By Cameron Hughes
David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band has been in residency at Birdland for over 20 years. They play a repertoire mostly made popular by Louis Armstrong, but also include songs of other musicians from the “hot jazz” era.
The Birdland Theater (downstairs from the main club) is the perfect room to see a band like David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, a playful and skilled group of musicians with a deep respect for the material. It’s an intimate, comfortable setting allowing you to see the interactions between the musicians; the nods and subtle communication where they tell each other to step in at the end of the bar, and the prods to an especially hot soloist to keep going. You can find them at Birdland every Wednesday at 5:30.
There have been many contributing members to David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band over the years (you can learn more about their history HERE). Six excellent players make up the current lineup. The leader David Ostwald is the host and plays a mean, well-anchored tuba. Tuba playing would never be called “flashy,” but Ostwald lays down a stable, rhythmic foundation for the band to float above. Never obtrusive, always steady – and essential – Ostwald keeps things moving both with his playing and his light-hearted asides between songs (“We’re musicians, we’re flattery operated”). He’s a great host, and his humor is dry, engaging, and effective.
Three band members this past Wednesday also do double-duty with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Jim Fryer plays trombone and adds his warm vocal skills to some of the numbers. He’s a great player on slide, never appearing to work too hard, but getting impressive flurries of notes. Fryer has a confident, buttery tone and, with his sure vocals, is a pleasure to listen to.
Will Anderson on clarinet & alto sax is also familiar to fans of Giordano’s band. Excellent on both instruments, for me he truly shines on alto saxophone. His approach suits the material perfectly, and he’s managed to carve out his own sound away from the strong influence of Charlie (“Yardbird” or “Bird”) Parker, after whom Birdland (which originally opened in 1949) is named. With a light airy tone a bit reminiscent of Paul Desmond (another alto player who was able to step out of Bird’s stylistic shadow), Anderson is an especially proficient and exciting player.
Arnt Arntzen on banjo, guitar, and vocals, is the third musician doing double duty with Giordano. Always cheerful, Arntzen’s playing is warm, tight, and a perfect contribution to the rhythm section. His vocals are a welcome addition too, especially effective on the band’s rendition of When Your Lover Has Gone.
The other member of the rhythm section is drummer Alex Raderman. Raderman’s touch is light, airy, and perfect. Never bombastic or inappropriately flashy, Raderman plays with delicacy and style; his brush and stick work is what they call “in-the-pocket.”
This being a Louis Armstrong-inspired band, much attention unenviably falls on the trumpet player. I’m happy to say Danny Tobias fills that role gracefully. During Wednesday’s set, Tobias started strong, but about half way through seemed to find additional inspiration and truly came to life. His tone is sure and round, his energy is impressive, and he’s a captivating soloist. He also blends exceptionally well with the other horns, knowing exactly what accompaniment to play without stealing attention.
One thing I love about the better Manhattan jazz clubs like Birdland is, the acts they book are the best in town. There’s a reason David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band has played here as long as they have, they’re that good. I can easily recommend them to start any Wednesday evening.
(Information on upcoming jazz performances in and near the city can be found at Hot House Jazz.)
- Sleepy Time Down South
- Am I Blue
- Sweet Sue
- Chinatown My Chinatown
- All Of Me
- Out Of Nowhere
- Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
- I Never Knew
- When Your Lover Has Gone
- Swing That Music
David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band are in residency at The Birdland Theatre, 315 West 44th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues), New York, NY 10036. (212) 581-3080. They appear Wednesday nights, July 19 and 26 at 5:30.
Tickets are $20-$30 and are available HERE.