Sunday, September 25, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 9

Forgive the delay, good friends, but things have been nuts lately as I just had a weeklong flurry of events relating to my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, including a signing at Rutgers where my musical accompaniment consisted of Randy Sandke and Marty Napoleon! (Stay tuned for pics and more from that one.) In the meantime, has everyone memorized the All Stars's set lists from 1952 to 1955? You have? Good, then let's continue listening as we read with some of the relevant audio discussed in chapter 9 of the book.

This chapter jumps right out with one of Louis's biggest hits, "Mack the Knife." I can't tell you how many people have expressed shock during my book lectures and signings that Louis recorded this song before Bobby Darin (and "Blueberry Hill" before Fats Domino). I've never done a blog about it but if you'd like to listen to the original now, look no further:




Just days after that tune was recorded, Louis and the All Stars--now with Edmond Hall aboard on clarinet--embarked on a three-month tour of Europe, the one that really solidified Louis as "Ambassador Satch," thanks to a Columbia LP of that name featuring material recorded during this tour. One of those songs was a relentless version of "Muskrat Ramble" from Amsterdam. During my epic series on "Muskrat" I shared audio different from the Columbia LP, recorded direct from the original sound system. Here it is, one of my all-time favorite versions of this song:



And for more on this version and the other versions of "Muskrat" from this period, check out my blog on the subject here.

Much of "Ambassador Satch" was actually recorded in an empty movie theater in Milan in the wee hours of the morning after Louis had just played two shows. (Well, near empty....a bunch of enthusiastic Italian fans were invited and definitely made their voices heard!) In the book, I quote Louis, very proud of this version of "West End Blues," a version that grows in my opinion every time I hear it:



And Louis was even prouder of a wild version of "Tiger Rag" also recorded in Milan. I did an entire blog on that subject, complete with audio of the rehearsal. Check it out here: Tiger Rag Blog.

One more from Milan, perhaps the finest version of "Royal Garden Blues" in the Armstrong discography:



If you like that and want to compare it to some other "Royal Gardens" from throughout the All Stars years, here's yet another link: Royal Garden Blues Blog

Louis and the All Stars had about one day off when they got back to the States before heading to California for "High Society," one of Louis's most memorable screen appearances. Courtesy of YouTube, let's have an impromptu film screening. Here's the fantastic opening with the All Stars doing "High Society Calypso":

The legendary "Now You Has Jazz" with Bing Crosby:

Unfortunately, YouTube has blocked my favorite song from Cole Porter's score, "I Love You, Samantha," but no one's on to me yet, so here's the audio. Bing never sounded better but Louis's obligato and solo just about steal the show:



While in Los Angeles, the All Stars cut a version of "The Faithful Hussar" with lyrics by George Avakian (writing as Dots Morrow) called "Six Foot Four." In this chapter, I detail how a flap between Avakian and Joe Glaser about which publisher would control "Six Foot Four" and who would receive composer credit for the tune played a part in the premature demise of Louis's relationship with Columbia. I realized as I was writing the chapter that the majority of human beings on Earth had probably never heard this song. Well, let's turn that majority into a minority....here 'tis:




As I've mentioned before, my cutting roof floor has enough material for about three other books. In this chapter, I realized that the Glaser-Avakian stuff was the focus and any time I tried to butt in and insert the All Stars, it disrupted the flow. So I didn't get to write about a tour the All Stars did with Woody Herman's big band in February and March. A concert was recorded in Grand Rapids, Michigan and released on the GHB some years ago. In addition to being a typically wonderful evening with the All Stars, it also featured a killer closing version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In'" with both bands marching and swinging together:



A few weeks later, the All Stars embarked on a hugely successful tour of Australia. A fantastic broadcast was offered up on the web for download back in 2008. I wrote about it in this blog and I believe you can still download it. Grab it!

Finally, I had to put Glaser and Avakian aside to cover Louis's May 1956 tour of England and Africa, as documented by Edward R. Murrow's camera crew in "Satchmo the Great." I still don't know how this film isn't on DVD but a few clips have trickled onto YouTube. For all the grisly details, consult the book but for now, here's some videos. Here's "Mack" in London:


And "Black and Blue" in Africa:


And that'll do it for chapter 9. Just about halfway there (and I promise to start cranking these out a little faster and getting back to my old one-song-at-a-time posts once things calm down a bit in October). And a quick plug for those in the NYC area, I'll be doing a presentation and signing at HueMan Bookstore in Harlem this Wednesday, September 28, at 7 p.m. Hope to see some of you there...thanks!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Anatomy of an All Stars Concert - 1952-1955

In late July, I broke up the monotony of my "Listening to the Book" posts with something I called Anatomy of an All Stars Concert - 1947-1951. It was a massive, dissertation-length collection of set lists that whether you loved, hated or slept through, should have at least gone a ways toward proving that the All Stars did not play the same songs every night and that their repertoire of tunes to call from every night was much bigger than most people assume. The above link will take you through that exploration again if you'd like to refresh your memory but at the end of 1951, I had totaled 105 songs in the All Stars's book, 57 of them prominently featuring Louis (and he played on almost all the others, too, even when they were features for the other sidemen).

Today, I'd like to continue this tour picking up where we left off at the end of 1951--and the departure of Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines and Arvell Shaw--and take it through the end of 1955, when Edmond Hall joined the band and Louis was hitting new peaks of popularity.

As a quick refresher, here's a typical two-set set list from November 1947, the famous Symphony Hall concert:

Symphony Hall, November 30, 1947
FIRST SET
When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
Muskrat Ramble
Black and Blue, (What Did I Do To Be So)
Royal Garden Blues
Lover
Stars Fell on Alabama
I Cried for You
Since I Fell for You
Tea for Two
Body and Soul
Back O’Town Blues
Steak Face
I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues

SECOND SET
When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
Mahogany Hall Stomp
On the Sunny Side of the Street
High Society
St. James Infirmary
Baby, Won't You Please Come Home
Velma’s Blues
That's My Desire
C-Jam Blues
How High the Moon
Mop Mop (Boff Boff)
Jack Armstrong Blues
I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues

And here's a typical show from where we left off, Pasadena, January 1951;

January 30, 1951 – Pasadena
FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana (Back Home Again In)
Some Day
Back O' Town Blues
Way Down Yonder Down In New Orleans
Star Dust
The Hucklebuck
That’s My Desire
Honeysuckle Rose
How High The Moon
Just You, Just Me
Bugle Blues
SECOND SET
My Monday Date
You Can Depend On Me
That's A Plenty
Body And Soul
Big Daddy Blues
Baby, It's Cold Outside
Muskrat Ramble

Right then and there, you can see the differences--the only songs repeated are "Back O'Town Blues," "That's My Desire," "How high the Moon," "Muskrat Ramble" and "Body and Soul" (though the latter was a feature for Barney Bigard in 1947 and Teagarden in 1951).

As 1952 began, the All Stars had some new faces: Russ Phillips on trombone, who brought along "Coquette" as a new feature (with a scorching Armstrong solo); Dale Jones on bass, who added Bert Williams's "Nobody" to the repertoire; and Joe Sullivan on piano, who put his stamp on "Little Rock Getaway" and "I Found a New Baby." There aren't any full shows from this edition, only a few short portions and radio broadcasts but they also find a new feature for Louis and Velma Middleton in the show, "You're Just in Love." Sullivan didn't last long and was quickly replaced by Marty Napoleon, who brought a bunch of different features to the group, including "Limehouse Blues" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." On May 13, 1952, the All Stars did two sets in New Orleans that were recorded and survive in fine sound quality. So let's dive in and examine a typical 1952 show and see how it relates to what came before it--and eventually, what came after it:

May 13, 1952 – New Orleans
FIRST SET

When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
Blueberry Hill
C'est Si Bon
Way Down Yonder Down In New Orleans
Coquette
Lover Come Back to Me
St. Louis Blues
Tea for Two
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
Bugle Blues / Ole Miss
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
Struttin' With Some Barbecue
Back O' Town Blues
Muskrat Ramble
Velma's Blues
You're Just in Love
Stompin' at the Savoy
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

Okay, another completely different show. For the first time in all the set lists I've shared, we have both of Louis's early Decca hits, "Blueberry Hill" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," along with another pretty big one "C'est Si Bon." "Indiana" and "Way Down Yonder" are back from Pasadena and "Back O'Town" and "Muskrat" continue being carried over from Symphony Hall, but "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" is something a little different. And as usual, my main point relies on joining me for America's slowest growing game, "What's Missing?" In this list, without taking too much time, there's no "Someday," "Sunny Side of the Street," "Black and Blue," "Royal Garden Blues," "Mahogany Hall Stomp," "La Vie En Rose," "Lazy River"....I'll quit for now.

In the fall of 1952, the All Stars embarked on a long tour of Europe. I've spent much time analyzing Louis's European shows mainly because the Europeans seemed to record him (illegally) as much as humanly possible. Louis could do 300 one-nighters across the United States and maybe one complete show and a handful of broadcasts would get recorded. Then he could do two months in Europe and we have about a dozen shows to choose from.

Because Louis was so big in Europe, he usually did two shows a day. And because he knew the European audiences were only going to see him every couple of years, he seemed embark on these tours with a pre-set gameplan for how his shows would run as there are many similarities (yet just enough of a difference from show to show to prove that no two were ever the same).

Louis landed in Stockholm and a full show was recorded there in October, now with Trummy Young on trombone, Arvell Shaw back on bass and Bob McCracken on clarinet. Let's take a look:

October 4, 1952 - Stockholm, Sweden
FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
Way Down Yonder Down In New Orleans
Coquette
Lover Come Back to Me
Can Anyone Explain
Limehouse Blues
After You've Gone
Tin Roof Blues
Russian Lullaby
Bugle Blues / Ole Miss
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
New Orleans Function
Pennies from Heaven
Muskrat Ramble
Basin Street Blues
Velma's Blues
You're Just in Love
Stompin' at the Savoy

First, the similarities: "Sleepy Time" followed by "Indiana" is now THE way to open and it rarely changed after 1952. The order of the features is pretty set: Trummy up first, then Velma (doing two, instead of one as in New Orleans), then Marty Napoleon, Bob McCracken, back to Louis, then Arvell Shaw and Cozy. But "New Orleans Function" and "Pennies from Heaven" are different choices. What's missing? "Blueberry Hill," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Back O'Town Blues"....you know, there's an easier way to do this. Louis stayed in Europe from the end of September 1952 through December and this is the only complete show that survives. But there's a bunch of short broadcasts that feature plenty of songs that weren't performed in Stockholm. So let me rephrase the question; what's missing from this show that was played elsewhere on this same tour? "On the Sunny SIde of the Street," "High Society," "Back O'Town Blues," "Blues for Bass," "On the Alamo," "How High the Moon," "Confessin'," "I Found a New Baby," "St. James Infirmary," "That's My Desire," "St. Louis Blues," "Blueberry Hill," "Black and Blue," 'twelfth Street Rag," "Margie," "Royal Garden Blues," "The Man i Love," "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Shadrack," "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," and the very first live performance of what was to become a perennial, "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It." So that just illustrates the very large pool of tunes Louis was choosing from during the 1952 tour.

Let's flip the calendar into 1953. The summer of that year found the band broadcasting regularly from the Blue Note in Chicago with Barney Bigard on clarinet and Milt Hinton joining the band towards the end of the engagement. These weren't full shows so I won't analyze the order of the sets or anything, but here again is list of what was rattling around Louis's head and what the All Stars played in July 1953:
Stompin' at the Savoy
Tin Roof BLues
How High the Moon
Big Butter and Egg Man
Struttin' With Some Barbecue
Someday You'll Be Sorry
Shadrack
When the Saints Go Marchin' In
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
C-Jam Blues
I Cried For You
Tea for Two
Lover Come Back to Me
Margie
When It's Sleepy Time Down SOuth
I Get Ideas
Muskrat Ramble
Since I Fell for You
Russian Lullaby
Royal Garden Blues
Confessin'
Undecided
Me and Brother Bill
You're Just in Love
Limehouse Blues
'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
The Gypsy (performed live before Louis recorded it officially later that year)

This edition finally was caught live at a venue that for years was thought to be Cornell University, but there are doubts about that. The results were released on two LPs on the Rarities label and taken together, make up one of Louis's all-time great performances with a turbo-charged version of the All Stars with Louis, Trummy, Barney, Marty Napoleon, Milt Hinton, Cozy Cole and Velma Middleton. The original LPs mixed up the order so Jos Willems's discography attempted to arrange the tracks in the correct order. I'm not sure if he has it perfect, but it's still a worthwhile look at a typical two-set engagement with the group in the fall of 1953 (and I don't know when the second set begins, so I'm just going to list it as Willems does):

c. September 1953 - Unknown Venue (possibly Cornell University)
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
Muskrat Ramble
Tin Roof Blues
New Orleans Function
C'est Si Bon
Lover Come Back to Me
High Society
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Basin Street Blues
Limehouse Blues
These Foolish Things
Blueberry HIll
Margie
Rockin' Chair
Way Down Yonder Down In New Orleans
C-Jam Blues
St. Louis BLues
Pick and Pat
Big Mama's Back in Town
That's My Desire
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

Okay, so "C'est Si Bon" is back, as is "High Society," "Rockin' Chair" and "That's My Desire." We also finally get "Blueberry Hill" and "Kiss to Build a Dream On" in the same show for the first time since May 1952. "New Orleans Function" is still going strong and "Bucket" is already a mainstay. What's missing? How about "Sunny Side," "Black and Blue," "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," "Lazy River," "Barbecue," "Baby It's Cold Outside," "Royal Garden Blues," ah, I'll quit again, but goodness knows there's more.

By the beginning of 1954, Napoleon, Hinton and Cole were out, replaced by Billy Kyle, Arvell Shaw and Kenny John. This group was captured by a recording device at the University of North Carolina on May 8, 1954. Here's how it went down:

May 8, 1954 - University of North Carolina
FIRST SET

When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
A Kiss to Build a Dream On
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Blueberry Hill
Tin Roof Blues
Struttin' With Some Barbecue
'S Wonderful
All the Things You Are
The Man I Love
Margie
Velma's Blues
Stompin' at the Savoy
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
New Orleans Function
C'est Si Bon
Lazy River
Shadrack
When the Saints Go Marchin' In
High Society
Pennies from Heaven
The Dummy Song

By this point, some favorites of 1952 and 1953 were getting phased out: "Coquette" is gone and you'll start seeing less of "Muskrat Ramble," "Back O'Town Blues," "La Vie En Rose," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and others. "Struttin'" is back and it's nice to see "Lazy River" in the second set. Louis and Velma retired "Can Anyone Explain" by this point and slowed down in their use of "You're Just in Love," instead focusing on a duet version of a song Louis recorded for Decca in 1953, "The Dummy Song." But if you've ever heard this concert, you know the killer is "When the Saints Come Marchin' In." Though it's one of the all-time great traditional numbers and though Louis introduced it to the jazz world and remains associated with it, if you've been with me from the beginning, you might have noticed that the "Saints" was never really a staple of the group's live shows from 1947 to 1954. It's there all right and pops up every now and then but it wasn't the guarantee it was to become shortly after this North Caroline version from 1954.

I want to stop right here for a minute and analyze some of the new additions to the All Stars's repertoire in the mid-50s that resulted from recording dates. 1953, 1954 and the beginning of 1955 also saw Louis make various recordings for both Columbia and Decca and they had an impact on his live shows, too. I already mentioned the "Dummy Song" from 1953. That same year, Louis recorded "The Gypsy" and a swinging remake of "Someday You'll Be Sorry" for Decca, and they both became regulars. Though "Someday" was originally cut for RCA Victor, Louis was so taken by the remake, he began introducing it live by referring to it being recorded for Decca. In March 1954, Louis recorded "Basin Street Blues" for the soundtrack to "The Glenn Miller Story." The song had been an All Stars staple from the beginning, but only for trombonists. Starting this version, it became a vehicle for Louis and that's how it would remain until the late 1960s. In April 1954, Louis recorded four songs with Gordon Jenkins, including his spoof on bop, "The Whiffenpoof Song," which made it into the live repertoire.

Then it was time for the epic "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy." As soon as it was released in late 1954, "St. Louis Blues" went from being a piano feature (for Earl Hines, Marty Napoleon AND Billy Kyle) to being a tour de force for Louis and Velma, patterned off the leadoff track of that album. "Ole Miss" had also been hinted at in the past, but always as part of a medley with "Bugle Blues" that always featured drummers. After the Handy album, the "Bugle Blues" segment was cut off, as was the drum feature, and "Ole Miss" became a favored All Stars jam, always introduced as being from the Handy album.

In early 1955, Louis recorded two songs with Gary Crosby, a vocal duet on "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" and a cover of "Ko Ko Mo" by the Crew-Cuts. The Armstrong-Crosby record is forgotten today but it really did get a lot of publicity back in 1955. Louis attempted to bring the vocal version of "Barbecue" to the All Stars's act, doing it with Trummy Young, but it didn't last long and soon went back to being an instrumental. But "Ko Ko Mo" was tailored to fit the dynamic duo of Armstrong and Middleton and it was such a natural fit, it became probably their most often-performed duet. And in April of 1955, Louis recorded "Satch Plays Fats" for Columbia. "Ain't Misbehavin'" always bounced in and out of various All Stars shows but this album did seem to bring "Black and Blue" back into the fold for a while, as it had pretty much disappeared with any regularity since the early 50s.

I mention all these record dates and additions to the live show because people have asked me, "Geez, Louis recorded so much in the 1950s, how come he didn't play any of the stuff he was recording?" And my point is, he DID, just not ALL of it. Sure, it would have been a trip to hear him do a "Great American Songbook" number a la Oscar Peterson or bust out something from the past that he recorded for the "Autobiography.' But "Blueberry Hill," "C'est Si Bon," "La Vie En Rose," "New Orleans Function," "Bucket's Got a Hole In It," "Kiss to Build a Dream On," "I Get Ideas," "You're Just in Love," "Butter and Egg Man," "Dummy Song," "The Gypsy," the fast version of "Someday," "The Whiffenpoof Song," Handy arrangements of "St. Louis Blues" and "Ole Miss," "Ko Ko Mo," eventually "Mack the Knife"...all of these songs pushed many of the ones played during the late 40s out of the fold. It almost happened so slowly that you don't even notice it, but the fact is Louis was always adding new material from his records, just not enough to satisfy the critics.

Anyway, in the midst of all these recordings, Decca pulled out all the stops and recorded the All Stars live in a nightclub setting at Hollywood's Crescendo Club, performing three sets in one evening. I'm sure producer Milt Gabler might have had a suggestion or two, but I really feel that this is the real deal, what this group offered during a standard nightclub engagement night in and night out (you can even hear Pops calling the next tunes to play out to the band during the middle of songs; for example, listen to Billy Kyle's piano solo on "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," and you'll hear Pops shout out the next two numbers to be played, "'Lazy River' and 'Old Man Mose'!"). Here's how it turned out that night, the definitive portrait of the mid-50s All Stars in action:

January 21, 1955 - Crescendo Club, Hollywood
FIRST SET

When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Indiana (Back Home Again In)
The Gypsy
Some Day
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got A Hole In It
Rose Room
Perdido
Blues For Bass
Me And Brother Bill
When You're Smiling
Tain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)
Lover, Come Back To Me
Don't Fence Me In
Basin Street Blues
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (closing theme)
SECOND SET
Shadrack/When The Saints Go Marching In
C'est Si Bon
The Wiffenpoof Song
Rockin' Chair
Twelfth Street Rag
Muskrat Ramble
St. Louis Blues
The Man I Love
Back O' Town Blues
Old Man Mose (first take)
Jeepers Creepers
Margie
Big Mama's Back In Town
Big Butter And Egg Man
Stompin' At The Savoy
THIRD SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Struttin' With Some Barbecue
Lazy River, (Up a)
Old Man Mose (second take)
My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (second take)
S Wonderful
Big Mama's Back In Town (second take)
Since I Fell For You
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (finale)

What a night! You can see that Louis had fallen into a comfortable pattern of solo features in the first set that would last for quite some time: he comes out and features himself for a bunch, then turns it over to Billy Kyle's piano, followed by Barney Bigard's clarinet and Arvell Shaw's bass, before coming back for a few himself, then turning it over to Trummy Young and Velma Middleton. After a duet with Velma, he closes with something big or a drum solo. And the "Shadrack/When the Saints Go Marchin' In" medley is in place as the opener for the second set, a place it would occupy for some time.

And you know the drill by now: it sure looks like all the All Stars evergreens are in place over this long, long night until we play "What's Missing" again: "Blueberry Hill," "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," "Black and Blue," "New Orleans Function," "Sunny Side of the Street," "Mahogany Hall Stomp," "Ole Miss," "Royal Garden Blues," "La Vie En Rose," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and many more.

So with the Crescendo Club out of the way, I think I'll quit while I'm ahead, just before the arrival of Edmond Hall on clarinet and the start of, in my opinion, the golden years of the All Stars. That period ended in 1958 when Hall left complaining of--you guessed it--playing the same songs every night. I wasn't there so I can't take Hall to task too much but I can demonstrate that the band continued to play a wide range of material during his years and never played the same exact show twice. But that will come after another few rounds of "Listening to the Book" so you can appreciate the embarrassment of riches that exist from this period.

But to really close, another list. Last time, I closed by saying that between 1947 and 1951, the All Stars had played 105 total songs, including features, while 58 of those had Louis front and center. Now, up to 1955, the total number is 133 songs including features with 70 of those spotlighting Louis (and if you still balk about the number of sideman showcases, I'll count all the ones Louis played on--if you've heard Louis's contributions on say, "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," "Margie," "After You've Gone" or "The Man I Love," you already know how much Louis played on features for others). If you'd like a list, here's the new, improved list taking us through the summer of 1955:



1. A Kiss to Build a Dream On
2. A Song Was Born
3. Ain’t Misbehavin’
4. Baby It’s Cold Outside
5. Back O' Town Blues
6. Basin Street Blues
7. Basin Street Blues (Louis featured)
8. Because Of You
9. Big Butter and Egg Man
10. Black and Blue
11. Blueberry Hill
12. Bugle Call Rag / Ole Miss
13. C’est Si Bon
14. Can Anyone Explain
15. Confessin'
16. Dear Old Southland
17. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
18. Don't Fence Me In
19. High Society
20. I Get Ideas
21. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
22. I Surrender Dear
23. I Used to Love You
24. Jack Armstrong Blues
25. Jazz Me Blues
26. Jeepers Creepers
27. King Porter Stomp
28. Ko Ko Mo
29. La Vie En Rose
30. Lazy River
31. Mahogany Hall Stomp
32. Me and Brother Bill
33. Milenberg Joys
34. Muskrat Ramble
35. My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It
36. My Monday Date
37. New Orleans Function
38. Old Man Mose
39. Ole Miss
40. On the Sunny Side of the Street
41. Panama
42. Rockin' Chair
43. Royal Garden Blues
44. Shadrack / When The Saints Go Marchin' In
45. Shine
46. Shoe Shine Boy
47. Someday You’ll Be Sorry
48. St. Louis Blues
49. St. Louis Blues (W. C. Handy arrangement)
50. Struttin' With Some Barbecue
51. Struttin’ with Some Barbecue (vocal version)
52. That's A Plenty
53. That’s For Me
54. That’s My Desire
55. The Dummy Song
56. The Gypsy
57. The Whiffenpoof Song
58. Them There Eyes
59. Tin Roof Blues
60. Twelfth Street Rag
61. West End Blues
62. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
63. When The Saints Go Marchin' In
64. When You and I Were Young, Maggie
65. When You’re Smiling
66. Where the Blues Were Born In New Orleans
67. You Can Depend On Me
68. You Rascal You
69. You’re Just in Love
70. You’re the Apple of My Eye

S'all for now, my friends. Back to the audio in a few days. Oh, and if you made it this far a couple of plugs: I'll be giving a presentation and signing my book at the Institute of Jazz Studies on Tuesday, September 20, a very special evening that will feature live music by Randy Sandke and the one and only Marty Napoleon! And for my NY friends, I'll be doing a signing at HueMan Bookstore in Harlem on September 28. Hope to see you out there soon...thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 8

Hello all. I'll start right off by saying that today's my birthday, number 31. My 30th year will go down as one of the biggies, with the arrival of my daughter Melody, the publication of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, traveling around to Italy, New Orleans and elsewhere, continuing my dream job as Archivist of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, etc. I don't know if I'll ever top it but it'll be fun trying!

For my last few birthdays, I've shared audio "gifts" on this blog. But since I'm already in the middle of my "Listening to the Book" series, which is filled with nothing but audio gifts, I thought I would just continue on with a post relating to chapter 8 of the book, "Columbia Masterpieces."

The principle masterpiece hinted at in the title of the chapter, of course, is "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy." As I once said in one of my lectures, a copy of that album should be sold with every home (it might not prevent a recession, but it will definitely prevent depression). The opening track of that album, "St. Louis Blues," is really the one single song that rocked my brain and started me down this path of Louis worship. Here's the audio if you've somehow never heard it:


A couple of years ago, I did a blog on that song and my relationship with it, a blog that can be found here.

Now, if you've read my book, you know that I had access to all of the surviving outtakes and rehearsals from these sessions, given to me by George Avakian and David Ostwald. They are my prized possessions but through an agreement with them, I am not to share them....sorry if I got your hopes up! But if you purchased Sony/Legacy's 1997 reissue of the album, you've already heard some of that great material. To give you a taste, here's "Hesistating Blues," a complete warm-up take that was never meant to be released (Velma sings quietly through it) but my goodness, does Pops play with fury:




Soon after the "Handy" sessions, Louis enjoyed a record-breaking gig at Basin Street in New York City. His popularity was getting larger all the time, but this is when the critics really began hammering him. I quote some devastating reviews of this engagement but Pops paid it no mind. Here's "Butter and Egg Man" from Basin Street:


And if you're interested, I once did an entire blog on the tune: Butter and Egg Man Blog

The same month as the Basin Street gig, the All Stars took time to appear in an episode of "You Are There" that I write about in this chapter. The gist is the network didn't want an integrated band but Louis wouldn't part with drummer Barrett Deems. The solution? Have Deems wear blackface! Needs to be seen to be believed...and here 'tis:

Louis Armstrong All Stars-When the Saints-1954 by redhotjazz

Though the "Handy" album was so glorious, Decca continued their attempts to get Louis a pop hit. Rock-and-roll was in the air and they tried Louis on some early rock ballads, such as "Sincerely":


For more on "Sincerely," here's my blog on the subject: Sincerely Blog

I like "Sincerely" but obviously it's not in the same ballpark as the "Handy" album. Still, Milt Gabler at Decca knew to turn the All Stars loose at times and in January 1955, he captured one of the all-time best documents of a there-set All Stars nightclub evening with "Louis Armstrong at the Crescendo" (reissued on C.D. and MP3 as "The California Concerts"). I have never done an entire blog on this marvelous evening of music but it's tunes have been peppered throughout many of my blogs. So let's run 'em down, shall we? Here's the first of two versions of "Old Man Mose" perfomed that night:


And the second, with Louis flubbing the lyrics!

(For futher explanation, here's the link to my "Old Man Mose" blog.)
Here's "Velma's Blues":

And again, the complete blog on that tune: Velma's Blues Blog

A jumpin' version of "Muskrat Ramble":



A killer version of "Shadrack" and "When the Saints Go Marchin' In":


A rare live version of "When You're Smiling" at a swinging tempo:



That's all from the Crescendo but if you like what you heard, do check out The California Concerts (though it looks like only the download is affordable).

A few months later, it was back to George Avakian's supervision at Columbia for the magnificent "Satch Plays Fats" tribute to Fats Waller. The high point of the album (and possibly of all humankind) is "Blue Turning Grey Over You." For the audio and the complete story, I'm just going to send you over to the blog I wrote about it in 2010: Blue Turning Grey Over You Blog

And the album also featured a fantastic remake of "Ain't Misbehavin'." Here's the audio:



And a link to the complete blog on this version, complete with rare alternate takes:
Ain't Misbehavin' Blog

Wow, that's a lot of audio to get through. But I do hope you enjoy it, especially if you're listening along with the book. Thanks for spending this great year with me and here's to 31! (Geez, Louis recorded "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" when he was 31...I'll be lucky to pump out a blog on "You Run Your Mouth and I'll Run My Business"....)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, is the biggie, with a very serious Louis confronting Joe Glaser after Lucille Armstrong was arrested for marijuana possession. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, it's all in the book and will melt your mind but I won't go into it here. It concerns a letter Louis wrote to Glaser while performing with the All Stars at the Club Hangover in San Francisco. I remarked in the book that the All Stars were swinging harder than ever before at the Hangover, thanks to the new rhythm section of Billy Kyle, Milt Hinton and Kenny John. Here they are tearing through "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" at the Hangover:




And Louis was clear to let Glaser know that he was playing better than ever. He proved it by calling "West End Blues" during the engagement:



And if you still haven't seen my epic take on Louis's history with "West End Blues," which places the above performance into context, you can check it out here:
West End Blues Blog

Two months later, Louis found himself back at Decca's studio recording "Bye and Bye" with Gordon Jenkins's big band. This has one of Louis finest opening cadenzas of the 1950s (and dig Jenkins's arrangement quoting Louis's 1933 "Basin Street Blues" scat ending at the close):



And again, for an entire history of Louis and "Bye and Bye" with more details on this recording, here's my blog on the subject:
Bye and Bye Blog

That same session was notable for Louis's take on "The Whiffenpoof Song" with new lyrics by Jenkins that completely lampooned "the boys of the boppin' factory," as Louis once said in a live introduction of the tune. Some serious-minded jazz fans frowned at the parody but I find it very funny and it stayed in Louis's live act for a few years:



In May 1954, the All Stars played two shows in one day at the University of North Carolina. The afternoon show was recorded and a few years ago, began making the rounds on the internet as a downloadable bootleg (search for it and you'll still find it). The Avid label cleaned it up and made a proper release out of it with great notes by Digby Fairweather so check that out if you want the real deal (the bootleg is funny because whoever uploaded it wasn't familiar with the songs so "All the Things You Are" becomes "Billy Kyle Piano Jam" and "Didn't He Ramble" becomes "Didley Rambo"!). Anyway, I wrote about that evening in painstaking fashion in a blog that can be found here (alas, no audio, but again, just find it somewhere and listen along):
Carolina (without audio): http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2007/09/live-at-university-of-north-carolina.html

The most epic performance from that show was a version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" that effectively demonstrated what the All Stars could do on a random one-nighter when they didn't even think anyone was recording. The crowd went so wild that Louis called encore after encore and pushed himself to play higher and faster with each passing one. Kenny John's drums are a bit overrecorded but the excitement of the performance and Louis's incredible playing makes this one of the great moments, I think, of Louis's later years:


This post has two version of "The Saints" and if you're looking for more, again, here's my full blog on the subject: Saints Blog

That'll do it for now. Next up, the Columbia masterpieces of the mid-50s. Til then!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, lands us squarely in the year 1953 and begins with Marty Napoleon's enthusiastic description of Sy Oliver's arrangement of "Your Cheatin' Hear." I did a full blog on the tune that you can findhere, but if you just want to listen to it for yourself, here's the audio:




Of course, the main focus of the chapter is Louis's debacle of a tour with Benny Goodman. I discussed that tour and included rare audio of a finale version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" from after Gene Krupa took over from Goodman in a blog that can be found by clicking here. And from the perfect timing department, Michael Steinman just posted a rare photo of the All Stars and Krupa's big band on stage together doing the "Saints" yesterday! So go over to Jazz Lives and stare at the beautiful picture while you listen.

Soon after the tour, Louis and the All Stars appeared in "The Glenn Miller Story." On a personal note, their version of "Basin Street Blues" was really the first thing I ever saw Louis do and was really responsible for the madness that followed. Here's that clip in all its glory:


Soon after the filming, Milt Hinton joined the All Stars. On one of his earliest nights, the All Stars tore out on an incredible version of "Royal Garden Blues" from the Blue Note in Chicago. Here 'tis:



And if you want to know more about "Royal Garden Blues" and listen to another version from this same Blue Note engagement where Pops struggles a bit, go to my blog on the subject.

One of Louis's all-time greatest sessions occurred in October 1953 as he did five songs backed by Tutti Cammarata and Ed Grady's studio band, The Commanders. I did an entire blog on this session in which you can read about and listen to every track. That blog can be found here.

And finally, after some more personal changes, the All Stars at the end of 1953 featured Trummy Young, Barney Bigard, Billy Kyle, Milt Hinton and Kenny John. I didn't quote it in the book, but on one of his private tapes from 1954, Louis called this the best version of the All Stars yet because they sounded "fuller." With due respect to the Teagarden-Hines edition, he wasn't kidding. This group toured Japan in December 1953 and completely broke it up. Here's a version of "Indiana" from Yokohama on New Year's Eve 1953 to illustrate their power and swing:




And that's all for now. The All Stars flew to Hawaii the following day and for what happened, well, read the book! But I'll be back in a few more days with more audio from chapter 7. Thanks for listening...and reading!