When I last left off with my "Listening to the Book" series, Louis had just finished telling off Dwight Eisenhower, Orval Faubus and the U. S. government in September 1957. Chapter 12 of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, picks up in the aftermath of that event, opening with a recording session that took place less than a month after Armstrong made headlines. The date was 'Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson" and it remains one of my all-time favorite Pops recordings, even though I feel it's been neglected by the jazz community. Here's Louis with a top 1950s rhythm section, conceding nothing and pushing himself with both trumpet and voice. But the jazz world has remained indifferent to it and even Peterson himself didn't write a word about it in his autobiography.
If you haven't checked it out, please do, but in the meantime, here's a few highlights that I've written about in the past. For a great trumpet feature, look no further than "Moon Song":
And here's the blog I wrote on that performance:Moon Song Blog
And for soulful trumpet and a deep vocal performance, here's "You Go to My Head":
You Go To My Head Blog
There's plenty more I can share but I'll quit there and urge you to seek it out for yourself.
A few weeks later, Louis embarked on a wild tour of South America. I knew it was important and gave it a few paragraphs, but since I started working at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, I've come to realize that this was a pretty epic tour both for Louis and for the locals. In Armstrong's personal collection are many recordings autographed to him by South American musicians, many dubbed to his reel-to-reel tapes (including an LP by Hector Varela). Louis recorded tapes from his hotel with Lucille, talked about the reception he received and recorded concerts in Brazil, Buenos Aires and other places, concerts that have never been issued (one featured a memorable guest appearance by Booker Pittman). So Louis was having a ball and there's enough documentation left behind in his collection to really do a number with this tour.
But that's for another day, as for now I'll just share some music recorded in Buenos Aires (hello, Mario!). The sound quality isn't the best but boy, the All Stars were on fire during this tour. Here's "Ain't Misbehavin':
And "On the Sunny Side of the Street":
And a wild "Tiger Rag" complete with two encores:
In early 1958, Louis recorded an album of religious tunes for Decca. The result, "Louis and the Good Book" was not only one of Louis's biggest sellers but I believe it must have been one of Armstrong's personal favorites as he must have dubbed it to reel-to-reel tape over a dozen times over the years. Here's a taste with "Rock My Soul"
And here's a blog I did on that performance: Rock My Soul Blog
Almost immediately after the "Good Book" session, Danny Barcelona joined the All Stars, along with Mort Herbert on bass, who had joined slightly earlier. Louis was going through a period of incredible blowing, as can be heard on the second Timex All Star Jazz Show broadcast from April 1958. I've written about all of Armstrong's performances on that show as they really are fantastic. First up, "Muskrat Ramble," which has become a favorite during my book lectures:
And my blog on this period of "Muskrat Rambles" in Pops's discography:
Muskrat Ramble Part 5
"On the Sunny Side of the Street" followed, one of the all-time best TV clips of Pops (and I know, a favorite of Terry Teachout's):
Here's "Jeepers Creepers" with Jack Teagarden and Ruby Braff:
And my blog on that song: Jeepers Creepers Blog
The grand finale threw everyone together for a dynamite version of "St. Louis Blues":
And here's my blog on that subject, titled "A Jazz Dream."
Armstrong's good form continued into May during a wonderful evening in North Bay, Ontario, which can be heard on a somewhat hard-to-find CD. Here's a riotous "Muskrat Ramble," complete with encore:
If that whet your appetite, you really need to hear the rest, such as a by-request version of "Long Gone (From Bowlin' Green)" that dwarfs the version from "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy." Here's the link to the CD.
Edmond Hall left abruptly in June 1958, replaced by Peanuts Hucko in time for a gig at the Newport Jazz Festival. I've been writing about this for years as Columbia recorded it and never released it. I don't want to jinx anything but let's just say I might have some news to share in the future about this subject. In the meantime, please enjoy Bert Stern's footage of Armstrong's set from "Jazz on a Summer's Day." Have 11 minutes and need to demonstrate how potent a performer Armstrong remained during these years? Look no further....
Unfortunately for Pops, by the fall, his chops were in rough shape. He struggled during a Decca session and another Timex show during this period, but most notably, he could be heard pushing through the pain to put on an entertaining performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival, one that really illustrated what Louis sometimes had to endure to entertain his fans (and to think some critics claimed--and still claim--that he "coasted" in these years). One of my earliest blogs dissected the Monterey performance and two years later, I tweaked it with lots of sound edits. I'm pretty proud of this one so if you have the time, please check it out:
Monterey Jazz Festival 1958 Blog
By January 1959, Louis's chops had healed (that's another story in the book). To demonstrate, he blew with ferocity during the fourth Timex show. This is the one that featured Louis's duet with Dizzy Gillespie on "Umbrella Man." I wrote an entire blog on this episode, complete with relevant video clips, and that can be found here: 1959 Timex Show Blog
Louis, feeling good, then embarked on a mammoth six-month tour of Europe. This tour featured miracles of endurance--multiple shows in one days, crazy distances to travel, you name it--and as will be seen in the next chapter, it did take its toll on Louis. But he sure responded by blowing his heart out (again, almost literally). Here's my analysis, complete with sound, of a typical night on this tour, this one from Amsterdam:
Amsterdam 1959 Blog
And in Stuttgart, Germany, Louis and the All Stars were captured on the film, something I recapped here:
Stuttgart Videos Blog
But where Louis really did his working out was on "Tiger Rag." When he was in the right frame of mind, the chops were up and the audiences were hysteric, Louis could offer three or four encores on the song in a given night....or even twice in one day. I went overboard in analyzing this material back in 2009 but if you want to revisit it, here's a bunch of links:
Tiger Rag, Copenhagen, First Show
Tiger Rag, Copenhagen, Second Show
Tiger Rag 1959, Two More
And if you don't feel like clicking those links and only have time for one, here's the audio of one of the Copenhagen versions (commercially available on Storyville's "Louis Armstrong in Scandinavia Volume 4" release):
Wow, that's a killer! And that's enough music for one blog. Next time out, I'll have a short one that will finish 1959 and then we'll have six chapters left to get through the 1960s and to his (rumored) death in 1971. Thanks for going along on this ride with me!