Louis Armstrong and The Hot Fives recorded hot, swinging music that—for many connoisseurs— represents the birth of recorded jazz. Cut in the 1920s and distributed on 78s, the tunes
Louis Armstrong and The Hot Fives recorded hot, swinging music that—for many connoisseurs— represents the birth of recorded jazz. Cut in the 1920s and distributed on 78s, the tunes capture the classic spirit and energy of New Orleans.
I recently attended the 2012 New Orleans
Jazz Fest where music enthusiasts were
treated to such Titans of Jazz as:
• Foo Fighters
• The Eagles
• Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
• Bruce Springsteen
• Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
• Bonnie Raitt
The fest was stacked with an impressively long roster of top-tier rock 'n' roll acts that filled the 60,000-seat venues. The festival also featured a pile of blues, gospel, and R&B acts on smaller stages, and then a smattering of local jazz groups in the smallest tents.
The festivities shut down each night around 7 p.m., so I spent my vampire hours stumbling from Jackson Square to the carnage of Bourbon Street. (Best T-shirt award: I got Bourbon-faced on Sh*t Street.) Pre-Katrina, this square and the area's sweaty streets and dank clubs were full of horns blowing Dixieland and kids tap dancing with bottle caps screwed into their Air Jordans. It was an amazing scene you couldn't find anywhere else in the world.
Now it's all strip clubs and rock bars
blaring “Don't Stop Believing," “Keep Your
Hands to Yourself," and “Hard to Handle"—
basically the same set list you'd hear in any
crap gig in America. I enjoy playing these
warmed-over party anthems at clubs, but I
don't want to hear them—especially in New
Orleans, a town known for two things:
1. Great food.
2. Inventing jazz.
The gumbo and shrimp étouffée remain spectacular, but the jazz barely has a pulse.
Go to Hawaii and you'll hear traditional Hawaiian music in almost every restaurant, bar, and hotel lobby, and tourist and locals alike enjoy it. Unlike Hawaiian music, jazz was once the highest-selling format in the Western world. Louis Armstrong enjoyed mainstream popularity, much like John Mayer does today. How is it that New Orleans' once spectacularly popular music has all but disappeared in its hometown?
Jazz died on Bourbon Street when one club booked a dirty rock band and drunken college kids mobbed the joint. The other clubs had no choice but to follow suit or go belly up. Tourists didn't want to think, they wanted to drink, and jazz required too much thinking. The Jazz Fest fell into the same marketing necessity—jazz quit putting butts in seats, so pop and rock took over.
Jazz faced trouble when bebop adopted the battle cry, “always evolve." Jazz players began to look down their noses at the music and originators who brought their genre popularity. Modern jazz turned music into an intellectual muscle-flex and in doing so, alienated its audience.
Modern jazz reminds me of those annoying people who try to sound brainy by speaking in complicated three- and four-syllable words when a simple phrase would work better. Rather than saying, “I love her, she don't love me, that hurts," the jazzer might say, “The object of my affection remains indifferent to my beseeching confession of endearment. I feel disconsolate by this unrequited adoration."
Lose the message and you lose the audience.
In a way, it reminds me of '80s shred guitar. The big hairs kept taking it farther until '80s guitar compromised emotion in the pursuit of technical difficulty. Music fans eventually traded emotionless fast scales and spandex for angst-ridden grunge chords and flannel. In the '40s, beboppers traded swing, perfect harmony, and memorable melodies that made people dance for the freedom to play for themselves.
What's the difference between a rocker and a jazzer? Jazzers play thousands of chords for four people, rockers play four chords for thousands of people. I respect those cats who never compromise their art, and I wish them the best. It's a shame that some talented people have to struggle to make a living because of the esoteric nature of the genre they pursue. But part of me feels that the elitism of some avantgarde players makes them deserve what they get. No compromise is no way to earn a living.
There's rich irony in that a type of music that prides itself on no boundaries actually limits itself by avoiding those simple, singing melodies that made old-schoolers like Louis Armstrong so popular. For the record, I suck at jazz.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star, the 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over one hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.