One of the forefathers of rock ’n’ roll and R&B is the subject of a salute here in Detroit on Monday. We’re talking about Louis Jordan, who with his group, the Tympani 5, streamlined big band swing into a flashy combo style that sold in the millions in the 1940s and 1950s. Chuck Berry may have eliminated the horn section and traded the Jordan group’s piano for an electric guitar, but it makes perfect sense that he credited Jordan as being his No. 1 influence; the line from 1940s Jordan hits like “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Open the Door, Richard!” to Berry’s hits and other sounds of the ’50s couldn’t be more obvious.
In addition to numerous musicians who’ve covered his works over the years — from Joe Jackson to B.B. King — the Broadway homage of Five Guys Named Moe and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the U.S. Postal Service this week issued a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of Jordan’s birth and his short 1940s movie (and hit song) Caldonia. It’s part of a five-stamp set honoring vintage black cinema.
The Detroit connection? Former Judge Claudia Morcom has been a friend for years of Jordan’s widow, Martha, who lived in Detroit for a time in the late ’50s (before her marriage to the considerably older Louis). Morcom set wheels in motion for a Detroit event to coincide. Martha will be on hand to autograph copies of her autobiography, The Debutante That Went Astray. A brief film about Jordan will be screened. And two bands will pay tribute to Jordan: Ben’s Friends Big Band and the DeSean Jones Jazzy Five.
It all starts at 5:30 with a book signing and reception, followed by the film, with music starting at 7 p.m. At SereNgeti Galleries, 2757 Grand River at Lodge Freeway, right by the Motor City Casino. Tickets $15. Call 313-715-0170. --W. Kim Heron
Mr. Jordan and his stamp....