the listener one last surprise before he finishes the solo. All in all, Armstrongs solo resembles the melody very closely throughout the entirety of his solo. Taking a closer look at Armstrongs solo, the use of the triad is prevalent throughout. This also relates to the melody in ways, but in this case, Armstrong uses the triad as a sort of central focus. The triad is what makes up the core of his solo. As noted in the figure below, the use of the triad, whether its just the root of the chord, the third, or the fifth, makes up the majority of the notes throughout the solo. They also account for the longest notes held (i.e. quarter notes or longer). In the first chorus alone, Armstrong emphasizes the third of the triad, B, a total of eleven times. B seems to be the predominant note throughout the whole solo. He not only begins with B, he ends with it as well.

Another thing to note is that Armstrong starts his solo with the second inversion of the G major triad. The whole first A section is based on the structure of two bar phrases. The first

bar of each phrase is a variant of the second inversion G major triad followed by a variant of the melody note, B. He ends this section with the first inversion triad, G, D, and B. Armstrong also uses a mixture of diatonic and chromatic passing tones to connect the triad notes together and create a sense of flow in his solo. These passing tones are simply a way for Armstrong to connect each idea together. For instance, the figure below shows the beginning of the second chorus where we see the first use of a phrase pieced together by chromatic passing tones.

He also uses diatonic notes as well in conjunction with the chromatic notes to tie this phrase together. His first target note is B and his last target note of the phrase is G. He uses the G major triad as his launch point (starting a half step below on F#). The phrase then reaches the peak at F# and walks down the scale from F#, E, to the triplet containing the chromatic notes D, Db, to C; resolving on the first target note, B. As the phrase continues, we see more diatonic connections as Armstrong uses the F# and A to enclose the G. He then finishes this part of the phrase by walking down the scale to E for a brief second and bringing us back to the G. Continuing on to the final two bars of the phrase, we

see Armstrong using the triad of the A minor chord to complete his idea.

Even though its not the triad of the tune, G major triad, it still represents his use of the triad and how its important in connecting the solo together. Another spot where Armstrong uses a different triad is on the fourth bar of the bridge section. As noted below, he starts the phrase off with a D (belongs to the triad of the home key of G) and he ends the phrase with a C major triad (C, G, E, and C). This, just like the A minor chord seen in the previous example, coincides with the chord change happening at that moment (C major.)

Those are the only moments where Armstrong specifically highlights another triad as opposed to the G major triad. Its interesting to see because it further emphasizes the importance of the triad throughout his solo. The final aspect of this solo that adds to the overall quality and melodicism is the rhythmic and melodic syncopation used throughout. The way Louis Armstrong uses this technique also adds to his sense of swing. The first A section is full of rhythmic syncopation. Each two bar phrase is slightly different. For instance, the pickup into bar one of the solo is

broken up into three eighth notes, separated by an eighth rest in between the second and third eighth note. The third bar contains four consecutive eighth notes with an eighth rest falling on beat one of the fourth bar. The fifth bar is rhythmically identical to the first bar, but the following bar, bar six, differs even greater than bars two and four.

Another important usage of rhythmic syncopation is used in the pickup to the bridge (m. 17) and the first bar of the bridge (m.18). This is the first time that triplets are used. We first here the eighth note triplet followed by a full bar of quarter note triplets. This creates tension within the phrase and also a bit of drama to the solo. He soon resolves it in bars 19 and bars 20 but brings a slight variation of the quarter note triplet back in bars 21 and 22. To create even more tension and drama here, Armstrong plays a chromatic line from D to B in bar 23.

Armstrongs use of intervallic displacement isnt as prevalent as his rhythmic syncopation; however it still plays an important role in creating excitement in his solo. The first time we hear

this displacement is in bar 25. What makes this line interesting is the way the F# is displaced by an octave. Armstrong could have easily played the F# in the same register as the notes prior to it (F#3 as opposed to F#4). However, by displacing it an octave higher, the line swings even harder. Upon further analysis, he creates an upper extension triad by using this displacement (F# on beat two, D on beat four, and B on beat one of the following bar).

The final A section follows suit from bar 25 and shows more intervallic displacement. For instance, bar 26, the B on the and of three is displaced, the octave Es in bar 28 on beat one and two, and the octave Es again in bar 33 on the and of beat one and on beat two are all examples of this occurrence.

The usage of intervallic displacement combined with the rhythmic syncopation add to the overall swing style of Armstrongs solo. Armstrongs use of melody, the triad, diatonic and chromatic passing tones, and rhythmic syncopation and intervallic displacement work together to unify his solo. These

techniques are used together to form a purely melodic solo that the listener can easily become a part of. Armstrong masterfully weaves together a solo that is based on the melody of the tune, but has enough varying ideas to keep the solo sounding fresh. He truly was a master of this beautiful art form we call Jazz and clearly earns the title of Father of Modern Jazz.