The Belgian big band Flat Earth Society proves that there is indeed a correct way to tackle a Louis Armstrong homage, and that is to throw the idea of "correct" completely out the window.With The Armstrong Mutations, FES examines Armstrong's music, but also his life, in all its conflicted glory. Peter Vermeersch and company seemingly acknowledge that Armstrong is seen largely as an amiable, entertaining personality (particularly by his later mainstream pop audience unfamiliar withhis groundbreaking early King Oliver, Hot Five, Hot Seven, and big band music), but also that his life was filled with struggle, not only in battles to overcome poverty and racism, but also in his balancing act between groundbreaking artistry and commercial acceptance. The Armstrong Mutations somehow manages to touch upon all of that while, like Armstrong himself, remaining supremely entertaining from start to finish.
Since the FES ensemble is an 18-piece big band, Armstrong's big band legacy naturally takes precedence from a strictly musical perspective, although the titles covered range from the beginning of the trumpeter's career ("St. Louis Blues") through to the era that brought listeners "What a Wonderful World," while touching on Ellington and Gershwin along the way. There are plenty of driving, swinging, and rocking full-ensemble charts that are literally thrilling in the skillof their execution, but given the group's roots in the Belgian avant-garde and jazz-rock scene, don't be surprised to hear an occasional spoken word voice-over, heavy metal crunch in the guitar, or an interlude bordering on pure sound collage.
These Belgians are as skilled as anyone in expressingtheir love of the man [Louis Armstrong], his music, and his legacy. In doing so, they prove themselves one of the top big bands in Europe, if not the world over. ~ Dave Lynch
Released in 2003.
-uploaded in HD at http://www.TunesToTube.com