The jazz bug has bitten me hard. It also is infecting my wife, Kenda.

I have been reading Ted Gioia's books, "The History of Jazz" and "How To Listen To Jazz." Kenda and I watched Ken Burn's 2001 documentary "Jazz."

Three weeks ago, Triple Play Records bought a collection of over 2,000 LPs that contained more than 150 classic jazz records. Most of them are from the two biggest labels for jazz music: Blue Note and Impulse. Many are audiophile reissues from the 1990s of recordings made in the 1940s to the mid-1960s.

They are on heavy high quality vinyl. Most of them are pristine or near mint condition. They are almost all among the most critically acclaimed jazz recordings of all time. Several are from artists I had never heard of and are not mentioned by either Burns or Gioia.

Many of the jazz LPs went home with me. Since we recently had our turntable repaired, we have been listening to a lot of vinyl. For the past three weeks, we have listened to at least one of these jazz records every day.

I have learned so much in such a short time. Here is some of it.

■ Louis Armstrong's impact on jazz music, in my opinion, was at the least equal to the combined impact of Bob Dylan and The Beatles on rock music.

I am not talking about the "Hello, Dolly!" years of the 1950s and '60s. You have to go back to his work from the 1920s with the "Hot Five" and the "Hot Seven." Armstrong literally wrote the book on "phrasing," "free playing" and finally, at the end of the 1920s, jazz vocals.

From what I have read, watched and listened to it seems Armstrong knew exactly what he was doing and what he wanted to do. He had the perfect makeup to be jazz music's greatest ambassador.

■ Duke Ellington was jazz music's greatest "big band/orchestra" leader as well as its most prolific and arguably greatest songwriter.

Among his more than 1,000 writing and co-writing compositions are "Take the 'A' Train," "Mood Indigo," "In A Sentimental Mood," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Paris Blues," "Caravan" and "Satin Doll."

Those are songs that have been covered by almost every jazz musician who came after him. Some of the musicians who played in Ellington's band for decades include the great Johnny Hodges, Lonnie Johnson, Don Redman and Ben Webster.

Many jazz musicians devoted entire records to covering Ellington's songs. My favorite so far is "McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington." Tyner was John Coltrane's piano player before he led his own band. His covers of "Caravan" and "Satin Doll" are my favorite versions so far.

■ You had to earn your way to "lead" a band. That included top billing on a record.

When the great Jazz Messengers started in the early 1950s they were co-led by drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver. They would record first as the Jazz Messengers.

Silver led the band on records briefly and Blakey took over the band after Silver left. Several of the musicians who recorded with the messengers went on to lead their own bands, among them Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham.

I'm sure I will have more jazz notes for you in future columns.

Rock Cesario owns Triple Play Records, 530 Main St. Email him at

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