As promised, I'd like to give pianist Billy Kyle some much deserved time in the spotlight by highlighting his feature version of "Pennies From Heaven," something that he began playing soon after he started with the All Stars in late 1953 and was still playing--note-for-note, the same--at the time of his death in 1966. Kyle didn't always trot it out--"Perdido" always remained his first choice for a feature--but "Pennies" served an important function because it didn't require Louis to play any horn. Thus, if there was a night when Pops's chops were a bit down and he needed a rest, Kyle would do "Pennies" or "Girl of My Dreams." On other Kyle features such as "Perdido," "Blue Moon" and "When I Grow Too Old To Dream," Louis would blow with fury at the end, so I'm sure the others would be called when Louis needed a break.
I have a bunch of Kyle "Pennies" in my collection but the one I've chosen to share is from May 13, 1958 and was recorded live with the All Stars in North Bay, Ontario. On this night, Louis had no troubles with his chops. Far from it; what has been issued on C.D. contains some of the fiercest blowing he did that entire decade. But during intermission, a fan requested "Long Gone (From Bowlin' Green)," which Louis probably hadn't done since he originally recorded it four years earlier for the seminal album Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy. Thus, after blowing out the lights on "Muskrat Ramble," I think he called on Kyle to do "Pennies" because he wanted to have a quick powow with Velma Middleton, Trummy Young and Edmond Hall on the routine and lyrics for "Long Gone." One day, I'll share that version because it's so overpowering, it completely makes one forget about the original.
But that's for another day. While Louis was backstage, the spotlight shone on the rhythm section of Kyle, bassist Mort Herbert and drummer Danny Barcelona. Herbert and Barcelona both joined the band in early 1958 so they were still fairly new but this rhythm section would prove to be one of Louis's most durable, as well as one of his finest, lasting into the middle of 1961 when Herbert finally left to practice law. I have other Kyle versions of "Pennies" in slightly better sound but the swing engendered on this version is second to none. When Barcelona switches from brushes to sticks....stand back! This "Pennies" has the rocking power of a freight train and Kyle's full-chorded riffs never sounded better. Thus, ending our weeklong look at "Pennies From Heaven," here's Billy Kyle: