Friday, December 31, 2010

Celebrate New Year's Eve, 1962, with Louis Armstrong!

Well, it's that time again: faced with another New Year's Eve upon us, I must share a complete broadcast of Louis Armstrong from a New Year's Eve of long ago. This is third time I've done this in case you're new here. If you want to read my 2008 post about Louis's 1967 Las Vegas New Year's Eve gig (featuring "What a Wonderful World" and a fantastic closing "Sleepy Time"), clickhere. And last year, I shared a 15-minute broadcast from 1954 that ended with Louis playing a very straight, touching "Auld Lang Syne." Click here.

But today, we're traveling back to December 31, 1962 to listen to Louis and the All Stars broadcasting a 25-minute set live from the Coconut Grove at the Hotel Ambassador in Hollywood. It's a fine version of the band with Louis, Troummy Young on trombone, Joe Darensbourg on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Bill Cronk on bass, Danny Barcelona on drums and Jewel Brown the vocalist. Whoever recorded this broadcast taped it directly from WGY in Schenectady, NY, which Google tells me is still going strong. After a little period music (a piano-feature on "Just One of Those Things" with strings and such), the sounds of "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" enters, backed by an enthusiastic announcer and the whooping and hollering of a crowd clearly intoxicated by Louis (and possibly alcohol). Here's the entire audio from that evening, followed by my comments:




Louis was probably doing a full show but for the broadcast, he saved the big guns, though not without a bit of confusion. Immediately after the short instrumental of "Sleepy Time," the announcer calls for "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" but Louis trumps him by calling for "Blueberry Hill"! Since I'm sharing the complete broadcast in one chunk, I can tell you the climb of "Blueberry Hill" begins at 2:35.

After "Blueberry," the band goes into the vamp for "Mack the Knife" but the ever-confusing announcer asks for "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" again! (Maybe he had money invested in it or something.) This time Louis obliges for a swinging, but relaxed 6+-minute version of the song, beginning at 6:30). Louis sounds very strong and comes up with some variations in his otherwise mostly set solo.

Back to the hits, Louis calls "Mack the Knife," heard at 12:50 (after Louis introduces the band). "Mack" was in transition at this period; for years, the tempo got faster and faster with Louis always ending with an ensemble chorus. But in 1962, he slowed it down and ended it with his vocal. This version only features a short trumpet chorus up front, but Louis must have missed blowing on it more because beginning soon after, he would play two choruses at the start, the second usually improvised. The band swings pretty hard--Louis seemed more comfortable at this tempo--and the audience continues to sound like bedlam.

Jewel Brown then comes up at 16:50 with Harry Belafonte's "Have You Heard About Jerry." This was probably the kind of thing that made the jazz purists roll their eyes, especially after that dynamite "Barbecue" from earlier in the broadcast. But the band works up quite a bit of steam on this number and everyone gets a break (dig Billy Kyle inserting "It Ain't Necessarily So"!). With time winding down, Louis calls "When the Saints Go Marching In" at 21:40, another song that sped up over the years then gradually slowed down in 1962. This versions is slow and strutty and immediately gets the audiences clapping and singing along. The reaction is so big, Louis sings an encore chorus immediately after but soon goes into "Sleepy Time"; the broadcast is over but I'm sure the fun was just beginning at the Coconut Grove.

That'll do it for the broadcast and that will do it for me here in 2010. I thank each and every person who has ever visited this page, especially for bearing with me for so many long stretches of silence this year. But even those silences were for good reasons, working in the day time to get that online catalog up and running on the Louis Armstrong House Museum site and working at night and weekends on the book, which is officially finished and ready for a May-June release. So stick with me because we're only getting started...here's to 2011, the year of Louis Armstrong!

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