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Reviewers: Don Mather, Marc Bridle, Ian Lace, Peter Woolf, Colin Clarke


The Ultimate Collection, 3CD Set
VERVE 543 699-2

If you are a serious listener to jazz and you don't have much of the work of Louis Armstrong in your collection and you only buy one album this year, make it this one.

I had the privilege to see Louis Armstrong on his last visit to the UK, it was with the All Stars, at the Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire and every night was sold out for the whole week of the show. By this time Louis was a little old man, but the atmosphere, the whole time he was on stage was electric, to a point I have never experienced before or since. He held the audience totally in a spell for the whole time he was performing.

Disc One
  1. Copenhagen
  2. Shanghai Shuffle
  3. Stomp Off, Let's Go
  4. Drop That Sack
  5. Melancholy
  6. I'm Goin' Huntin'
  7. I'm in the Mood for love
  8. On Treasure island
  9. Thanks a Million
  10. Ev'ntide
  11. Dippermouth Blues
  12. Swing That Music
  13. Pennies from Heaven
  14. On the Sunny Side of the Street
  15. Once in a While
  16. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
  17. Jubilee
  18. When the Saints Go Marching In
  19. Shadrack
  20. Ain't Misbehavin'

Disc Two

  1. Rockin'Chair
  2. West End Blues
  3. Savoy Blues
  4. Hear Me talkin' to Ya
  5. I'm Confessin'
  6. You're a Lucky Guy
  7. Wolverine blues
  8. Sweethearts on Parade
  9. Perdido Street Blues
  10. 2:19 Blues
  11. Coal Cart Blues
  12. Groovin'
  13. Royal Garden Blues
  14. Mahogany Hall Stomp
  15. Blueberry Hill
  16. You Can't Lose a Broken heart
  17. My Bucket's Got a Hole in IT
  18. Panama
  19. New Orleans Function
  20. You Rascal, You
  21. My Monday Date

Disc Three

  1. A Kiss to Build a Dream On
  2. It's All in the Game
  3. Someday You'll be Sorry
  4. Basin Street Blues
  5. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
  6. I Can't Give You Anything but Love
  7. Weary blues
  8. Wild Man Blues
  9. Dippermouth Blues
  10. Dear Old Southland
  11. Stompin' at the Savoy
  12. I Gotta Right to sing the Blues
  13. Sweet Lorraine
  14. Hello Dolly
  15. What a Wonderful World
  16. Cabaret
  17. Dream a Little Dream of Me

Disc One

Disc one starts in 1924, with Louis working as a sideman in Fletcher Henderson's Band, along with other promising youngsters like Coleman Hawkins. By track 3 he has moved on to Erskine Tate's Vendome Orchestra. The first track down to Louis as a leader is the 1935, 'I'm in the Mood for Love', and the next four tracks all feature this combo. 'Dippermouth Blues' has him as a soloist with the Jimmy Dorsey Band, similarly the next three tracks. The trad. purists would want to know what happened to the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings from this period and of course they are all jazz classics. They are all available on CD on other albums however and most serious collectors will have them already, there absence to me is therefore unimportant, as it has made space for some other items, which would not have been heard otherwise.

The last track 'Jeepers Creepers' has recently been used for TV advertising, which demonstrates the durability of the music.

Disc Two

Disc Two starts with 'Rockin' Chair', a 1939 version with Pee Wee Hunt sharing the vocal. No doubt it set the pattern for the 1947 New York Town Hall version with Jack Teagarden. The larger bands feature on the first twelve tracks, all the bands are good, as are the arrangements they play, Dexter Gordon pops up on the 1944 'Groovin' track. As you would expect Louis is the star throughout, such was his stature.

One of the best versions of the All Stars was the 1947 version with Barney Bigard on Clarinet and Jack Teagarden on Trombone. Teagarden's very musical Trombone style and laid back vocals were an excellent foil for Louis. The All Stars are also featured on tracks 13,14,17,18,19 and 21.

Something I had not heard before and found very enjoyable, was Billie Holiday's duet with Louis on 'You Can't Lose a Broken Heart, Sy Oliver's Orchestra provides the backing.

Disc Three

Disc Three has much to enjoy; I liked it the best of all. The 1954 All Stars with Bigard and Trummy Young on Trombone, is always a pleasure, listen to 'Basin Street' and 'Sleepy Time'. I preferred Barney Bigard to his successor Edmund Hall, because of his much fuller tone and control of vibrato, but the 1957 All Stars is still a fine Band. 'Stompin' at The Savoy' with Ella Fitzgerald is superb; the rhythm section led by Oscar Peterson is as good as it gets. The 1967 version of the All Stars on tracks 16 and 17 is as enjoyable as it's predecessors.

Louis Armstrong is unquestionable the most influential figure in jazz, he was a superb trumpet player, unique vocalist, brilliant entertainer and capable of getting the best out of any band he played with. Dizzy Gillespie was a great admirer of Louis Armstrong about whom he said " No Louis Armstrong, No Dizzy Gillespie". As someone who greatly admires both of them, I know what Dizzy meant.

This is a great compilation of the work of Jazz's No1 son, I heartily recommend it.

Don Mather

Don Mather is a Saxophone Player and Bandleader based in Coventry

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