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Interview: Marty Napoleon (Part 3)

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50434_131925360184529_3354_nIt's hard enough to play jazz professionally. Now imagine you're  playing with Louis Armstrong and musicians like trombonist Trummy Young, clarinetist Barney Bigard, bassist Milt Hinton, drummer Cozy Cole and vocalist Velma Middleton. That's jazz of the highest order. Plus artists who know a thing or two about entertainment. Pianist Marty Napoleon did just that, both in the U.S. and on tour with Louis Armstrong's All Stars in the early '50s and late '60s. [Pictured: Marty Napoleon and Louis Armstrong]

Interview: Marty Napoleon (Part 2)

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Screen shot 2011-05-30 at 7.45.15 PMAfter playing with a series of big bands in the mid-'40s, pianist  Marty Napoleon recorded in small bop groups in the late '40s. His optimistic, high-energy personality and keen ear endeared him to many of the top players on the scene. He got along with everyone, even Buddy Rich, though that was a close call. [Photo of Marty Napoleon courtesy of Betty and Chris]

Oh, by the way, today's Marty's 90th birthday. Happy birthday, Marty!!

Interview: Marty Napoleon (Part 1)

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AMarty Napoleon-Arsene Studios-NYCMarty Napoleon is probably best known as the pianist in Louis  Armstrong's All Stars, starting in 1952. That in and of itself would make Marty a superstar, considering who was in that band. But perhaps even more surprising is that Marty did not read music in the early part of his professional career. All of his jazz-playing skills came from his ear and a family thick with musicians, including pianist Teddy Napoleon and uncle Phil Napoleon. What also may be news to you is that Marty started as a vocalist—and something of a matinee idol.

Weekend Wax Bits

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Gil+ScottHeron+ScottHeronGil Scott-Heron (1949-2011), a spoken-word singer-  songwriter whose socially conscious soul-jazz albums of the '70s neatly leveraged the feel and urgency of Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye and Richie Havens, died in New York on May 27. He was 62.

Dave Brubeck Digs Disney

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Dave Brubeck ProfileIn the summer of 1957, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond  decided to record an album of well-known tunes from Walt Disney's animated films. Though Dave Digs Disney was first issued digitally in 1994, the album for years mysteriously remained on the back burner whenever Columbia producers reached into the vaults to remaster Dave's albums using the latest technology. Now Sony/Legacy has finally reissued the storied Disney album, and it sounds splendid. Best of all, the lemon meringue release includes both mono and stereo versions as well as alternate takes. Yesterday, I spoke to George Avakian, the album's original producer, about the recording. More with George in a moment.

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