Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Louis Armstrong At The Cotton Club

Anthony Coleman recently left me a comment that I'd like to share. He wrote, "WKCR recently celebrated Laurence Lucie's 100th birthday, and as part of doing so, played a bunch of incredible early-40's broadcast performances which I have since been trying to track down. I bought Ambassador Volume 8, which has 5 - of which Exactly Like You is a total revelation. You should write about it! But they played many more - any ideas where they are obtainable?"

Yes indeed, my friend. Those broadcasts are all available on volume 10 of the Ambassador series, Live at the Cotton Club 1939-1943. You mentioned that you purchased volume eight of this wonderful series (and yes, "Exactly Like You" is a gasser), so you might be wondering why you haven't heard of this tenth volume. I wish I had a simple answer, but it's never been available in America. Amazon has never listed it for a day, new or used, and neither have other online outlets such as cduniverse.com or worldsrecords.com. I only found out about it because the Jos Willems discography All of Me kept having these mysterious entries of early 40s radio broadcasts that all seemed to flow from the CD "Ambassador CLA 1909." I searched the internet and ended up finding it on the Tower Records DUBLIN (!) website where, with shipping and all, it came out to over $30.

However, it's the best $30 I've ever spent. I cannot stress the importance of this CD. To hear Pops tackling material like "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "As Time Goes By" is breathtaking. There are broadcast performances of "I Never Knew" and "Coquette" from BEFORE the Decca session where they were officially waxed. There's arrangements for "Darling Nellie Gray" and "A Zoot Suit" that I have never heard before and one April 1, 1942 broadcast from the Casa Manana in Culver City might be Armstrong's single greatest 30-minute broadcast ever (no exaggeration...you just have to hear how much blowing he does on seven songs in a row...what chops!).

The disc, like all Ambassador releases, is the result of the tireless Armstrong oracle, Gösta Hägglöf. Gösta recently started a website, www.classicjazz.se, where you can find more information about all of his CDs. Please check it out and then do what it takes to bring home this Cotton Club CD. It should have been the most important jazz release of 2006 but because Louis Armstrong wasn't born with the name "Charlie Parker" or "John Coltrane," it slid by completely under the radar, which is a shame. In the meantime, here's a picture of the front and back covers:





That's all for now, though. I know I've been slacking but I have some good ideas so keep checking back and I'll have a bunch of new posts in the coming weeks. Here's to Pops!

2 comments:

Peter said...

Just ordered my copy, can't wait to hear it!

Peter said...

Finally got my copy and it's amazing, been listening practically non-stop. Louis' playing and singing is consistently spectacular. I think my personal favourites are the up-tempo take of "Song of the Islands", a very different vibe from the original and swings like crazy and Louis' beautiful take on "As Time Goes By".
Just one question on the blog you mention a cut of "Exactly Like You" from these broadcasts, is that only available on Ambassador Vol 8?