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LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography,
part one

Avid Jazz AMSC1082

 

 


CD One

2. Dippermouth Blues

4. Canal Street Blues

6. High Society

8. Of All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me

10. Everybody Loves My Baby

12. Mandy Make Up Your Mind

14. See See Rider

16. Reckless Blues

18. Court House Blues

20. Trouble in Mind

22. New Orleans Function

24. Gut Bucket Blues

26. Cornet Chop Suey

28. Heebie Jeebies

30. Georgia Grind

32. Muskrat Ramble

34. King of the Zulus

36. Snag It

38. Wild Man Blues

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars:

Louis Armstrong – Trumpet, vocal (tracks 10, 28, and 30), narrator (track 22 and all odd number tracks)

Trummy Young – Trombone

Edmond Hall – Clarinet

Billy Kyle – Piano

Squire Gersh – Bass

Barrett Deems – Drums

Velma Middleton – Vocal (tracks 14, 16, 18, 20, and 30)

Added Personnel:

Yank Lawson – Trumpet (tracks 2, 4, and 36)

George Barnes – Guitar (all tracks except 6, 22, and 32)

Jack Teagarden – Trombone (replaces Trummy Young on tracks 22 and 32)

Barney Bigard – Clarinet (replaces Edmond Hall on tracks 22 and 32)

Earl Hines – Piano (replaces Billy Kyle on tracks 22 and 32)

Arvell Shaw – Bass (replaces Squire Gersh on tracks 22 and 32)

Cozy Cole – Drums (replaces Barrett Deems on tracks 22 and 32)

CD Two

2. Potato Head Blues

4. Weary Blues

6. Gully Low Blues

8. Struttin’ with Some Barbecue

10. Hotter Than That

12. Two Deuces

14. My Monday Date

16. Basin Street Blues

18. Knockin’ a Jug

20. I Can’t Give You Anything but Love

22. Mahogany Hall Stomp

24. Some of These Days

26. When You’re Smiling

28. Song of the Islands

30. I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me

32. Dear Old Southland (duet Armstrong and Kyle)

34. Exactly Like You

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars:

Louis Armstrong – Trumpet, vocal (tracks 6, 14, 16, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 34), narrator (all odd number tracks)

Trummy Young – Trombone

Edmond Hall – Clarinet

Billy Kyle – Piano

Squire Gersh – Bass

Barrett Deems – Drums

Added Personnel:

George Barnes – Guitar (tracks 2, 4, 6, 10, and 12)

Hilton Jefferson – Alto sax (tracks 18, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 34)

George Dorsey – Alto sax (tracks 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 30, and 34), flute (track 28)

Seldon Powell – Tenor sax (track 18)

Dave McRae – Baritone sax (tracks 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 30, and 34), bass clarinet (track 28)

Everett Barksdale – Guitar (tracks 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 34)

Lucky Thompson – Tenor sax (tracks 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 34)

Barney Bigard – Clarinet (replaces Edmond Hall on tracks 8, 14, and 16)

Arvell Shaw – Bass (replaces Squire Gersh on tracks 8, 14, and 16)

Kenny John – Drums (replaces Barrett Deems on tracks 8 and 16)

Bud Freeman – Tenor sax (track 16)

Jack Teagarden – Trombone (replaces Trummy Young on track 14)

Earl Hines – Piano (replaces Billy Kyle on track 14)

Cozy Cole – Drums (replaces Barrett Deems on track 14)

Recorded in sessions at various locations between Nov. 11, 1947 and Jan. 28, 1957.

 

This double disc contains the contents of the first three LP’s of the original four-LP set Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography. (The fourth LP of that set is contained in Part 2 on Avid AMSC 1083, which is filled out with two other Armstrong LP collections: Satchmo Plays King Oliver and Louis and the Good Book. Note: the whole four-LP set was also issued as a three-CD box set by Verve in 2001.) The remastering of the tracks from these LP’s by David Bennett is superb.

Introducing each of the numbers, Armstrong provides some interesting anecdotes about his early encounters with and recordings of these numbers, accompanied by Billy Kyles’ overdubbed piano background. While Armstrong’s introductions lack the poetry of Jelly Roll Morton’s similar effort on the Library of Congress recordings, they are warm and personal, giving us the feeling that Armstrong is simply sitting down with us and sharing some reminiscences. What follows are fine renditions of great arrangements, those of the small group recreations coming from bassist Bob Haggart and those of the big band ones from Sy Oliver.

While New Orleans Function is the 1947 recording by the early All Stars, the remaining All Stars renditions are not note-for-note recreations of the originals, especially, of course, those that are associated with the Hot Five and Seven, such as Cornet Chop Suey, Heebie Jeebies, Muskrat Ramble, and King of the Zulus. The last named is an odd tune by Lil Hardin (Armstrong), but one that resonated deeply with Armstrong, as his spoken introduction shows, marking for him as it did an auspicious moment in his life when he presided at the 1949 Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans as the King of the Zulu Krewe. All of the tunes on this set are unmistakably Armstrong, however, and preserve the spirit of the originals. The opening Dippermouth Blues—giving a nod to King Oliver with whom Armstrong appeared in Chicago, Yank Lawson taking the place of Oliver—establishes that immediately. Armstrong is clearly in charge, nicely dovetailing harmonically in a duet with Lawson, preserving the original breaks behind the clarinet but then altering them just slightly from the originals when moving into the coda, effortlessly sending out a stream of upper register notes there—a vintage Armstrong signature. This same ensemble is found on Canal Street Blues and Snag It.

The other titles on the first disc and the first several on the second are played by various configurations of the All Stars, many of them augmented by George Barnes on guitar. (I must confess, however, that I am not enamored of his using the electric guitar, particularly where it stands out on his solo onGut Bucket Blues, Weary Blues, and elsewhere. I cannot see how it is superior to the acoustic guitar, properly miked perhaps, as it is on Knockin’ a Jug on the second CD, for instance.)

Armstrong’s vocals are so familiar that nothing needs be said, but Velma Middleton is another case. She has a pleasant enough voice with a well-controlled vibrato, but she is not much a blues singer—certainly no Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith or any of the other Smiths. Unlike them, she does not sink her teeth into the songs and worry the meaning out of them. Rather than singing the blues, she sings about them. Armstrong was not of the same opinion, of course, and fiercely defended her whenever she received adverse criticism.

The second disc opens with several All Star tracks. Among the highlights for me were the nicely harmonized breaks on Potato Head Blues;Gully Low Blues starting out like Do What Ory Say and then dropping beautifully into half time led by the clarinet after a solo intro; Two Deuces—another tune with alternating tempos—surprising and delighting with a pyramid ending.

On the last several cuts on the second disc, the All Star group is augmented by additional players, mainly reeds, and thus resembles the big band Armstrong fronted in the thirties and forties prior to the advent of the All Star format.

On When You’re Smilin’—taken at a mournfully slow tempo—Armstrong’s backing has the sound of a “sweet” band, somewhat like that of Guy Lombardo, whose Royal Canadians were held in high regard by Armstrong. Much the same can be said of the treatment given Song of the Islands—a tune which is a reminder of how popular Hawaiian music was in the thirties and forties.

Standing somewhat apart from all of the other cuts in this two-disc set is Dear Old Southland, a piano/trumpet duet which has interposed strains from Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child and Summertime before the outchorus that is taken at double time, then ritarded at the close. It seems to voice the nostalgic attraction, perhaps romanticized, that the early part of his life had for Armstrong. Despite his spending the bulk of his life outside of the American South, he never quite severed his emotional connection with the South.

For a number of years Armstrong suffered a devaluation at the hands of many critics, being accused of having deserted jazz and sold out to commercial interests. Almost single handedly, Ricky Riccardi, the archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, has fought—with some success, I believe—to counter that denigration, and it is he who wrote the excellent liner notes for this collection. Perhaps, as he says, this reissue of what he calls “one of the great landmarks of Louis Armstrong’s massive discography” will receive “the full amount of respect it deserves” this time and add yet another tier to Satchmo’s reputation.

Bert Thompson



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