Friday, January 27, 2012

80 Years of All of Me and Home

Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
Recorded January 27, 1932
Track Time 3:04
"All of Me" written by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks
"Home" Written by Harry Clarkson, Jeff Clarkson and Peter Van Steeden
Recorded in Chicago
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Zilner Randolph, trumpet; Preston Jackson, trombone; Lester Boone, George James, alto saxophone; Albert Washington, tenor saxophone; Charlie Alexander, piano; Mike McKendrick, guitar; John Lindsay, bass; Tubby Hall, drums
Originally released on OKeh 41552
Currently available on CD: The Big Band Recordings, a two-volume set on the JSP label that collects Armstrong’s OKeh big band material from 1930 to 1932
Available on Itunes? Yes

Here we go again with two more great tracks recorded 80 years ago today, "All of Me" and "Home." "All of Me" was still pretty brand new when Louis got to in on January 27, 1932. Written by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks of Detroit, legend has it that it was introduced by vaudeville star Belle Baker, who performed it shortly after her husband passed away and broke down in tears in the middle of her vocal, she was so overcome with emotion. Once that story hit the press, well, that's how standards are born, my friend.

I haven't done this in a while, but let's listen to some other early recordings of "All of Me," always a fun practice because when we get to Pops, it sounds like we're listening to someone from another planet. However, in the past, when I've shared other renditions of songs Pops did in this period, I usually do it to point and laugh at the other vocalists' dated song stylings. But "All of Me" attracted a hip crowd from the start. The first major hit recording was done by Paul Whiteman with a great vocal by Mildred Bailey:

The ill-fated crooner Russ Colombo also had a hit with the song in December 1931:

Here's Ruth Etting (with the rarely heard verse):

And okay, one more, Scrappy Lambert with Milt Britton's orchestra:

All of those versions were recorded at the end of 1931. America was in love with the song so it became a natural candidate for Pops to work his magic with. And work it he did. According to Joel Whitburn's "Pop Memories" charts, Louis had a number-one hit with his version of "All of Me," one of the biggest selling records of 1932. I don't know, everyone and his or her mother has recorded "All of Me" and I rarely hear it mentioned as an Armstrong tune (Frank gets a lot of credit but he was way later); let's try to change that! First step is to listen:

Yeah, just what I thought: those above records were fine (especially Mildred) but Louis really was from another planet in this period. It wouldn't be very long before the world caught on and everyone sounded like Louis but that was still a couple of years away.

But never mind the vocal, how about that opening trumpet solo? As discussed in my entry on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" the other day, when Louis had that Solotone (or cup) mute in, it gave him a license to double-time like he rarely did with an open horn; just hear what he does out of the bridge. Otherwise, he's very relaxed and swinging from the start, playing the melody straight for the first few bars and then going for himself almost immediately after. I mentioned that Dan Morgenstern has written that Charlie Parker must have listened to "Between the Devil"; he has also written that Lester Young must have enjoyed "All of Me"....I won't argue with either statement! Louis is so melodic and relaxed but he's also floating through the bar lines like Pres and the later 1930s soloists started doing regularly. It all comes from Pops....

Then there's the vocal....seriously, this man did it with the trumpet AND the voice? I know, I know, I'm gushing like it's the first time I realized this but I guess I feel the same way every time I listen to Louis, even if it's something I've heard a million times (like "All of Me"). Louis's "Mmmmm" moan that sets up the vocal is something we didn't hear from Scrappy Lambert. And then there's the melody...or should I say, what melody? Everybody knows the first three notes of "All of Me" descend, right? Louis didn't get the memo. His first two descend, but then he hops back up for the "me" and climbs even higher to deliver "why not take All of Me" on a single pitch, ending the phrase with a "babe" that plunges into the basement. A Satchel-mouthed "Oh" sets up the next set of lyrics, which he delivers fairly straight until he throws in a snatch of scat, an example of Louis singing lead AND the backup parts at the same time. He makes this aspect of his vocal even clearer after he sings "I want to lose them" and croons a low, descending three-note phrase on "Oh bay-bee" that is the perfect obligato to his own lead.

He trots out "Oh bay-bee" in a different, but no less effective, incarnation at the halfway point, which sets up one of the finest moments of the vocal, Louis in declamatory mode, barking out "Your good-bye" with so much passion, he sounds like he's about to explode. I could take this thing apart word for word but I'll quit before they have to hose me down. I will point out the other worldly moan that connects "eyes that cry" and "how can I"; Louis pronunciation of "dear"; and the joyous abandon of the final eight bars. Seriously, if I had to take eight bars of music to illustrate the genius of Armstrong the singer, those might be them. What a vocal!

Then it's time for a modulation and an open horn Armstrong takes the lead, still in a relaxed frame of mind but also with a touch of that operatic storytelling. He passes it to one of the saxophonists for the bridge but then swoops in to close out the record with some passionate high-register playing of the melody. A perfect high note at the end ends a perfect record. No wonder it went to number one, right?

(Louis wasn't done with "All of Me"; it became a vocal feature for Velma Middleton in the 1950s and he later recorded another definitive version on the "Ambassador Satch" album but I'll discuss those another day.)

The flip side of "All of Me" was "Home," a song written by the Dutch composer Peter Van Steeden along with (I’m supposing brothers) Harry and Jeff Clarkson. Van Steeden also led a dance band orchestra, becoming the first to wax his tune, recording it for Victor on November 25, 1931 in a lovely pop arrangement complete with a vocal by the always-busy singer, Dick Robertson. Fortunately, the record was uploaded onto YouTube so I’d like to share it right now. I have a soft spot for this stuff and I hope you do too:

Pretty charming, huh? But wait, there’s more. The song quickly became a hit and soon was being covered by the likes of Rudy Vallee. Vallee, as we know, was quite the Armstrong supporter, writing the forward to Armstrong’s first autobiography, Swing That Music, and asking Armstrong to take over as guest host for the Fleischmann’s Yeast radio program in 1937. Vallee recorded it as part of the “Hit of the Week” series, a short-lived (three Depression-fueled years) concept of one-sided lacquered cardboard discs of current pop songs. Here’s one YouTube video where the visual of a spinning record is pretty fascinating because it’s kind of amazing that a record like this could hold up 76 years later. Here’s Rudy:

Vallee’s record includes the beautiful verse, which will be discussed later in this article. Shall I keep going? Why not! I find this stuff fascinating and I think it gives added context to Armstrong’s music. You can listen to a disc of Armstrong all day or you could listen to just great jazz from this era, such as that by Duke Ellington, Red Allen, Luis Russell, Jack Teagarden and so many more. But when you listen to that stuff alongside of what was actually popular during the period, I think it makes the era come alive in a fuller fashion. You begin to appreciate the pop songs covered by jazz bands, the dance band touches in big band arrangements and the hot soloists in the popular, “straight” orchestras of the day. If you’re here for Armstrong and Armstrong only, scroll down a bit, but here’s a few more of my favorite versions of “Home,” all dating from sometime in 1932. Here’s a charming version by singing brothers Bob and Alf Pearson:

And finally, let us listen to our old pal Henry Hall and His Gleneagles Hotel Band, a popular British dance band that we originally encountered in my entry for “When Your Lover Has Gone.” This version might be my favorite of the pop related ones but it has a special meaning for horror movie buffs as it was used in the dream sequence in the 1980 classic, The Shining. Here ‘tis, sans Jack Nicholson…

All of the above are pretty popish, but “Home” had also infiltrated its way into jazzier hands by way of a Dorsey Brothers record from December 9, 1931, just two weeks after Van Steeden’s original, while Mildred Bailey recorded it with an orchestra led by Matty Malneck for a Bluebird record cut at the end of 1931. The Dorsey version isn’t available online, but here’s the always wonderful voice of Bailey:

Okay, you probably need a vacation after spending so much time “Home,” but don’t worry, the main event is here. Louis Armstrong, in his 1932 prime, tackling the sentimental tune:

Now after all those strings and weepy 1930s singers, the opening of Armstrong’s record of “Home” must have come as a jolt. The record opens with the band swinging, in New Orleans polyphonic fashion, the John Howard Payne chestnut from 1823 (now THAT’S a standard!), “Home Sweet Home.” For those who know their Armstrong history, it was an important song to Pops as it was the first one he learned how to play on his cornet. As he told it in a 1970 document, “After blowing into it a while I realized that I could play ‘Home Sweet Home’—then here come the Blues. From then on, I was a mess and Tootin away.” Really, has their ever been a better short summary of Louis Armstrong’s career? A popular song and the blues and the rest is history. So it’s nice hearing Armstrong playing the old melody, tearing it up as the band sounds quite relaxed and comfortable, as if they could have jammed on it for the allotted three minutes.

A very pretty interlude by pianist Charlie Alexander sets up Pop’s heartfelt vocal. The saxophones croon out the melody behind him in their best Lombardo fashion, which helps illustrate Armstrong’s genius as he phrases the beautiful melody at his own pace, from the very opening phrase where he inserts a couple of extra beats between “when” and “shadows fall.” He immediately sings the following line—“trees whisper day is ending”—in a completely different fashion from how it’s written. A better fashion, I should say as that next line always sounds unusual when sung straight (Jack Teagarden was defeated by it during one take of a 1944 Coleman Hawkins record, but he managed to rephrase it a la Pops on the second take).

Armstrong puts a lot of feeling into the titular word, but even he can’t resist a little “oh babe.” The intonation of the saxes might not be to everyone’s liking but dig bassist John Lindsay’s popping bass in between the A sections. Armstrong continues his conversational pace by inserting a spoken “now” before singing the next line, “when crickets fall” almost on one pitch, his voice literally falling on the word “fall.” And just listen to the ridiculous place he inserts “my heart.” While analyzing this record for blogging purposes, I paused it right before Armstrong sings those two words. When I un-paused it and heard the placement of those two words, it immediately led me to think of his trumpet playing which always featured phrases floating all over the bar line.

Armstrong continues onward, singing “once more to be returning” one pitch before singing the title word again, filling up the built-in space after with a slightly humorous, “Mmmm, Home.” Van Steeden’s bridge is the gem of the song and Armstrong clearly digs the minor harmonies. Really listen to the saxes playing the melody during this section and just try to hear if Armstrong is singing anything that remotely resembles it. His first phrase follows the arc of the melody, but he begins it a few beats late and he practically bubbles over when he gets to the “one by one” line, repeating it much as he would if he was playing the trumpet.

Again, like a typical Armstrong trumpet solo, Armstrong hit a climax of sorts with that “one by one” so he can’t retreat now. Thus, he approaches the final A section by singing all high notes, continuing the longing mood of the bridge, and really wringing a lot feeling from the word “all.” He winds down for a very sweet ending to the totally heartfelt and moving vocal. One could probably guess that Armstrong was thinking of New Orleans while singing the tune and goodness knows, that was always a recipe for beautiful music.

Alexander’s piano modulates setting up Pops’s entrance over a foot-pattin’ New Orleans beat laid down by the rhythm section. Lindsay’s thumping bass locks in with McKendrick’s tenor guitar sound and, together with Tubby Hall’s simple but steady drumming, creates a loping feeling that might not exactly sound like Count Basie, but is nevertheless pretty irresistible. Pops rides it beautifully, starting high and simple before some nice double-timing in bars six and seven. Armstrong heralds the second A section with two giant quarter notes, always an effective trick, coming after some busy playing. At the 1:57 mark, Armstrong goes high where the written melody goes low, hitting a bluesy, passionate high note that somehow meshes perfectly with the same note being played by one of the alto saxes. It could have clashed but it’s such a perfectly chosen note, it just adds to the drama of the proceedings.

Armstrong continues playing around the melody, as stated by the saxophones, before hitting the bridge. Unfortunately, instead of digging into the minor changes, Armstrong passes the ball to a saxophonist (Lester Boone?) who takes us from pathos to bathos. The saxophonist is all over his horn, showing up some very fleet-fingering but it disrupts the mood and every time he holds a note, it’s so corny, it’s almost laughable.

But have no fear, Pops is here, trampling over the saxophonist with three high A’s, announcing his presence and pointing the way for very passionate final eight bars, reaching its climax with a gliss to another high A at the 2:35 mark. Armstrong then takes off on a spectacular cadenza with shades of 1927 stop-time playing before the band drops out and Armstrong concludes with an operatic conclusion that’s brimming with bravado. Bravo, Pops!

Like many pop songs of the period, “Home” gradually disappeared in the ensuing years. Save the aforementioned Coleman Hawkins disc and I can’t find any other versions of the tune until Nat King Cole tackled it in 1950. Seven years later, our hero found himself in Norman Granz’s Los Angeles studios, recording a number of standards backed by either strings or a big band, all of it arranged by Russell Garcia. I’ve written about these sessions many times, focusing on Pops’s chops trouble. If you ever want to hear Pops at his most human, dig out these albums (I’ve Got the World On a String and Louis Under the Stars). Armstrong was overworked and Granz didn’t have a lot of time so he did his best with a damaged Armstrong. Leave it to Pops, though, to make the best of his problems, turning in many soulful solos that demonstrate just how hard it was being Louis Armstrong in 1957. The skyrocketing high notes of that year’s Autobiography project are missing. All that’s left is the soul of the man and fortunately, that was more than enough to make some timeless music.

Armstrong recreated a number of his old hits for the Garcia sessions, including “I’ve Got the World On a String,” “I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues,” “When Your Lover Has Gone” and “Body and Soul.” Interestingly, Gösta Hägglöf, the Armstrong oracle from Sweden, had written a letter to Joe Glaser suggesting Armstrong record “Home,” as well as “Stormy Weather,” “You Turned the Tables on Me” and “Just One of Those Things” and others, all songs Armstrong would record for Verve in 1957. Did Glaser pass the suggestions to Armstrong or Granz? We might never know, but it is indeed quite a coincidence!

“Home” was recorded at Armstrong’s sixth consecutive Verve session in six days (the first three were made for his second album with Ella Fitzgerald). This session found Armstrong’s chops in better form than the previous two dates and he already had an incredibly emotional “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and a touching “Little Girl Blue” in the can before he got to “Home,” the fifth song of eight to be recorded on that grueling August 16 day.

The Garcia version utilizes strings and though Garcia wasn’t a writer on par with a Gordon Jenkins, his string arrangements generally succeed more than his big band work, in my opinion. Armstrong’s 1957 remake of “Home” lasts nearly six minutes and I think it’s a gem from note one. Please listen along:

Garcia already hits a home run right off the bat by having Armstrong sing the beautiful verse. He sings it in the upper register of voice and the effect is spine-tingling. When the rhythm section kicks in at such a relaxed tempo, the effect, with the strings, is heavenly. Armstrong, though 35 years older, sings it in the same key as the original, pushing his voice for the greater good, such as the beautiful way he sings the word “fall” the first time through. I don’t know if it was a Granz or Garcia suggestion by Armstrong sings the melody the first time through very close to how it’s written, which, obviously, is the polar opposite of the 1932 original. Granz’s mix is perfect as you can hear every little tic in Armstrong’s voice, such as the delightful little “Tch” he lets out in between phrases at the 0:57 mark. Paul Smith’s piano defines elegance and the whole feel of the performance is gorgeous and relaxed.

Immediately after Armstrong sings the final word, you can hear a quick “Pffft,” the sound of Armstrong getting his chops accustomed to his horn. Perhaps to make it easier for him, Garcia has the arrangement modulate from Eb down to C (the 1932 record modulated UP from Eb to F). Armstrong’s very first note isn’t exactly hit on the nose, causing a moment of suspense. Is he going to make it? Fortunately, Pops was no dummy. Knowing what he could do and what he couldn’t do, Armstrong decides to stick to his middle register for a very soulful solo. Armstrong got into this bag a lot during his Verve recordings, reminding me more of Miles Davis with his Verve work than anything he did for Columbia or Decca during this period. Armstrong’s sound is very human on this performance, giving the listener a wonderful glimpse of his low register. In between the two A sections, Armstrong goes up at the 2:47 mark, playing a patented phrase of F-A-D, though normal, he probably would have hit two D’s. However, the one high D he hits is a little shaky and he wisely opts to leave space, coming back a few seconds later, more poised, with a surprising little double-timed run. He continues rephrasing the melody as he goes on and the effect is simply mellow.

The strings take the melody of the bridge, but Pops pops his head in to fill in the cracks with some lovely obbligato work, ending the bridge with his highest notes of the solo to this point, three high E’s (and when I say high E, we’re still an octave lower than the REALLY high E’s Armstrong could, and often did, hit when feeling 100%). Armstrong then begins the final A section with the same double-timed descending arpeggio (C-G-E-C) he played in the ninth bar of the solo, though this time it’s slightly smeared. Feeling confident, he tip-toes a little higher into the upper register but another one of those E’s at the 3:41 sounds a little weak, so he heads back south. Still, he has one more powerful moment left: three quarter note C’s that remind me a bit of Harry “Sweets” Edison, but each one is played with a lot of depth before he turns it into a nifty little phrase, complete with a quick, bluesy little flurry that reminds me of the way he would sing the word “That” at the end of his vocal on “That’s My Desire.”

It’s pretty passionate playing from a pretty passionate person. So, how do you like your Armstrong? Do you like the dazzling cadenza of the 1932 original? Or the wise old storytelling of the remake? Well, you know my answer: it’s all Pops and I’m all happy…

Fortunately, there’s still a good two minutes left after the trumpet solo and it’s here where Pops really begins deconstructing the melody. This is what really makes me wonder if Granz told him to stick to the written notes the first time through because on this vocal reprise, Armstrong barely hints at what was written. He enters with a supremely righteous “Yeah” before embarking on his journey, singing a lot of the high notes his trumpet couldn’t hit. He totally turns it into a new song, mixing in pinches of scat for good measure wherever he sees fit, which is usually in the third bar of every A section. My favorite part has to be the bridge, where he sounds so fragile, creating a melody that’s more touching than the original, which was pretty damn good to begin with. All traces of fragility are shattered with Armstrong’s scatting after the bridge and his triumphant final A section, complete with a resounding “Whoaaaa,” that threatens to blow up your speakers. The delirious trumpet cadenza of the original is gone, replaced by some terrific scatting and a low-key reading of the final “Home.” You can hear him smile as he holds the final note, probably thinking about his humble abode that awaited him in Corona, Queens…whenever these damn sessions for Granz came to an end!

I don’t know if Pops is responsible, but all of a sudden, there was a little resurgence in “Home.” The Mills Brothers recorded it in 1960, the same year it was recorded by Sam Cooke on his legendary Ain’t That Good News album, a work that featured his seminal “A Change Is Going To Come” (as well as a cover of another tune Pops recorded, “Sittin’ in the Sun”). Since then, the jazz world has gradually embraced the tune with the likes of Gerry Mulligan and Bill Mays recording it, though it hasn’t exactly become a tired warhorse. And of course, the more traditional-minded jazz bands embraced it with a number of European versions showing up on YouTube (a particularly brilliant version was recorded by David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band, produced by George Avakian, featuring Randy Sandke and available on Itunes).

So, as usual, Pops carried yet another tune farther than the likes of Rudy Vallee and Henry Hall. Pops definitely had a flair for the melodramatic and songs like “Home” fit him like a glove. I don’t see how someone cannot be affected by either the 1932 or 1957 versions. But that’s all for now…it’s now been two-and-a-half hours since my wife and I were dubbed “clear to close,” so the big moment is right around the corner. But don’t worry, though the hubbub, I’ll still try to pump out one more blog this week on “Rocky Mountain Moon.” But if I disappear, you know where I’ll be…. “Home,” of course.

Ohhhh, when shadows fall…….

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

80 Years of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Kickin' the Gong Around

Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
Recorded January 25, 1932
Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
Recorded in Chicago
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Preston Jackson, trombone; Lester Boone, clarinet, alto saxophone; George James, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Albert Washington, tenor saxophone; Charlie Alexander, piano; Mike McKendrick, guitar; John Lindsay, bass; Tubby Hall, drums
Originally released on OKeh 41550
Currently available on CD: It’s on the JSP two-disc set The Big Band Sides, 1930-1932
Available on Itunes? Yes

With all those pesky book-related posts out of the way, it's time for an old-fashioned anniversary post--actually, two posts, with one today to celebrate "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and "Kickin' the Gong Around" and another coming up on Friday for the 80th anniversary of "All of Me" and "Home."

These January 1932 sessions were Louis's first since he cut eight classics for OKeh in November 1931 (all discussed in this blog post: He was still happily fronting the band of New Orleans and Chicago musicians that was formed by second trumpeter Zilner Randolph and though mob troubles were still keeping Louis on the road and out of New York, OKeh grabbed Louis anytime he was passing through Chicago.

The material waiting for him on January 25 was written by the dynamite team of Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen for a Cotton Club revue, "Rhyth-Mania," which debuted in March 1931. Aida Ward introduced "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" in the show, but on record, that distinction went to another vocalist featured in the revue, the great Cab Calloway (whom I just read is going to be the subject of a PBS "American Masters" documentary in February). Here's how Cab treated it on October 21, 1931:

I love Cab, honestly I do, but I find his vocal to be somewhat stiff on that one. Maybe it comes from the need to introduce a new song by sticking almost exclusively to the melody. But Cab, who could be a ferocious swinger, sticks a little too close for my liking and as a result, doesn't swing.

Then again, maybe I'm just prejudiced after having listened to Louis's versions for so long. I have a deep love affair with Louis's early 1930s OKeh recordings and to me "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" is near the top of the list, maybe topped by "Star Dust," "Lazy River" and not many others. This is prime stuff, vocally and trumpet-ly speaking.

And yes, I said versionS...hooray for alternate takes! The first take was a paced a little too slow for the tastes of the OKeh A&R man in the booth. Another attempt raised the number of beats per minute by a few and shaved 20 seconds off the performance to be used as the master. Still, somehow the slower take leaked out and was mistakenly used as the issued take on some very rare pressings of the tune. An Armstrong nut with good ears picked up the difference and viola, an alternate take was magically discovered.

So with the preliminaries out of the way, let's listen to the first attempt at "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea":

After knowing the master for so many years, the tempo does seem to drag a bit at first, but once you get into the swing of it, it has a nice foot-pattin' groove. The band takes the verse, which makes overt reference to "Kickin' the Gong Around," the other Koehler-Arlen tune recorded that day (more in a bit). Louis enters the vocal with a preliminary "Now" and begins telling his tale with a melody of his own, that's based in the written score but more based in Louis's brain and heart (lots of phrases made up of a single pitch). It must have been an early read, which comes out during a highlight for me when Louis loses the phrasing in the bridge. He relaxes a bit too much on "I don't want to cross you off my list," realizes he's rapidly running out of bar space and rushes to squeeze in the next line, "But when you come knocking at my door." He just gets it in and then, as an aside, asks, "How do you like that?" Like it? Louis, we love it!

Perhaps knowing this take might be wasted, it seems to take him a second to regain his equilibrium but he gets it and floats through the bridge and a relaxed final eight. Then it's trumpet time and as a treat, we get Louis with a mute (is it a Solotune? a cup? I'll let the trumpeters in the crowd argue that one out). There was something about being muted that brought out Louis's double-time side (see "Little Joe" from the previous year and stay tuned for "All of Me" later this week). Louis really gets all over his horn for the first 16 bars and even after the bridge, which is made up of held high notes. He's still boppin' around (and I do mean Bop) in the last eight of the chorus when all of a sudden he hits a note and pulls the trumpet off his lips in an instant. What's up? Nothing much...the great man has just decided to take his mute out! He's so relaxed and everything is simply mellow as Louis leads the way out. He repeats a few thrilling high notes (though they're a bit strained) as he builds up to a heroic finish.

It's all great, but there was the vocal gaffe, the slight strain in the high notes and the overall dragging tempo. If OKeh had quit right there, it would still be known as a great record (and the double-time stuff would be transcribed and lauded around the world) but I'm glad they gave it one more go because the master take is a master piece:

From the start, you don't need a metronome to tell you that this performance is noticeably faster (but it does slow down; compare the tempo at the start with the tempo at the end). Once again, the band takes the verse. Louis enters with a gentle "Oh" and proceeds to swing the hell out of the lyric. He shows off his range, too, going down low for the titular phrase. Louis know has the song under his belt and he sings the lyric with his new phrasing as if that's how it should have been written (and maybe it should). Anyone looking for the standard pause between the first two words "I" and "don't" should look elsewhere. Louis phrases each line like a statement rather than a melodic statement but it works. There's also a major trumpet aspect to his vocal; just listen to what he does with "more," the final note of the bridge, vocally glissing and bending it. After the bridge, he takes a few more liberties, delivering the line "But mama, I guess instead I love you" all on one pitch. With a closing wink at that "little devil you," the band plays a short interlude to allow Pops to get his chops in the horn and more importantly, to get that mute in there, too.

His muted opening could not be any more relaxed and swinging. But then, watch out for the double-timing! Dan Morgenstern likes to point out that this record must have been a favorite of Charlie Parker's; one listen and you can see why! Pops's double-timing is so smooth but he only does it in short bursts. Still, it's enough for critics of later Armstrong to grumble about Pops's abandoning of this aspect of his playing, since we all know that good jazz is only about how many notes you play.

But those who wish Louis would have remained lightening quick on his horn probably stop listening to this track at the bridge, which is completely made up of held, high notes, Armstrong flexing the chops. The two high notes he repeats at the end of the bridge swing with such an urgency, it's impossible not to feel that something major is going on. Louis uses his free sense of rhythm and floats downward until he finally pauses for a few second to take out the mute. That can only mean one thing: it's opera time! Armstrong announces his open-horn arrival with a two-note riff, repeated twice as Louis gets comfortable and finally settles on another held high note to take us into an unexpected extra eight-bar "A" section. Now everyone's feeling good, the band riffing and swinging and Louis positively preaching over them. He's in complete command, throwing in a spine-tingling gliss at one point, and ending with his signature doddle-doddle-da-da lick that he loved so much (and played during the muted section, too). Bravo, Pops.


The other tune recorded that day, "Kickin' the Gong Around," also came from Koehler and Arlen's "Rhyth-Mania" and was also introduced by Cab Calloway. This was the period when Calloway was riding high off the popularity of "Minnie the Moocher," probably the greatest call-and-response song about drug addicts ever written. It only made sense for the sequels to be written. And in Arlen and Koehler, Cab had a helluva team to drum up those future scenarios for Minnie and all the other cokies. Though they later presided over "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day" but first up was "Kickin' the Gong Around," a slang term of the day for smoking opium. I thought maybe the Internet machine would perhaps give a little more background but all I could find was this from "The Mavens' Word of the Day" in 1998:

"Kick the gong around is first found in the late 1920s. It is based on the earlier (1915 or so) gong and gonger, both meaning 'an opium pipe'. The origin of these words is not clear; gong could be a shortening of gonger or the inspiration for it. It it not known whether gong is the same word as gong meaning 'a large bronze disk that produces a vibrant tone when struck', which is a borrowing from Malay or Javanese, presumably of imitative origin. Opium pipes do not have any disk-like parts, but the relationship (if any) could simply be that both gongs and opium are associated with East Asia."

Makes sense to me.

Anyway, Cab recorded the tune in late 1931 and got to immortalize it in the 1932 film The Big Broadcast. Here's the footage (dig Cab's dancing!):

Isn't that great? I love Cab; he was a helluva entertainer and he seems much more at ease there than the recording of "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Armstrong and Calloway didn't cover too many of the same tunes so it's interesting to hear how their versions of "Kickin' the Gong Around" compare. While not quite one for the time capsule like "Between the Devil," it's a lot of fun. Listen for yourself:

The recording comes out swinging right from the gate with an arranged introduction (Armstrong's reeds always had an unusual, if distinct, intonation), taking the piece at a faster trot than Calloway. Armstrong emerges from the ensemble with a big gliss that launches him into a poised break. Armstrong takes the melody, his reeds providing the responses, without changing it up too much, but I love the two-note riff he plays during the turnaround after the first eight bars, almost like a fanfare to call everyone's attention to what he's about to go down. In his next eight bars, he's more free with the melody and very sparing with his choice of notes.

A neat tricks occurs when Armstrong dips down to a rare low note and holds it right into the bridge, repeating it a few times for good effect. The bridge is very mellow except for the surprising break. From there, Armstrong turns on the heat, coming up with another clarion call of a riff that he hammers into the start of the vocal.

The vocal is a lot of fun but Armstrong seems to start singing it straight before he gets to the title of the song. At that point, he can't resist chuckling over the subject matter of the tune and uttering a hilarious "Ohhh, Lord." After the next eight bars, Armstrong instructs his band to "Double it up, Gate," which they do. Armstrong takes off on a dazzling scat interlude that is very much in tune with his trumpet conception, especially the break. Armstrong's joy continues through the end of the vocal, a fun one.

From there, Armstrong's trumpet section (aka Zilner Randolph) takes the lead during a somewhat dissonant interlude (Pops digs it, yelling out "Yeah" in the background). Louis rejoins the group for a modulation but for the most part sticks to playing with the band, poking his head out now and then to recast the melody where he sees fit. The whole trumpet solo comes to life during the bridge. Remember that low note Louis held the first time around? Well, now he uses the same concept, but this time with a high note. He swings mightily on some quarter notes and keep building upward to a thrillingly passionate end to the bridge. That bridge always, to me, foreshadows something he would have played in the 1940s or 50s, right?

The bridge is the highlight of the record but Louis still plays with authority until a cute arranged ending that finds him and the band creeping upward towards the finish line.

"Kickin' the Gong Around" might not be the greatest recording he ever made but it's still a good ol' good one for those two trumpet bridges and that contagious vocal. Ohhhh, lord, indeed!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Listening to the Book: Chapters 18 and 19

Well, my friends, we've reached the end: the final installment of posts devoted to the music discussed in my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, (which by the way, received an Honorable Mention in the Jazz Times Critic's Poll and a second place finish in the Jazz Times Reader's Poll.....thank you readers and critics!). This idea started on a whim while waiting for a delayed flight to arrive in Baltimore when I was on my book tour in July. I didn't think it would take me into 2012 to finish but the end is here and I hope it's been worth it. (And hey, I haven't pointed this out yet, but look at the snazzy new Search feature I've installed in the upper right corner. If you're ever looking for a particular chapter--or anything, for that matter--searching has never been easier. Ah, technology....)

Chapter 18 of my book is a largely music-less one. It deal with Louis recovering from heart and kidney trouble, unable to perform live with the All Stars and depressed over the passing of Joe Glaser. But by the end of 1969, things were looking up for Louis. The first step back was a session in which Louis recorded the theme song to a new James Bond movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." The song was "We Have All the Time in the World" and though it wasn't a hit back then, it has gone on to become one of Louis's most popular selections in recent years. Here's how it sounded:

Everybody talks about that side but the original single had an incredible flip side that I never read a word about: a version of Louis and Billy Kyle's "Pretty Little Missy" featuring a trumpet solo by Louis. He cracks a few notes but overall, I think he sounds stronger than he did on some of his late 60s recordings for Mercury and Brunswick. It's never been issued on LP or CD so here it is from a 45 I had transferred from my own collection (with pitch correction by Phil Person):

Creator unedited:

Feeling his oats, Louis started 1970 with a bunch of TV appearances. On one of the first, "The Dick Cavett Show," he brought his trumpet to show that he hadn't lost anything. However, he also brought an arrangement of "Someday You'll Be Sorry" that featured two choruses of blowing up front, a solo in the middle and a closing cadenza. It was too much for Louis, who occasionally comes up with good ideas, but really sounds frail and a little sour. This is a sad one:

After that performance, the trumpet was silenced. Louis did a bunch of TV appearances, but there would be no blowing for the time being. When he returned the recording studio in May for "Louis Armstrong and His Friends," it would be an all-vocal album. This date had some notable misfires, but also some wonderful moments. Louis felt very strongly about "We Shall Overcome"; you can hear him emoting with every ounce of strength left on this performance, backed by a choir of studio guests made up of numerous celebrities and musicians (Tony Bennett, Ornette Coleman, Eddie Condon, etc.):

If the album had been a bunch of standards, I think it would have been a masterpiece. This touching version of "My One and Only Love," with an arrangement by Oliver Nelson, is a high point:

But too often, the efforts to get another hit led to Louis recording some of the era's more up-to-date numbers. I know there are people that love Louis and Leon Thomas's "The Creator Has a Master Plan" but the issued version has always left me cold. I much rather prefer the version that is just Louis from start to finish:

If you want to hear the original and read a lot more about this session, check out this early blog of mine:
The Creator Has a Master Plan

Shortly after, Louis celebrated what he believed to be his 70th birthday. It was a huge occasion marked by some very big celebrations. The first one was a lovely evening at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Louis's doctors originally didn't even want Louis to fly to Los Angeles, but in the end, he was given clearance and he made the most of it. He was originally just supposed to be a part of the audience but Louis wanted to be part of the show. Hoagy Carmichael was the emcee and introduced Louis early on. As I write about in the book, Louis came onstage with a big smile and a wireless mike, that caught him cursing like crazy about the long walk he had to the center of the stage! Once there, he told his favorite "hamburger joke" and made a comment about him hamming up it. He sure was! If you don't enjoy foul language, don't play this clip, but if you don't mind it, well, listen for yourself!

Louis enjoyed the entire nearly three-hour show and eventually took the spotlight again to sing three songs with an all star band onstage (though not the All Stars). Here's the closing "Hello, Dolly!" with Louis again using salty language to set the tempo:

Next up was a major tribute at the Newport Jazz Festival. This one is on a DVD (in edited form, alas) titled "Good Evening Ev'rybody." Here's the YouTube trailer to get a feel for it:

Over at Daily Motion, a few clips remain, including Louis rehearsing "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," which he insisted on opening with at the show:

Louis Armstrong-When it's Sleepy Time Down South... by redhotjazz

And from the evening, a resplendent Louis doing "Pennies from Heaven" with some great Bobby Hackett:

Louis Armstrong-Pennies From Heaven-1970 Newport by redhotjazz

Feeling good, Louis recorded his final studio album in August 1970, Louis 'Country and Western' Armstrong. It's an unfairly maligned work and it has been out-of-circulation for decades but it contains some very nice moments. One of my favorites is "Almost Persuaded":

Here's my blog on that number and the sessions in general: Almost Persuaded Blog

Just a few weeks later, Louis was given clearance to play with the All Stars again, sharing the bill with Pearl Bailey in Las Vegas, a stand that I have stories about in the book. Sadly, no audio has turned up from that run (Louis was playing trumpet again), but in January 1971, Louis appeared on Pearl Bailey's first TV show and though I don't believe the video survives, here's the audio of the two reprising part of their Vegas act. Here's a "jam session" on "Exactly Like You":

And a very touching performance of "Didn't We" that apparently used to leave the audience in tears each night. If only we could see this performance....

UPDATE: 15 minutes after posting this, my good friend Phil Person alerted me on Facebook that video from this show was posted on YouTube TODAY! Now what the hell are the odds of that? Alas, it's not video of Louis and Pearl but rather from a cute medley featuring Louis, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams singing each other's hits. Still, this means that the complete show must survive. Now....who has it??? Anyway, here's a glimpse of this show and of Louis at the beginning of 1971:

After the Bailey engagement, Louis went back to television, appearing on "The Flip Wilson Show" but without his trumpet. Still, he looked great and sang great on this version of "Mack the Knife":

Later in the show, he joined Wilson for a fun medley. Louis, in casual attire, looks smaller than ever but again, he sounds fine (reprising "The Whiffenpoof Song" bop parody and his "done forgot the words" vocal on "Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas"):

But around the same time, Louis appeared on "The Johnny Cash Show" to promote "Louis 'Country and Western' Armstrong." After a fun opening medley of "Crystal Chandelier" and "Ramblin' Rose," something special occurred: Armstrong and Cash recreated Louis's 1930 duet with Jimmie Rodgers on "Blue Yodel Number 9." Louis pulled out the trumpet and, well, stand back! He'd come a long way from that Cavett show appearance. It's one of Louis's last great statements on the horn. Here's the entire clip:

Unfortunately, not every performance like that. My book has a section on Louis's trip to London for a benefit concert hosted by David Frost at the end of October 1970. This trip was filmed and turned into a documentary, "Boy From New Orleans," which we can all hope will be released on DVD one day. During the rehearsal for the big show, Louis sounded fairly strong on this excerpt from "Hello, Dolly":

And in the dressing room before the show, he warmed up unaccompanied, coming up with some beautiful variations on "When It's Sleepy Time Down South":

But by showtime, Louis was out of gas. On "Hello, Dolly," he had nothing left and had to turn the lead over to Tyree Glenn. The visual is disturbing as Louis had to turn his back and fumble to get any momentum on the horn. The audio is pretty rough going, too:

But Louis wasn't ready to give up. He came back home, rested a bit and then booked two more weeks in Las Vegas into the start of 1971. In January 1971, he appeared on "The David Frost Show" with his trumpet, blowing a bit and singing a gorgeous "When It's Sleepy Time Down South":

Around the same time, did a short set at the National Press Club in Washington D. C. that featured perhaps his last great solo on "Hello, Dolly." Here's the solo:

Isn't that marvelous? The "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say" quote, the new variations and, as Daniel Farber pointed out to me recently, a snatch of Louis's improvisation from the 1950 record "That's For Me"'s great. No wonder Louis wrote to a friend soon thereafter that he was "blowing his black ass off." (For my full blog on "Dolly" with more on this, click here.)

Louis set out to prove as much on his next TV appearance. He was back on the "Dick Cavett Show" over a year since the disastrous "Someday." He had his All Stars back--Joe Muranyi, Tyree Glenn, Marty Napoleon and two ringers, Milt Hinton and Jo Jones. And to prove that he was feeling good, he called "Ole Miss." This was always a killer in the 1950s and 1960s so it was a daring choice. If you're used to those earlier versions, this one is not going to match up. But considering Louis's health at the time, it's almost miraculous how he leads the ensembles. He even takes a solo, something he didn't do in the 50s and early 60s, opening with a quote from "Goin' Home" (though Jo Jones pushes him too hard and Louis loses a little momentum). Video of this survives at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and if you're ever in Queens, look me up and I'll show it to you because listening is only half the story. Louis still appears shrunken and when he cracks that partial note on his solo, his eyes fill with pain. And when it's over, he doesn't move until he gets help to walk over to Cavett's couch. Something wasn't right. But here's "Ole Miss":

His doctors knew something wasn't right and they begged Louis to cancel his upcoming two-week engagement at the Empire Room of the Waldorf-Astoria. Louis refused. All of the details about this engagement and what happened afterwards are in the book and sadly, no audio has turned up from these gigs. But in my research, I did come across a mention that Louis closed these nights with "Boy From New Orleans," his autobiographical version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." When you listen to it, and especially the final speech at the end, well, try not to cry. Here's audio of Louis performing it at the Press Club in January 1971:

And if you want more details on this song, here's my blog on it: Boy From New Orleans Blog.

And that, my friends is that. There's still more story left to cover, but there's no more audio or video to share so it is quitting time. I really hope this series enhanced the experience for those who read my book (and if you haven't read it, whattaya waiting for!?). Let me know cool off for a few days and next week I very well might return to old-fashioned blogging about something other than my book (hmm, January 25 is the 80th anniversary of Louis's "All of Me/Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" session....). Until then....thanks for listening AND reading!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Great Day in Harlem: Louis Armstrong Panel, January 7, 2012

I know, I know, when it comes to jazz and Harlem, the phrase "A Great Day in Harlem" has become as cliche as it comes. But I can't deny it: last Saturday, January 7, WAS a great day in Harlem....or more specifically, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. For four hours (not a typo), I moderated a panel that consisted of David Ostwald, Dan Morgenstern and George Avakian. Seriously. I'm sorry if my gushing gets tiring, but a few years ago, I would have quit my job to just be at something like this (and I would have been too bashful to open my mouth). To be moderating it? There are no words except pure gratefulness.

And the audience was packed, too, including Michael Cogswell of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Phoebe Jacobs of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Ray Carmen of the Duke Ellington Society and many more, the majority of whom stayed the full four hours. Here's a picture I will cherish til the end of my days:

For those keeping score at home: (Top row, L to R) Gwen DeLuca, Dan Morgenstern, Jackie Harris, Michael Cogswell, David Ostwald, Ray Carmen (Bottom row, L to R) Phoebe Jacobs, George Avakian and your truly. When I told Michael Cogswell who was on the panel, he joked that he felt uncomfortable, bringing up how the President and Vice President never ride together in the same car. "If someone were to blow up the building," he said, "it would set Armstrong scholarship back 40 years!"

I could keep going on and on about the proceedings but I won't and for a very good reason: you can hear it for yourself. Yes, not only is the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is a beautiful place for simply putting on these type of programs almost nightly, but they do an excellent job of recording them and posting the audio on their website. So here it is, broken into 4 parts ranging from 44 minutes to 57 minutes: Louis Armstrong Panel Audio.

What will you find if you choose to devote 3 1/2 hours of your life to listening to it? Plenty. I had my trusty iPod in my hand at all times so when Dan Morgenstern talked about certain moments of the Slivovice interview, I had them cued up or when George Avakian talked about "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy," I had specific outtakes ready to play (and yes, the same outtakes and unissued alternates that I wrote about in my book, the ones I couldn't share on the blog but with George, who gave me the permission to copy them for my research, sitting next time, how could I not!?). And pay attention to David Ostwald, too. Many know him simply as the tuba player with the vaudevillian lines who leads the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland every Wednesday at 5:30. But I've gotten very close with David over the years and I've talked enough Pops with him to know that he has some tremendous insights into the man. He did not disappoint on the panel (and some thought he stole the show with his answer about Louis as a civil rights pioneer in the first part....don't miss it).

Once again, thanks to Loren Schoenberg and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem for making this stuff happen and extra special thanks to my esteemed guests and esteemed audience who made it such a special day. And for those in the NY area, don't forget that I'll be giving three more lectures on Louis at the Museum on Tuesday the 17th, 24th and 31st, each one beginning at 7 p.m. Enough from me...happy listening!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Listening to the Book: Chapter 17

Hello and Happy New Year everybody! Sorry it's been over a week without a post but my year is off to a roaring start as I'm in the middle of giving six book-related lectures at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem this month. The first two are behind me, including a panel I led yesterday afternoon that featured Dan Morgenstern, David Ostwald and George Avakian (don't worry, it was recorded and audio will be available soon). For those in the NY area who interested in the rest of the series, I'm going to send you over to Michael Steinman's blog to read the details as written by myself (yes, I could have eliminated the middle man and just posted them here, but I want you to head over to Michael's blog because once there you won't be getting off the computer for at least 3 hours!).

Anyway, it's back to business for me as we near the finish line of my "Listening to the Book" series, continuing on with Chapter 17 of my book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, which is the last music-heavy chapter of the book (I'll be able to combine the audio from the final two chapters into one final blog).

If you were with me for my last post (or if you have the book and read chapter 16), you might remember that we left off with Pops's abilities on the trumpet fading slowly as the years of non-stop touring and blowing were catching up with him. March 1967 found Louis and the All Stars recording a bizarre session for Brunswick, one that even Brunswick must have realized was a dud because the four tracks recorded that day were released on two 45s....and that's it. No LP, no tape, no CD, no download. Marty Napoleon wrote the session's bright spot, a rare All Stars instrumental titled "Louie's Dream," but he recently told me that he received something like $4 in royalties because the record had no promotion and almost immediately disappeared. That's a shame, because I love "Louie's Dream" and wish that more people knew about it because maybe it would still be played! Louis doesn't solo on it but he plays a very pretty lead. In addition to Marty, the All Stars are Tyree Glenn, Buster Bailey, Buddy Catlett and Danny Barcelona:

That was the good news. The bad news was this session led to what some (including my friend Dave Whitney) feel to be Louis's lowest moment on records, a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream." The arrangement is sad (and underrehearsed) and though Louis's trumpet solo is relaxed and kind of lyrical, for the most part, this is a moment best forgotten:

Not too long after that, Buster Bailey passed away (those two events are not connected--I don't think). Louis's health had held up for much of the decade but not long after, a bout of pneumonia forced Louis to cancel six weeks worth of gigs. However, when he returned to performing in June 1967 (now with Joe Muranyi on clarinet, after a brief spell by Johnny Mince), he was feeling his oats and blowing tremendously. He made his comeback on the "Tonight Show," playing this strong solo on "Hello, Dolly":

A few days later, at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois, Louis blew with tremendous ferocity on "St. James Infirmary":

It seemed like the good times were back...until Louis started performing nonstop and his chops soon began to turn erratic again. A broadcast from Atlantic City on July 22 caught him struggling, including on this "Hello, Dolly" solo:

A few days later, it was off to Europe, where he had to cut out the blowing on "St. James Infirmary" that he did at Ravinia. In fact, two blogs of mine really take you through this period in detail so if you want more, check out my old posts on St. James Infirmary and Hello, Dolly. And Louis's struggles with "Tiger Rag" in Copenhagen are discussed in my tenth and final Tiger Rag blog.

But the day after Louis's weak Copenhagen performance, he and the All Stars found themselves in Juan-Les-Pins, France for the Antibes jazz festival. There, Louis bounced back, as captured on this video of Cabaret (sorry, embedding disabled by request) and this performance of "Muskrat Ramble":

Feeling good, Louis headed back into the recording studio on August 16 to record some different material for Bob Thiele. First up was the syrupy "Sunshine of Love," which Louis managed to make swing like the clappers:

And the other tune recorded that day was something called "What a Wonderful World." I don't know what ever came of it....

Alas, a month later, Louis got sick again and had to cancel more gigs. The writing was on the wall that something was wrong, but Louis didn't pay it any mind (or maybe I should say Joe Glaser didn't pay it any mind) and Louis was back in action soon. And like in June, he was playing beautifully. At the Louis Armstrong House Museum, we have breathless postcards from Joe Muranyi to Jack Bradley, raving about how Louis was blowing, especially on a by-request version of "When You're Smiling"--if only it was recorded! But was recorded a one-nighter in Miami in November. Maybe I'm nuts, but I would love to see this concert commercially issued as it is the finest complete show that I know of from the years 1966-1971. The chops are up and Louis improvises entirely new solos on "Cabaret," "Ole Miss" and a version of "St. James Infirmary" that's one of the highlights of Louis's later years:

I knew I couldn't devote much space to that performance in the book, though I wanted to, so I just wrote a blog about it, which you can read here.

By this point, Louis was recorded for Brunswick again, this time performing corny arrangements by Dick Jacobs (a "schmuck" in the parlance of Joe Muranyi). The resulting album, "I Will Wait for You" is not one of my favorites, as Louis doesn't play much, the songs are inferior and the arrangements get under my skin (I can't listen to "The Happy Time" for more than 12 seconds without blowing up my speakers). But there are some good moments. "I Believe" was a song that I thought I hated until I really listened to what Pops was putting into it. Here's the audio:

And here's blog about my epiphany with that song.

Louis had been playing a medley of "Tenderly" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" since the early 50s. When his chops started going, he didn't want to give up the medley so he began singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," turning it into an incredibly moving show closer. Jacob's churchy setting works on this one, which I think is ripe for rediscovery via a movie or TV commercial:

And recorded in 1968, the album's title track is my favorite, featuring a fantastic opening trumpet cadenza. Here's "I Will Wait for You":

And here's an old blog I wrote about it: I Will Wait for You Blog

In the middle of all these sessions, Jacobs oversaw a bizarre experiment that actually worked when Louis was brought in to sing four songs in Italian at the end of 1967! "Dimmi, Dimmi, Dimmi" is my favorite, with one of Louis's finest trumpet solos of the period (Phil Person, you know what I'm talking about!):

And in the book, I write about what I consider one of Louis's last triumphs, his performance of "Mi Va Di Cantare" at the San Remo Song Festival in February 1968. Louis performed the song on the first day of the festival and played a neat 12 bar solo. But something happened and by the time of the second day, Louis was ready to blow, catching the band by surprise by blowing past the expected 12 bars (ending with the "Stormy Weather" quote) and going on for 40 more bars! I used to use the audio for many of my lectures but then video turned up, which has always been a hit with audiences I've played it for (including in Italy!). Unfortunately, embedding is disabled, but you can go to YouTube and watch it by clicking here.

Back in the United States, Louis embarked on another potentially strange project but this one worked: "Disney Songs the Satchmo Way." This is really Louis's last great album, featuring fun moments like "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo":

And maybe the most emotional performance of this period, "When You Wish Upon a Star":

Here are blogs on both songs, When You Wish Upon a Star and Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

By this point, "What a Wonderful World" was a number one hit in England, Louis and the All Stars traveled overseas for a British tour. Two weeks at Batley Variety Club found Louis comfortable and improvising different variations on "Hello, Dolly." Sound quality isn't ideal, but here's one solo from Batley:

And here it is the night after that one:

Also in England, Louis sat down for a half-hour interview on "Be My Guest" which has some wonderful quotes and stories that made it into the book. You can listen to whole thing in this old blog.

On July 2, the All Stars did two one-hour sets for BBC TV. How this material hasn't been commercially issued is beyond me but some of it has popped up on YouTube (with embedding disabled luck today!). Here's the link to a swinging "Indiana" and here's another one for "The Bare Necessities.

As you can see in that clip, Louis had lost a LOT of weight by that point. He was bragging about it and saying he felt better than ever. Back in the States, Louis filled out the rest of an album devoted to "What a Wonderful World" by recorded eight songs in Las Vegas. I covered those sessions four years ago in this blog (with audio).

And that was it. Louis continued touring into September but then his health failed. Kidneys and heart trouble would sideline Louis from performing live with the All Stars for two years. But he still made some records and TV appearances and all of those will be covered, along with Louis's final recordings, in the next and final part of this series. Til then!