Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dear Old Southland - Jubilee Broadcast, 1943

Welcome back to part two of my weeklong celebration of Louis Armstrong's versions of "Dear Old Southland." I'm assuming many Pops fans are familiar with the original OKeh recording I discussed yesterday. But today's version might be a surprise: it swings, it features two vocal chorus and puts Louis's big band up front. It comes from a Jubilee broadcast recorded some time in March or April 1943. This was the recording ban period, so Louis didn't have an opportunity to record many of the songs he broadcast during this period. So please, enjoy this rarity:

Ah, the sound of Ernie "Bubbles" Whitman as emcee (not the Bubbles of Buck and Bubbles fame). The arrangement, probably by Joe Garland, is plenty powerful, opening up with an almost violent rendering of the minor "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" strain. Soon enough, Pops emerges to play the melody, though he's somewhat overshadowed by the band. However, in his second time through it, he really wails and the effect is pretty exhilarating.

But then a real surprise: a vocal by Pops. He sings it straight the first time through before heaping in a generous amount of scat in the second chorus. By this point, we're in the main "Deep River" strain and Pops sounds very comfortable with it. But the highlight really occurs when he picks up his horn to blow through three choruses at the end, the last one modulated up a half-step for drama. Again, because of the recording balance, he's a little lost in the arrangement at times, but if you listen closely, he's playing some pretty powerful stuff, really wailing in his upper register. The endurance he displays towards the end is simply stunning and how he has enough gas in the tank to hit that final high concert Eb, I'll never know. An exciting little performance.

Tomorrow, Louis and Dick Cary make magic together at Town Hall.

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