Friday, January 9, 2009

Unbelievably Rare Footage of Pops

I always pride myself on checking YouTube for Armstrong related videos multiple times a day yet somehow, videos sometimes fall through the cracks. And when they fall through the cracks, loyal reader Uwe Zänisch of Germany is there to catch them. He recently sent me e-mails about some incredible home video footage of Pops that has turned up on the Internet. Interestingly, both clips are silent, but to me, that just adds to their charm. First, color (!) footage of Armstrong and in the All Stars performing in Africa in May 1956. This is the same outdoor concert Edward R. Murrow filmed for Satchmo the Great and I think the band is playing "Royal Garden Blues" because I recognize some of the dance moves. This footage was buried on the website, which I have never visited. Here is the description:

"In 1956, the young English newlyweds, John and Cynthia Robertson, were living in Accra, the capital city of the Gold Coast. In May of that year, having heard about Louis Armstrong’s open air concert at Achimota College (concerts in Accra being a very rare occurrence at that time), they decided they would like to go it. However, as it was an afternoon show (starting at 2.30pm), John could not attend, but Cynthia and her friend Val, could. So, anticipating something worth filming, Cynthia went to the concert with John’s cine camera, loaded with colour film."

At the time, the All Stars featured Trummy Young on trombone, Edmond Hall on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Jack Lesberg on bass and Barrett Deems on drums, as well as vocalist Velma Middleton, seen dancing briefly towards the end of the footage. If you'd like some audio, here's the classic Ambassador Satch version of "Royal Garden Blues" from December 1955 (Arvell Shaw on bass instead of Lesberg):

Now enjoy the footage:

Isn't that beautiful color footage? Makes the whole scene come alive. But the next video is very special. It was listed on YouTube as "Louie Armstrong - Exclusive - Pics never shown before" and I think because the uploader used "Louie" instead of "Louis," it stayed hidden, uploaded in April 2008 and only 177 views to day. But Uwe found it and it's beautiful. The description says, "Louie Armstrong and his band playing and reciving gold reccord in Gävle 1958. Photographer Lars Hallengren (1941-2002)." It is Armstrong, he's in Gävle, Sweden and it's filmed by Hallengren but the rest of the description is wrong. There's no gold record footage and it's definitely not 1958. Instead, it's two different years, opening with some touching scenes of the All Stars on the road, falling asleep on the bus and checking into to, I think, a bus station. This footage is from early 1965 as you'll see Arvell Shaw, Tyree Glenn and Danny Barcelona up front and they were only together for a matter of months. Later, Billy Kyle and clarinetist Eddie Shu make brief appearances, further evidence of a 1965 date.

However, midway through, some performance footage creeps in and one can spot Trummy Young, Barney Bigard and Mort Herbert, meaning it has to be from Armstrong's 1961 tour of Sweden. Regardless of the mashup, the footage is priceless, capturing Armstrong and the All Stars as they spent most of their days: traveling on a bus, struggling to stay awake, reading, laughing, hanging out backstage. And this uploader chose a perfect song, Armstrong's 1969 recording of "We Have All the Time in the World," which makes the footage even more touching. Well, enough from me, here 'tis:

Five blogs in five days signals the end of a rare, super-productive week for me, and a helluva way to start the new year (the book is coming along beautifully, too, these days). But before I cut out and enjoy the weekend, a note for my New York and New Jersey readers. Anyone who has ever read much about jazz, probably knows about Richard M. Sudhalter's impact as a writer on the subject. His books on Bix and Hoagy and his massive Lost Chords are all required reading, as far as I'm concerned. He was also a great trumpeter who wrote some terrific liner notes to Verve's two-disc reissue of Armstrong's I've Got the World on a String/Louis Under the Stars in 1999. Sudhalter tragically passed away in Septemberafter suffering for too long from multiple system atrophy. A memorial will be held on Monday and for the details, I turn to Sudhalter's good friend, and my fellow Armstrong biographer, Terry Teachout:

"Dick's friends and fans will doubtless be pleased to know that his life and work are being celebrated at a memorial concert to be held on January 12 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City. The list of musicians scheduled to perform includes Howard Alden, Donna Byrne, James Chirillo, Bill Crow, Armen Donelian, Bob Dorough, Paquito D'Rivera, Jim Ferguson, Carol Fredette, Marty Grosz, Sy Johnson, Dick Katz, Bill Kirchner, Steve Kuhn, Dan Levinson, Boots Maleson, Marian McPartland, Ray Moska, Joe Muranyi, Sam Parkins, Ed Polcer, Loren Schoenberg, Daryl Sherman, Nancy Stearns, Carol Sudhalter, Ronny Whyte, Jackie Williams, and Marshall Wood. That is--to put it mildly--one hell of a lineup. In between performances, Albert Haim, Dan Morgenstern, Pat Phillips, and Daryl Sherman will talk about Dick, and I'll play a few of his favorite records. St. Peter's is at 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street. The music starts at seven p.m. The concert is open to the public. Even if you can't come, please help spread the word in person, via e-mail, or on your blog if you have one."

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