I'm usually a stickler for tradition. For the past six Valentine's Day, I always share the same post on Louis's unspeakably beautiful 1950 recording of "That's For Me." 24 hours ago, I was about to do the same for today; why change perfection?
But then late last night, I was at my daughter's Girl Scouts meeting and realized I hadn't updated the Louis Armstrong House Museum Facebook page. All week, I had been sharing great Louis love songs in honor of Valentine's Day and thought of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," the well-known standard Louis put on the map in 1930. I was about to upload that classic first version when a YouTube search revealed that my man Austin Casey had uploaded one of my all-time favorite pieces of Pops footage: Louis on The Frank Sinatra Show, January 1, 1952, doing one of his finest ever versions of the tune. I shared it to the Armstrong House page, but then shared it on my own page and watched as Armstrong fans around the world delighted in it, much as I have since I first saw it about seven years ago, thanks to another friend, Dave Whitney.
So please, if you have time, click that top link and listen to and read about "That's For Me," as it really will put you in the right frame of mind for this day of romance. But for now, to break with tradition, I'm going to share that video of Pops doing "Confessin'" on the Sinatra show. It's better than candy and roses....
I don't think that requires much analysis, but I'll say a few words. The opening trumpet spot, though short, is just a great example of how to caress a melody to maximum effect. Interestingly, Louis looks downward the whole time, pointing his horn to the floor, uncharacteristicly looking a bit solemn. But then he starts singing....and watch out! He is on fire. Everyone on the set--the actors and actresses behind him, pianist Bill Miller, even Sinatra himself (heard scatting at one point offscreen)--is just completely enchanted by everything this little giant is so offering. He bobs up and down, tilts his neck, smiles throughout, mugs a bit, even holds his hands in a charming, angelic pose in the bridge. If you watch it with the sound off, you're likely to be just as enchanted.
But keep that sound on because in the middle, he takes the bridge on the trumpet, so relaxed, so poised, the trumpet's posture getting more elevated as he goes, topped off by a pitch-perfect bridge. When he resumes the vocal, the actress directly behind him simply stares with her mouth agape. She ain't acting. I'm sitting at home in 2015 and I'm doing the same thing. Louis takes it out with an extended scat cadenza, looking directly at Sinatra as he goes into his closes. I hope Frank enjoyed that master's class in how to sell a song....looks like he did!
So for Valentine's Day--or any day--this clip should put you in a righteous mood. I'll never forget my first time to Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans in 2008, when I was completely unknown, showing this performance and watching George Avakian holding his head in astonishment. He had never seen it before and after the entire hourlong presentation was over, all he wanted to talk about was that "Confessin'." You don't need to talk about Pops tonight, but confessin' that you love your significant other is never bad advice. Thanks, Pops!