Sunday, October 30, 2011

Anatomy of an All Stars Concert - 1955-1959

Well, here I go again, entertaining myself (and hopefully some of you) with another in-depth look at some typical live All Stars shows during Edmond Hall era and the bulk of the Peanuts Hucko years. This is my favorite All Stars period, as I've declared time and time again, and fortunately, it's a fairly well documented period. Not only was the band at its peak, but Louis's popularity was skyrocketing thanks to his relationship with Columbia. But this should be an interesting "Anatomy" post because the great Edmond Hall left the band in a huff in 1958 saying he was tired of playing the same show ever night. Hmmm, I'll grant Hall that Louis did perform a lot of the same songs night in and night out but there were always some different choices. Hopefully I can prove that the All Stars had a pretty big bag to choose from during this period.

I've already set out to do that in my first two parts of this series. I'd suggest checking those out first if you haven't because today's post really builds on those. First up was 1947-1951, the early days of the group, and then I followed with 1952-1955, quitting when Barney Bigard left the band in September 1955. He was replaced by Hall and almost immediately, the band embarked on an epic tour of Europe, followed around in some places by Edward R. Murrow's camera crew for "See It Now" and George Avakian's microphones for the eventual "Ambassador Satch" album.

As I've mentioned before, Louis's European shows were a little different than his stateside ones. For one thing, he usually did two in one day....sometimes three! Because of this, he'd usually do a long first set, take a break and then come back with a high octane, but much shorter, second set. Also, knowing that his European fans only saw him once ever three or four years, Louis often worked out a pretty similar pattern that he'd follow each night. But again, no two shows were the same.

But let's start by backtracking a bit. If you saw Louis in Stockholm, Sweden in 1952, this is the show you got:

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

When Louis returned to Sweden in 1955, here's a typical show from Boras, October 7, 1955:

October 7, 1955 - Boras, Sweden
FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
Someday You'll Be Sorry
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Pennies from Heaven
Dardanella
The Man I Love
Twelfth Street Rag
Margie
Velma's Blues
Ko Ko Mo
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
When the Saints Go Marchin' In
Basin Street Blues
Royal Garden Blues
St. James Infirmary
St .Louis Blues
Stompin' at the Savoy
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

Wow, even I'm kind of surprised at the differences! Only the beginning--"Sleepy Time" and "Indiana" (duh)--and the very end--drum feature on "Stompin' at the Savoy"--are the same. Everything else is different, including the other two repeated songs; "Pennies" featured Louis in 1952 but was a piano feature for Billy Kyle in '55 and "Basin Street Blues" was a Trummy Young featuer in '52 but featured Louis in '55. And other shows were recorded in Sweden that same week featuring even more different repertory. A Stockholm show from October 2 had "Pretty Littly Missy," "The Gypsy" and "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." Louis did two shows in Lund, Sweden on October 6 and they added "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," "Pretty Little Missy," "Undecided," "All of Me," "Back O'Town Blues," "High Society," "Tain't What You Do," "That's My Desire" and "All the Things You Are" (a Billy Kyle feature). So I've covered four Swedish concerts between October 3 and October 7, 1955 and have already come up with 30 different songs.

Let's flash now to the end of October 1955 and a concert in Amsterdam that George Avakian recorded in full for Columbia (and one that Sony still hasn't issued in complete form). The pacing and order of features is the same but there's again some different choices from the Boras show I shared above:

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands - October 30, 1955
FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
Blueberry Hill
Pretty Little Missy
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Perdido
Dardanella
The Man I Love
Back O'Town Blues
Undecided
Velma's Blues
Ko Ko Mo
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
When the Saints Go Marchin' In
C'est Si Bon
Basin Street Blues
Rockin' Chair
Muskrat Ramble
St. James Infirmary
All of Me
St. Louis Blues
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

So we have some more new selections: "Blueberry Hill," "Perdido," "C'est Si Bon," "Rockin' Chair" and "Muskrat Ramble." Gone are stapes like "Someday," "The Gypsy," "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," "Royal Garden Blues," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," so many more. And the second set is longer than the Swedish ones so maybe Louis only did one show at the Concertgebouw that day. But the pacing is the same: Louis comes out and wows the crowd for a while, then features by Billy Kyle, Edmond Hall and Arvell Shaw, something that features Louis, a Trummy Young feature, Velma, a Barrett Deems drum solo then intermission. The second set would be Louis heavy for a while and then he'd pass the baton for one feature (usually Arvell singing "St. James Infirmary") and then more Velma and out (though often Deems would get another feature before the finish).

On December 23, 1955, Louis performed three (!) concerts in one day at the Windsor Palace in Barcelona, Spain. Recordings were discovered decades later, cause for celebration. Because of the overlap, the best performances were edited together and released as a two-disc set Historic Barcelona Concerts, which seems to be out-of-print these days but can be found for a decent price on Amazon. Looking it over, the Barcelona show adds even more songs: "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Black and Blue," "Ole Miss," "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "La Vie En Rose." Now that brings the total to 39 different songs performed on this European tour (that we know of....I just made my assumptions off of about six shows and this was a three-month tour). Yes, the 39 includes sideman features but except for Kyle's "Pennies from Heaven" and "All the Things You Are" and Hall's "Dardanella," Louis played impressive, demanding horn on every other feature. That's not a bad repertoire, right? Am I nuts?

Back to the United States, the times were changing. Louis had a hit record waiting for him when he got back: "Mack the Knife." On top of that, jazz festivals and special evenings of jazz were becoming the rage. And on top (top) of that, Louis was becoming more popular than ever. So what does this mean? Well, in my earlier entires, I always talked about nightclub engagements such as the All Stars doing two or so weeks at the Blue Note in Chicago or the Club Hangover in San Francisco or Basin Street in NY. One-nighters were always the norm but they were usually the bridges that connected these longer engagements. But starting in 1956, those engagements began to disappear. With Louis's popularity on the rise, Joe Glaser could now make big, big money on one-nighters....and that's exactly what happened.

And because of the jazz festival/extravaganza evenings, the All Stars found themselves sharing more bills than ever before, meaning they'd be doing more single set shows, which we really haven't encountered. Louis always thrived on competition so he formed a high octane set that managed to spotlight himself but always still found time to feature the rest of his All Stars. But because of this, even I'll admit a certain sameness crept into the single set shows of 1956....but as usual, no two are alike.

First up, the All Stars shared a bill with Teddy Buckner during a Gene Norman-produced concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on January 20, 1955. Here's how it went down:

Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, CA- January 20, 1956When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Indiana
Someday You'll Be Sorry
Ole Miss
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Perdido
Dardanella
How High the Moon
The Gypsy
Undecided
Velma's Blues
That's My Desire
Ko Ko Mo
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Oh, Didn't He Ramble

You have to admit that's a helluva show! And it dispenses with a lot of the biggies: "Blueberry Hill," "Kiss to Build a Dream On," "The Saints" and so many more are gone, in favor of more, I don't know, "jazzier," numbers like "Ole Miss," "Tin Roof Blues," even "The Gypsy," which Louis really tried pushing during this period.

In March, Louis shared a tour with Woody Herman. Another single set was recorded from this tour in Grand Rapids, MI and released on the GHB. Again, a pretty similar set:

Civic Auditorium, Grand Rapids, MI, March 26, 1956
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Indiana
The Gypsy
Ole Miss
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Perdido
Dardanella
How High the Moon
Mack the Knife
Margie
Velma's Blues
That's My Desire
Ko Ko Mo
Mop Mop
When the Saints Go Marchin' In

Ah ha, notice the new entry? Indeed, "Mack the Knife" is in...and it ain't leavin'! One month later, the All Stars did a broadcast from Australia that featured some of the above tunes but also two different ones, "Rockin' Chair" and "Royal Garden Blues," that we haven't seen since Europe.

And then there's the "Chicago Concert." Ah, the Great Chicago Concert, one of Louis's finest recorded nights of the 1950s. This was a special evening that featured a "50 Years of Jazz" segment that found Louis alternating with a script read by Helen Hayes. Thus, this isn't the kind of show that represented the norm so I won't share every track. But there's some interesting things here. In December 1955, Louis did a session in Milan, Italy for George Avakian's "Ambassador Satch" record. Avakian recorded it in a theater and invited a bunch of Italian fans to give it a live atmosphere but for the finished produced, Avakian added fake applause to give it more of a live feel. Because of this, Avakian treated Milan like a recording session and had the band try some different material. Surprisingly--or not--a lot of it stuck and the "Chicago Concert" featured "West End Blues," "Tiger Rag," "Clarinet Marmalade" and "The Faithful Hussar," all done in Milan (another Milan selected, left off the album, was an instrumental take on "You Can Depend On Me" that also joined the live repertoire during the same time). The "Chicago Concert" also added "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and a medley of "Tenderly" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" to the fold, along with many songs left out of the "single set" shows: "Sunny Side of the Street," "Black and Blue," "Struttin With Some Barbecue," "Rockin' Chair" and "Basin Street Blues."

Summertime is festival season and Columbia recorded Louis at the Newport Jazz Festival, another similar "single set" show ("The Gypsy," "Bucket," "Tin Roof," "Ole Miss" and "Mack" in place) but Edmond Hall added "You Made Me Love You" as a neat feature and new bassist Dale Jones trotted out "Whispering." I'm going to save this set list for a little later (I know, I know, how long is this thing going on?). Also, before a concert at Lewisohn Stadium in July, George Avakian recorded a rehearsal in which he asked for some different songs. The All Stars complied with "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and "Mahogany Hall Stomp." If you've been with me since part one, "Mahogany Hall Stomp" was a staple during the early years but really disappeared between 1951 and 1956....or so it seems (obvious reminder that I haven't heard everything). In May 1956, the All Stars played in England and Louis dedicated "Mahogany Hall Stomp" to Princess Margaret, making headlines around the world for the way he dispensed with protocol. Well, Louis couldn't resist that kind of publicity and "Mahogany Hall" made a comeback around this time.

I know it seems like I'm going concert by concert but then the bottom dropped out. Louis stopped recording for Columbia and stayed out of Europe until 1959. It was time for the one-nighters...and alas, time for us to lose track of the All Stars. Leave it to the United States; goodness knows Louis was a popular entertainer and played to sold out audiences 300 nights a year but American audiences kind of took him for granted and didn't feel the need to record and bootleg his every move like the Europeans did. Thus, there is only one known complete set list from July 1956 until Hall left the band in June 1958! But what a set list it is! It's the high school concert in Hinsdale, IL that I discussed in "Listening to the Book: Chapter 11" and included pictures from in my book. This show survives in complete form and what's beautiful about it is it's the real one-nighter show: no Newport, no Columbia Records, no gimmick, no two shows in one day. THIS is the real representation of what the All Stars did night in and night out:

Hinsdale, IL, March 27, 1957FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (opening theme)
Indiana
The Gypsy
Ole Miss
Blueberry Hill
High Society Calypso
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Perdido
Sweet Georgia Brown
Riff Blues (bass feature)
Mack the Knife
Tenderly/You'll Never Walk Alone
Stompin' at the Savoy
Margie
Velma's Blues
That's My Desire
Ko Ko Mo
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
SECOND SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
When the Saints Go Marchin' In
C'est Si Bon
La Vie En Rose
The Faithful Hussar
Muskrat Ramble
Clarinet Marmalade
St. Louis Blues
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

THAT, my friends, is a show and that's what Louis Armstrong did for most of his 300 nights a year on the road. That first set is 90 minutes long! And we have something new: "High Society Calypso," part of the soundtrack to the film "High Society" and another new mainstay. "The Faithful Hussar" is also firmly in place in the second set. And other bits of pacing are taking place: Louis began almost always following bass features with "Mack the Knife"...and if he had time, he'd follow "Mack" with the "Tenderly/You'll Never Walk Alone" medley. I always wondered if that was on purpose. Bass features can sometimes be a little drowsy and maybe Louis figured that his big hit "Mack" would stir up the crowd. But you have to remember that "Mack the Knife" was met with some controversy when it came out as critics fretted that the bloodthirsty lyrics would incite violence in teenagers listeners. Thus, I wonder if the "Tenderly" medley was Louis's way to calm down the crowd. Just a thought.

But that second set is almost all Louis. As "Ambassador Satch," he was more known than ever before for his global travels. Therefore, a segment was born where he'd play his two French numbers, "C'est Si Bon" and "La Vie En Rose," then announce he was "stepping over into Germany" for "The Faithful Hussar." Couple that with his "trip to New Orleans" segment in the first set with "Tin Roof" and "Bucket" and Armstrong's shows were becoming little "A Man and His Music"-type revues. Oh, and Louis played on every single number in Hinsdale. Every one. Every feature. A two-and-a-half hour show.

A few months later, it was back to Newport, the scene of "High Society" so it was natural for Louis to pull out "Now You Has Jazz" and the "High Society Calypso." The movie--and both songs--proved to be so popular, they'd be a mainstay in almost every All Stars show for the next eight years. Now I'll go back and share the Newport 1956 set and then the 1957 set so if you attended both shows, you can tell some differences.

Newport Jazz Festival, July 6, 1956
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Indiana
The Gypsy
Bugle Blues/Ole Miss
Tin Roof Blues
My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Perdido
You Made Me Love You
Whispering
Mack the Knife
Stompin' at the Savoy
Undecided
Velma's Blues
Ko Ko Mo
Mop Mop
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

Newport Jazz Festival, July 4, 1957
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Indiana
Now You Has Jazz
High Society Calypso
Mahogany Hall Stomp
Blue Moon
Sweet Georgia Brown
Riff Blues
Mack the Knife
Lazy River
Stompin' at the Savoy
You Can Depend On Me
Ko Ko Mo
Star-Spangled Banner

Except for "Sleepy Time" and "Indiana," the drum feature "Stompin' at the Savoy" and Velma's "Ko Ko Mo," it's a completely different show (even each all Star plays a different feature from the previous year). And I hope you're noticing all the new stuff that's entered since I started this thesis. Never mind the reappearing of old favorites like "Mahogany Hall" or "Lazy River." I'm talking about stuff that was not in the All Stars's book in late 1955 but was firmly in place by 1957: the "High Society" numbers, "Mack the Knife," "The Faithful Hussar" stepping out of France, the instrumental "You Can Depend On Me," "Clarinet Marmalade" and more.

This is the first time we see "Mahogany Hall Stomp" in a live show and it wouldn't be the last as Louis spent much of 1957 playing the hell out of it to tie it into the Princess Margaret story. And without going into all the complete sets, more 1957 broadcasts featured different songs each time out: the Orpheum Theater on September 7, 1957 had the "Tenderly/You'll Never Walk Alone" medley, "Mahogany Hall," "Rockin' Chair," "Baby It's Cold Outside," "C'est Si Bon" and "La Vie En Rose," to name a few. In Buenos Aires in November of that year, "Tiger Rag" became a fixture, "I Get Ideas" was reintroduced and there were some songs we've barely encountered in this period like "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street"; "Lazy River" was back for a short broadcast from Canada in January 1958.

And speaking of Canada, one of my favorite Armstrong discs was of a show from North Bay, Ontario from May 16, 1958, one which I wrote about in my last "Listening to the Book" post...and accidentally provided a link to a non-existent product as this disc has become almost impossible to find, I'm sad to report. It's not a complete release but rather about 75 minutes from what seemed to be a THREE set show. And it included some more things that we haven't seen too often like "Muskrat Ramble" (which was played at only two of all the shows I've discussed in this post), "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" (heard only in the rehearsal George Avakian recorded from Lewisohn Stadium in July 1956), "Ain't Misbehavin'" (only in Buenos Aires and no where else), "You Can Depend On Me" (not Trummy's first choice as a feature but always special when it popped up), "Basin Street Blues" (big in '55, but then absent through most of the 1956 and 1957 sets) and the biggest surprise of all: a live-by-request version of "Long Gone (From Bowlin' Green)" that is completely loose and improvised and dwarfs the original version from "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy."

But that would be that for this magnificent version of the All Stars (now featuring Mort Herbert on bass and Danny Barcelona on drums since early 1958). One month later, a bitter Edmond Hall quit the band and wasted no time in running to the press to tell them that playing the same songs every night was driving him mad and that Louis's inability to take a vacation had worn him down. I'm sure that grind could wear anyone down (except Louis it seemed--Louis had some comments of his own after Hall left that made it clear that he viewed Hall as something of a wimp). And I'm sure "Sleepy Time" and "Indiana" and some of the others could get a little maddening (but again, never to Louis). But I do think saying they played the same show every night was a cop-out.

Again, I wasn't there and maybe if someone found the other 300 shows performed each year during this period, there'd be a lot of similar shows. But I'm a scientific guy and the above shows discussed represent a wide-ranging sampling of shows performed from 1955 to 1958, sometimes days apart, sometimes weeks apart, sometimes months apart but with enough examples, I think, to be representative of what this band did night after night. And the facts are that this band never played the same show twice. If you went to see them in Sweden in 1952 and went back in 1955, you got a completely different show. If you went to see them in Newport in 1956 and went back again in 1957, you got a completely different show. And my usual test: scan all the above lists and look at what's missing. Damn, there's only two "Blueberry Hills" and zero versions of "A Kiss to Build a Dream On"! Weren't those songs Louis played every night? And how about the ones that pop up only occasionally like "Someday You'll Be Sorry," "Pretty Little Missy" or "Lazy River"?

This is just my long-winded way of hammering home the point that the All Stars had a large book, especially during the Edmond Hall years. I just scanned all of the above and came up with 58 different songs (including features) that are known to have been played by the band in this period. Oops, 59, as I keep forgetting about "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," which was played during a short broadcast from Basin Street that I didn't mention. Consider that a long, two-set show like Hinsdale featured 27 different numbers and a typical single-set one like Newport featured around 15, there were a LOT of songs not being performed every night.

But still, Edmond Hall left and was immediately replaced by Peanuts Hucko just in time for another set at Newport in 1958. This would be a longer set as it featured a special reunion with Jack Teagarden and Bobby Hackett towards the end, but please scroll up and refresh yourself with Louis's 1956 and 1957 Newport sets. Now here is what was played in 1958, with small annotations by yours truly:

Newport Jazz Festival, July 6, 1958
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (naturally)
Pretty Little Missy (new to Newport; no Indiana!)
Lazy River (1957 only)
Tiger Rag (new to Newport)
Now You Has Jazz (1957 only)
High Society Calypso (1957 only)
Ole Miss (1956 only, but in a different arrangement)
Girl of My Dreams (new, Billy Kyle feature)
After You've Gone (new, Peanuts Hucko feature)
These Foolish Things (new, Mort Herbert feature)
Mack the Knife (played at both 1956 and 1957 shows)
Tenderly/You'll Never walk Alone (new to Newport)
Stompin' at the Savoy (played at both 1956 and 1957 shows)
Undecided (1956 only)
St. Louis Blues (new to Newport)
Ko Ko Mo (played at both 1956 and 1957 shows)
When the Saints Go Marchin' In (new to Newport)
Rockin' Chair (new to Newport)
Baby Won't You Please Come Home (new to Newport)
Pennies from Heaven (new to Newport)
When the Saints Go Marchin' In (new to Newport)
Star Spangled Banner (closed in 1957)

Only four songs were repeated in each of 1956, 1957 and 1958 shows. 12 songs were never performed at the previous shows--like "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." Now there's a song everyone thinks that Louis played nightly but the set lists prove otherwise. It was called only occasionally in the early years of the band. Then around 1955, it became a popular second set opener, but didn't always make the single set show. But finally, at this stage in 1958, it was moved to closer and that's where it remained for many years. But it took 11 years for it to get there....

With Hucko aboard, there aren't many set lists from the rest of 1958 to discuss. There is one from Monterey that makes an interesting comparison but Louis was having chops trouble that night so he stretched out some of the sideman features and chose to skip some high-octane trumpet features, whereas in Newport, he was in superhuman form. Still, Monterey featured "Indiana," "Blueberry Hill," "Bucket's Got a Hole In It," "Perdido," "Autumn Leaves" (a Hucko feature) and "That's My Desire," none of those played at Newport.

But we're going to end where we began today, with the All Stars back in Europe, this time in 1959. Truthfully, I could have done an entire post analyzing the 1959 sets since the Europeans (God bless 'em) were so diligent in recording Louis frequently. But I won't (a cheer goes up from the crowd) because like the 1955 tour, Louis brought a set to Europe that worked and kept a lot of it intact night after night, but still managed to change things up and never put on the same show twice. So let's start out with our friends in Sweden. I started by showing a set from 1952 and then followed that up with one from 1955. Let's see what the All Stars did during another two-set show in Stockholm on January 16, 1959, once again with my little notes about what had and hadn't been played there prior.

Stockholm, Sweden, January 16, 1959
FIRST SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South (naturally at both)
Indiana (both)
Basin Street Blues (both, but a Trummy feature in 1952 and a little faster during the second set in 1955)
Tiger Rag (new)
Now You Has Jazz (new)
High Society Calypso (new)
Ole Miss (new)
All the Things You Are (Billy Kyle feature, new)
Perdido (1955 Billy Kyle feature)
Autumn Leaves (Peanuts Hucko feature, new)
After You've Gone (Hucko feature; interestingly also a clarinet feature in 1952, that time for Bob McCracken)
I Cover the Waterfront (Mort Herbert feature, new)
Ol' Man River (Herbert feature with Louis vocal, new)
Mack the Knife (new)
Stompin' at the Savoy (both)
SECOND SET
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Royal Garden Blues (1955 only)
Sweet Georgia Brown (Billy Kyle piano feature, new)
I Get Ideas (new)
These Foolish Things (Mort Herbert bass feature, new)
Tenderly/You'll Never Walk Alone (new)
The Faithful Hussar (new)
Undecided (Trummy Young feature, new)
St. Louis Blues (1955 only)
Ko Ko Mo (1955 only)
When the Saints Go Marchin' In 1955 only)

Plenty of new material since 1955; hell, the "High Society" number, "Mack the Knife" and "The Faithful Hussar" didn't even exist at the time of the previous Swedish tour (well, "Mack" had been recorded but Louis forgot about it until he got back to the United States). And that's a good representative show from this tour, though the second set is a little longer than most. This tour was a killer, lasting from January to June and featuring almost two shows every day and some ridiculous distances to travel. Louis wasn't getting any younger and though he continued to play in incredible form during this tour (check out those "Tiger Rag" blogs I did about the 1959 versions), he now allowed his sidemen to double up on their features; hell, Mort Herbert got three in the above show (though one did feature Louis heavily, including a vocal). And thus, a pattern was set up for much of the 1959 tour. Allow me to quote myself on the subject from a 2009 blog:

First Set
*Pops would feature himself on five in a row: "Sleepy Time," "Indiana," "Basin Street Blues," "Tiger Rag" and "Now You Has Jazz," the latter with a shared vocal with Trummy Young
*To pace himself, he'd call Billy Kyle out for two features, the first usually not needing the trumpet. In Amsterdam, he played "Girl of My Dreams" and "Sweet Georgia Brown."
*Then it would be time for Peanuts Hucko to play two, usually "Autumn Leaves" (no Pops) and a barn-burner such as "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" (a lot of Pops)
*After the features, Pops would step back into the spotlight and do something like "I Get Ideas"
*Mort Herbert would then do two features, both featuring Louis, who would usually play the melody on Herbert's first and sing "Old Man River" for Herbert's second outing
*Then Pops would excite the crowd with "Mack the Knife" and calm them down with his medley of "Tenderly" and "You'll Never Walk Alone"
*Wanting to excite them again, Pops would close the set with a Danny Barcelona drum feature on "Stompin' At The Savoy"

Second Set
*These would be much short but were usually very heavy on Pops. He'd open with an instrumental "Sleepy Time" before playing a hot instrumental, usually "Struttin' With Some Barbecue"
*Then it would be time for either requests or just something different. On the 1959 tour, this slot was occupied by "La Vie En Rose," "C'est Si Bon," "Faithful Hussar," "Muskrat Ramble," "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and others.
*Velma Middleton would follow with a long version of "St. Louis Blues" and "Ko Ko Mo," both featuring Pops
*"When The Saints Go Marchin' In" would always close the show on a high note

So that's pretty much how the 1959 tour went but there's also some little oddities like Louis and Velma singing "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" or request versions of "Black and Blue" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." Interestingly, "Blueberry Hill" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" still don't show up very often, if at all.

That's how Louis and the All Stars progressed through Europe in 1959. But after a brief spell in New York, they flew right back to Italy at the end of June and that's when Louis had his heart attack in Spoleto, Italy. I'll return to the "Listening to the Book' series to take you through an audio tour of post-Spoleto, early 60s Louis and then come back in a few weeks to analyze the early 60s All Stars sets, which, for the first time, did begin featuring much repetition as many of the old, demanding favorites started getting retired, one at a time. But as usual, thanks for putting up with my nonsense and if you found any of this even slightly useful or interesting, thanks!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 12

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"
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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!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gösta Hägglöf's Collection Comes to the Louis Armstrong House Museum!

I started this blog back in July 2007 and wrote for pretty much myself for the first month or so. But finally, on August 30 of that year, I received an e-mail from a very important person, Gösta Hägglöf, the Swedish oracle of all things Armstrong-related and a man I had always admired through his tireless work in running Ambassador Records, a non-profit label devoted to some of Louis's least known works. With that e-mail we were off and running, and traded e-mails almost weekly until Hagglof's health took a turn for the worse at the end of 2008. He passed away in March of 2009 and I immediately composed this
blog about both him and my relationship with him during the final year-and-a-half about his life.

Gus, as I called him, had spent decades of his life giving gifts to Armstrong fans: the Ambassador series, live concerts, projects such as recording Louis's 50 Hot Choruses with Bent Persson, etc. Well, he had one final gift left him: his will dictated that his entire Armstrong collection would move from Sweden to New York and be made available to researchers at the Louis Armstrong House Museum!

If you've been with me long enough to know about my relationship with Gus, you probably know that I am currently the Archivist for the Armstrong House (just celebrated my two-year anniversary last week). This past March, our Director Michael Cogswell and our Museum Manager, Baltsar Beckeld (who conveniently happened to be Swedish), traveled to Sweden to meet with Gus's brother Janne and some of his friends (no strangers to this blog as they're some of the top Armstrong experts in the world....hello Peter, Sven-Olof and Håkan!) and pack up Gus's monumental collection. 45 boxes later, it was put on a ship and sent on a slow boat to Queens. It finally arrived towards the end of the summer and I've spent much time trying to arrange, preserve and catalog all of Gus's records, tapes, CDs, videos, DVDs, photos, papers, discographical information, letters (including letters from Louis) and so much more. Already, I have found things there that are simply mind-blowing. It will all be made available to researchers who can make it out to Queens while details will soon start infiltrating the online catalog of the Louis Armstrong House Museum (which has grown tremendously since we launched it last December....go to http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/collections/online_catalog.htmto start searching!).

But instead of me going on and on about it, I'll, well, still let myself do it, as I want to share video Michael Steinman shot of a 25-minute presentation I gave on the Hagglof Collection a press party back in September. In it, I talk all about Gus's life and share some of the new treasures we've acquired at the House....including part of "Satchmo at Symphony Hall," which Hagglof had in COMPLETE form! Here's part 1:

And part 2:


And here's a link to Michael's blog on the subject.

That's all for now, good friends, I just wanted to keep the world posted that the Louis Armstrong House Museum has acquired another major Armstrong Collection and it's that of an old friend of mine, and this blog's. It will be an honor to work with it, that's for sure. Oh, and I should let you know that we are also selling all of Hagglof's Ambassador CDs, including some of the rarest ones like "At the Cotton Club" and "In Philadelphia" at the Armstrong House....the only place in the world you'll find them! Have you booked your trip to Corona yet?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Listening to the Book: Spotify Edition

I interrupt my slow but steady process of providing audio links for most of my book's major musical moments to provide another, quicker, faster, and even hipper way to hear of the book's musical high points in one place. That place is Spotify and if you haven't checked out Spotify yet, you're missing out (no, I am not endorsed or paid by the Spotify people). In case you're unaware, Spotify is a music library comprised of thousands and thousands of songs that you can listen to...for absolutely free. You can burn anything to disc or put it on your Ipod, but you can listen to it on your computer or smart phone--my phone is still one of the dumber varieties so that latter doesn't apply to me but I do use it at work religiously, eliminating my Itunes library, Pandora and other ways I've used to play music at my desk.

(Quick example: last week I listened to a ton of the Jo Jones centennial fest on WKCR. It was great but I wanted to hear some of the rarer stuff again. I typed "Jo Jones" into Spotify and all sorts of good stuff came up that I did not own: his Black and Blue recordings, his duet album with Milt Hinton, an album with Sweets Edison, all his Vanguard recordings, you name it! Got to listen to it all for free. Not bad, right?)

Well, the good folks at Pantheon, my publisher, have decided to jump on the Spotify bandwagon and recently began asking authors to comb through the Spotify library to come up with relevant playlists to go with their books. I was thrilled to do this and jumped in head first....emerging an hour later with a playlist that featured 130 songs.

At that point, I realized other authors were handing in 10, 12 songs, so I didn't want to go overboard (like I normally do). So I went with 25 and made a conscious decision to avoid the big hits and anything else that's on a popular CD titled The Definitive Collection, which has the hits ("Hello, Dolly," "What a Wonderful World") but also some personal favorites like the 1953 Decca version of "Someday You'll Be Sorry" and the masterpiece from the "Autobiography," "When You're Smiling." That entire release is on Spotify so, since it's all free to begin with, I left it alone.

So what did I choose? A little of everything: "Rockin' Chair" from Town Hall, "Muskrat Ramble" from Symphony Hall (Sid!), the Gordon Jenkins arrangement of "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," a gorgeous "Pennies from Heaven" from Stockholm, a track from the new "Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl" release, a crazy nine-minute "Tiger Rag" from Copenhagen, "Black and Blue" from East Berlin, Louis singing "Dimmi, Dimmi, Dimmi" in Italian, tracks with Ella ("Stompin' at the Savoy"), Duke ("Azalea") and Dave Brubeck ("They Say I Look Like God"), as well as the Dukes of Dixieland ("Avalon")....the list goes on and on but all I can say is, download Spotify (did I mention it's free) then check out the playlist which is mentioned in this Pantheonstory and tell me what you think! The chapter-by-chapter recaps will resume shortly but definitely check out the Spotify playlist if you can because it really has a little bit of everything and demonstrates what a musical force Pops still was in those later years. Thanks

Friday, October 7, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, is a pretty dramatic one, focusing on offstage events such as the bomb that went off during an Armstrong concert in Knoxville, Armstrong's blowup backstage at Newport and of course, his Little Rock comments that shocked the world. Thus, this post won't have the seemingly endless supply of audio links like my previous one...but don't worry, there's still plenty for me to share.

I want to open up with something special and something that's not even mentioned in the book...technically. Towards the end of the writing process, I received an e-mail from Dan Morgenstern saying he was cleaning off his desk at the Institute of Jazz Studies and he found two cassette tapes of a previously unknown All Stars concert at a high school gymnasium in Hinsdale, Illinois on March 25, 1957. He graciously copied the material for me. The next sound you heard was my mind being blown to bits. This, to me, was the motherlode. Sure, there were plenty of great Armstrong concerts released in the past but a lot of them were either big occasions (Pasadena, Symphony Hall, Newport, etc.) or ones that were being recorded for major labels (the Crescendo Club, the "Ambassador Satch" sessions). Not Hinsdale; this was a one-nighter, a typical two-and-a-half hour show that the All Stars gave night in and night out. And it is so spirited and Louis is on such fire that it is simply stunning to wrap your mind around the fact that this is really how the band performed every night. Early in this chapter, I have some beautiful quotes from a David Halberstam profile of Louis from this period. In them, Louis talks about not even thinking about retiring. When listening to Hinsdale, it's clear to see why; this is a man blowing at the absolute peak of his powers. (And if you have my book, you've probably enjoyed three photos taken by Swiss photographer Milan Schijatschky, as well as the image on the back cover of the book. That's an incredible story for another occasion....)

I would love to sit here and share everything recorded that evening in Hinsdale but I have hopes that a record label might want to do something with it if I make enough of a fuss, so please understand my decision to only share one track right now. But whatta track! It's "Ole Miss" and it really captures the Armstrong-Trummy Young-Edmond Hall front line at their peak. It's a tremendously exciting performance as is but what brings it to the next level are the encores, each one finding Louis playing with more intensity and ending on even higher notes. Must be heard to be believed....and again, this is just a typical one-nighter at a high school, Louis and the All Stars not even thinking they were being recorded and that this would be being shared 54 years later.



See what I mean? I've been giving a ton of Armstrong lectures since the book came out and I always like to include a tribute to the Armstrong-Young-Hall edition of the All Stars. The encores on this performance have become my go-to choice. But before I discovered Hinsdale, I used to use "Mahogany Hall Stomp" from Newport in 1957 and (perfect transition!) that's what is up next. The book has all the dirt about what happened backstage that day at Newport. But onstage, it was business as usual....meaning hold on to your hats, this is more ridiculously exciting stuff:



My goodness, someone's going to call the police if I keep sharing such incendiary music. But why stop now? We bid adieu to the All Stars and turn our attention to Louis's main activity from the summer of 1957, recording for Norman Granz. First up was the dynamite "Ella and Louis Again." I've never done a blog on "Stompin' at the Savoy" but it's one of my all-time favorite moments in civilization. Dig it:




For that album, Ella and Louis also got to stretch out on some solo numbers. Louis really shined on "I Get a Kick Out of You":


I did an in-depth blog about that performance after Louie Bellson died. Check it out here: I Get a Kick Out of You blog

After the sessions with Ella, Norman Granz surrounded Louis with the big bands and strings of Russell Garcia's orchestra. Unfortunately, the sessions were in Los Angeles....while Louis was performing with the All Stars nightly in Las Vegas. This took a toll on Pops's chops, forcing him to eliminate a lot of trumpet solos. When he did play, he didn't concede anything, but it was clear that it hurt. On Verve's 1999 reissue, they included a lot of alternate takes and breakdowns. "Stormy Weather" is one of my favorites from these sessions and on one take, you can hear Louis pushing through the pain, flying high...until after the bridge, he plays a painful air note. No panic, Granz just called for an insert take to begin at the bridge and then Pops nailed it. Granz edited it together and made a great master take....but I'm sharing the breakdown and the insert so you can really hear what Pops was up against:



Weeks later, Louis's chops returned just in time for another seminal LP, this of of "Porgy and Bess" tunes, once more with Ella Fitzgerald. The height of their "whipped cream and sandpaper" interplay, for me, is "Bess, You Is My Woman Now":



And Louis's shining moment on the album--and really, a shining moment in his career--is his solo take on "Oh Bess, Where's My Bess." This is the one that even stunned Ira Gershwin in its beauty and emotion. Time for chills....




And that's really it from a musical perspective, as the rest of the chapter focuses on Louis and Little Rock. But if you, dear reader, have been gracious enough to pick up my book and enjoyed some of the themes in this chapter, let me point you to two new essential works both written by friends of mine who happen to be excellent writers and researchers. First off, there's Tad Hershorn's Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice which I, and the rest of the jazz community, has been looking forward to for years. And David Margolick's brand new Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock has a whole segment on Louis and Little Rock, since David was the guy who found Larry Lubenow and really added a whole new dimension to this classic tale. So please check out Tad and David's works....but if you're still holding on to mine, don't go anywhere, I'll have plenty more good tunes to share in just a few days as I head towards chapter 12.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Listening to the Book: Chapter 10

If you know anything about me or my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, then you probably know that I'm a bit of a fan of the music of Louis Armstrong's last 25 years. But pin me down in a corner and ask me to name just one favorite period and I'd probably have to select the six or seven months covered in chapter 10 of the book, which begin with one high point (the June 1 Chicago Concert), end with another (Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography) and is crammed with other incredible moments such as the first Ella and Louis album, a concert at Lewisohn Stadium with Leonard Bernstein and many other incredible nights by the All Stars. Needless to say, this is going to be a post very heavy with audio links....

As promised, this chapter begins with a night so legendary that all you have to do is say the words Chicago Concert to an unsuspecting Armstrong fan, and be prepared for an obsessive, emotional, passionate tirade that will only end when said Armstrong nut leaves to go listen to it again. Of course, if you know the backstory, it's kind of a miracle that we even got to hear this music in the first place. George Avakian had recorded it for Columbia but not sensing any different material or anything special about it, he let it languish in the vault...until producer Michael Brooks stumbled across it in 1980 and immediately issued it on a 2-LP set with incredible notes by Dan Morgenstern. George himself contributed more backstory--and a couple of extra tracks--when he reissued the concert on CD in 1997 as The Great Chicago Concert (still in print and modestly priced as a download).

I've long argued that this edition of the All Stars--with that front line of Louis, Trummy Young and Edmond Hall--was the best and the "Chicago Concert" captures one of their finest evenings (I only know of one other that might top it, and that's completely unissued and not listed in any discographies, an evening in Hinsdale, Illinois in 1957...maybe one day it will see the light of day!). I've come back to the "Chicago Concert" many times in this blog, thus, I have plenty of good material to choose from. But really, check it out in full if you want to to hear the whole thing--then visit me at the Armstrong Archives for the full story as we have Helen Hayes's script (written by Jack Tracy), an original concert program, correspondence between George Avakian and Joe Glaser about the concert, Louis's signed contract with Avakian and--something that still makes me sweat when I see it--Louis's set list, handwritten by the man himself in green ink on the back of an envelope. (Though even I haven't gone as far as the great clarinetist Pete Martinez, who made the pilgrimage out to the site of Chicago's Medinah Temple....which, by the time he got there, was turned into a Bloomingdale's.)

Enough from me, these posts are supposed to be about listening (I just wanted to convey my love for this concert as again, a lengthy, breathless description of it ended up, for the most part, on the cutting room floor). These are all tunes I've covered in full in other blogs so you want to read the backstory, just Google the tune title and my name and you should be good. Let's start with "West End Blues."



And how about a little "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," my favorite version:



"On the Sunny Side of the Street":



A medley of "Tenderly" and "You'll Never Walk Alone":



And how about a little "Back Home Again in Indiana":


To me, that version of "Indiana" might be the definitive one. To see what I place it and how it falls into the history of Louis's versions of the tune, be sure to check out my magnum opus on "Indiana" here.

In July 1956, Louis did a major concert at Lewisohn Stadium. George Avakian recorded the concert (still unreleased! Come on, Sony!!!!) as well as a rehearsal, in which he had Louis play some different things such as "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," a version of "Blueberry Hill" where Louis plays trumpet, and "Mahogany Hall Stomp." The latter turned out so hot that George added in some fake applause and added it to the "Satchmo the Great" soundtrack:



And speaking of "Satchmo the Great," that legendary Edward R. Murrow film climaxed with an Alfredo Antonini "concerto grosso" arrangement of "St. Louis Blues" performed the All Stars and the Lewisohn Stadium Symphony Orchestra (mostly made up of members of the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein). It's a magic moment; when I screened the footage at the Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans this past August, people went nuts. I can't do that here, but I can share the audio. Enjoy!


A few days before the Lewisohn Stadium concert, Louis sat down for a series of Voice of America interviews that I quote throughout the book. In one segment, Louis really expounded on issues of race, and especially his view that the black community was not sticking together to support the few superstars they had on top. For the entire context of this clip--and why Louis is defending Nat King Cole--you'd have to pick up the book, but even without it, I still think it's pretty damn interesting:




On the night of August 15, 1956, Louis took part in a Norman Granz extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl. He did a full set with the All Stars that remained locked away for 55 years but this year, it has been released TWICE, once on Universal's Satchmo: America's Musical Ambassador box and, more recently, on a Hip-O Select release of the entire concert, released simply as Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl. I have known this music for years but I picked up the Hip-O set and have not stopped listening to it. The packaging is beautiful and the sound quality flawless (great notes by Bob Porter, too!). But really, it's about the music and if you can find a greater assemblage of talent in one evening (particularly one that was recorded in full), let me know. I've admitted this in the past, probably to the distress of some friends, but I'm a Jazz at the Philharmonic/Norman Granz junkie, so this concert really speaks to me, with a jam session featuring Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Illinois Jacquet, Flip Phillips, the Oscar Peterson trio and Buddy Rich. But that's followed by a solo set by Art Tatum, shortly before his passing. Then a set by Ella Fitzgerald. then one by the Petersons. Then maybe the finest single set by the All Stars ever recorded. Then Louis and Ella duet. Then EVERYBODY jams "The Saints." Sweating yet!? Go out and get it! (Or since there aren't places to go to buy these things any more, just order it!).

Louis knew that some of the biggest names in jazz were waiting backstage, listening in on old Satchmo to see what he could still do. Louis always brought his "A" game but on this night, he brought his "A+," definitely sending a message to everyone else present. Again, you really must listen to the whole set to get the full experience, but here's a taste. Here's "The Gypsy:


And here's perhaps my favorite version of "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It." Watch out for those encores!




The very next day, Armstrong and Fitzgerald went into a Los Angeles studio and recorded the entire first Verve Ella and Louis album (can you image cutting a single album in one day?). Somehow, I haven't covered that embarrassment of riches very often on the blog, but I will share my two favorite numbers from that date right now. Here's a sublime "Stars Fell on Alabama" with absolutely chilling harmonizing:




And a gorgeous version of "The Nearness of You"--this was the first take, folks!




Okay, this post is long enough to be a book of its own, and I've only covered about two months of music. Let's skip to December 1956....and it's about to get a whole lot longer! I spend a lot of time in this chapter writing about a Hungarian Relief benefit concert Louis did in London with a group of British musicians and a symphony conducted by Norman Del Mar. The entire concert turned to shambles--and I detail every grisly detail in chapter 10--but the music itself is absolutely stunning; just last week, Dan Morgenstern and I were talking about how it really should be issued commercially. Perhaps one reason it hasn't been is the sound quality; this ain't hi-fi. But listen through it for some remarkable moments. Here's "West End Blues" again:




And one of my favorite moments of Louis's later years--if not his entire career--"Lonesome Road." If you're scrolling through this post and only have time to listen to one sound clip, make it this one:



The Hungarian Relief concert took place in the middle of a month of sessions Louis made for Decca that resulted in Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography. Anybody who has been to the blog knows my feelings for this masterful work. One reviewer gave my book a knock because of excessive cheerleading (he hadn't been to the blog), complaining that I used seven different superlatives to describe one session. That sessions was the Autobiography and that reviewer has obviously never listened to it....I could have used 70 and it wouldn't have been enough! I won't say any more, but because I've written about so many tracks before, I have plenty of audio to share. Call out of work and turn the speakers up; here's some of the best of the Autobiography, starting with "On the Sunny Side of the Street":


And here's a link to my original blog that featured a discussion of this version (all of these links will include the links to my original blogs that dealt with the songs): On the Sunny Side of the Street blog

"Memories of You":


Full blog: Memories of You blog

This version of "Dear Old Southland" got an entire blog devoted to it: Dear Old Southland blog

"Song of the Islands":


Full blog: Song of the Islands


"Hotter Than That":

Full blog: Hotter Than That blog

The epic "When You're Smiling":


Full blog: When You're Smiling blog

"Knockin' a Jug":


Full blog: Knockin' a Jug blog

"I Can't Give You Anything But Love":

Full blog: I Can't Give You Anything But Love blog

Phew....that should keep you satisfied for now, but I know, no "King of the Zulus," "Wild Man Blues," "Them There Eyes," "You Rascal You,"...check out the whole album!

As soon as the "Autobiography" sessions ended, Louis recorded a more "commercial" album, Louis and the Angels. I was forced to edit some coverage of this one in the book, to the point that some friends wrote to me to say they got the impression that this wasn't one of my favorites. Nothing could be further from the truth; I think it's one of the most underrated Armstrong albums ever made. I've been sharing clips from it all week on Facebook and I usually include something from it in my book lectures because the "commercial" nature has scared away so many jazz fans, they've missed some of Louis's most impassioned playing. For example, here's "Angela Mia":


See? And to close, my blog on this song, with a very personal story about this song's effect on two of my interns: Angela Mia blog

And that is that! Wow, that's a lot of music...but what a period for Pops! Hope you dug it all and for those reading along, extra special thanks. I'll let this percolate for a while and will be back in a few days with more book-related audio, as well as a major announcement from the Louis Armstrong House Museum about our newest collection. Till then!