Underwriters was holding its annualnnational seminar. The concert was repletenwith ironies and coincidences.nHere in New Orleans, possibly thenbirthplace of jazz, a band of New Yorknmusicians had been imported to payntribute to America s Mozart, the NewnOrleanian who virtually created jazznas a soloist’s art. Why bring a crew ofnNew Yorkers, none of them from NewnOrleans, here to summon the spirit ofnArmstrong.’ A convenient booking fornthe CLU, perhaps, because of previousncontact with the NYJRC, or becausenDick Hyman, the NYJRC leader, wentnafter the business. Perhaps it was becausenthe repertory company has in fivenyears established a fine reputation withnits skillful ensemble versions of Armstrongnsolos.nNowhere in New Orleans, to mynknowledge, is there a group of professionalnmusicians who has shown anninterest in preserving the letter of Armstrong’snwork. Whether there are musiciansnhere interested in preserving thenspirit of his work is the subject of debatenamong all levels and spectra of the jazznestablishment in the city. Whether thencity itself is committed to preservingnits most famous son’s memory is inndoubt. The Armstrong Park project,non the site of the former Congo Square,nlanguishes half finished under the administrationnof the first black mayor innNew Orleans history. At any rate, itnwould have been interesting to hear atnthe CLU affair a band from, say, PreservationnHall performing an Armstrongnpiece. The contrast with the slicknessnof the NYJRC would have been, at thenleast, stark. New Orleans players of approximatelynArmstrong’s vintage arenunlikely to demonstrate much fascinationnwith the challenge of reading ornmemorizing someone else’s solos, evennthose of the master. The spirit of independencenthat made Armstrong artisticallynpossible is still abroad in the city,nalthough not matched with his genius.nIt exists in younger musical generationsnas well, even among those not directlyninvolved with jazz. The rock and soulnperformers who develop here but mustngo elsewhere to flourish are Armstrongninheritors. Listen closely to Dr. John,nthe Nevilles, the Meters, and you willnfind Louis in the phrasing.nUnder the assumption that no onentrumpet player can equal Armstrong,nthe NYJRC assigns his recreated solosnto three. Played in unison, harmonized,nand given group dynamics, the masterpieces,nironically, often take on lessndimension rather than more, like butterfliesnpressed between plates of glass.nBut when Bernie Privin, Jimmy Maxwell,nor Francis Williams steps forwardnfor his own solo or to play obligatesnbehind Carrie Smith’s evocations ofnBessie Smith, the spirit of Louis fillsnthe room, as if he were cheering hisnsuccessors and scoffing at an arranger’snattempt to capture his soul on paper.nBut Hyman’s work is admirable. It hasnbrought Armstrong’s classic solos intonthe ken of people who otherwise wouldnnever have heard them, and it has recallednhis blazing talent to those whonmight have begun to forget. Combinednwith film clips of Armstrong reminiscingnand with snatches of his recordings,nthe NYJRC’s program is a sort of portablenmuseum, a musical Freedom Trainndedicated to the glories of a majornAmerican artist. The insurance agentsnand their wives loved it, as they shouldnhave. But until recently who would havendared to predict they would sit stillnfor it.’nAs the trumpet trio and Hyman, atnthe piano, were repeating the astoundingn1928 improvisations of Armstrong andnEarl Hines, not fifty yards away Hinesnwas playing the first set of the eveningnin Le Club, the Hyatt’s jazz room. At 74,nHines is, if anything, an even morenferociously experimental creator thannat 23, when he and Armstrong blewnthe lid off the bottled-up possibilitiesnof jazz soloing with “Weather Bird.”nMuch of Hines’s evenings are devotednto paternally backing his sidemen andnhis protege vocalist. He smiles engag­nnningly, sings occasionally in a style composednof legato and gravel, and solosnsparingly. He shows unflagging andnapparently genuine interest in the effortsnof his sidemen when they are soloing,nurging them on and rewarding themnwith public praise, “well done, youngnman, well done.” It is fine entertainment,nand often more.nThen, Hines constructs a cathedral.nIt may happen during one of his stocknitems, possibly “St. Louis Blues” orn”Rosetta,” or it may come in a piecenhe hasn’t touched in 20 years. Rummagingnin the basement of the keyboard,napplying rococo layers of chords in thenmiddle and a lightning scattering ofntenths on top, erecting arythmic passagesnthat somehow continue the beat,ntaking pauses that suggest a glidingneagle surveying possibilities, Hines isnin full cry, eyes closed, head back, grimacingnin intellectual strain and the ecstasynof creation. Possessed of a tone withnthe brilliance of polished metal andnfingers with the speed of pistons, henindulges himself in the surprises henloves: runs, curlicues, doodads, pizzazz,ncastles in the air, tension, release, singlenand multiple explosions, harmonic excursionsninto unknown territory, andnfeats of metric foolery. Conversationnstops, and the noisiest drunken lifenunderwriter is compelled to listen. Othernpianists look anxious; this is clearlynimpossible, and the impossibility hasnnothing to do with technique. That isnwhy there has never been a Hines imitator.nThe imitation would have to gonbeyond notes. The most meticulouslynwritten transcription could not capturenthe joyous rage, the abandon, thenwhimsy.nHines is of an era when jazzmen assumednthat their obligation was to entertain.nTalk of artistic matters makesnhim nervous, and he appears not tonunderstand when his music is discussednin terms of art. His club dates and hisnconcerts are designed to entertain, andnthey do. But at some point in nearlynevery Hines evening, he unveils hisncontinuing artistic growth, all but un-n•H^^IMHHHBS?nJanuary/February 1980n