I've been back from England for about four days and the jet lag has finally ceased. It was another memorable trip and I hope to return again in the future! But while I was over there, some breaking news hit the wire (is that still a thing?) and I wanted to discuss it a little further for my loyal blog readers.
In case you missed the news, the good people at Dot Time Records have created the "Louis Armstrong Legacy Series," four volumes of previously unissued Armstrong recordings that will be released over the next two years. They also put out a separate press release to announce that yours truly will be writing the liner notes for each volume--quite an honor!
Volume one is ready to go and will be shipped out in early May. Here's a peak at it:
Already, I've been hit with some questions about where the material comes from, what it is, how to order it, etc., so I'll do my best to answer. All of the previously unissued material comes from Louis Armstrong's personal collection, which is part of the Research Collections of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. I am Director of Research Collections so obviously I know the upcoming material intimately. For those who have visited me at work, the collections are located on the Queens College campus, but it's all part of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which is more than just Louis and Lucille's historic house but also home of the world's largest archives for a single jazz musician!
Jerry Roche of Dot Time visited me for the first time in 2015 and I played him a variety of goodies from Louis's personal collection. Most Armstrong fans know about his famed reel-to-reel tapes, filled with candid conversations about music, women, race, marijuana, you name it. But not every knows that Armstrong's tapes are filled with rare music, most of it taped by the trumpeter himself. We also have dozens of acetate discs of unique material--mostly broadcasts and concerts--all sent to Armstrong for his private collection. Jerry wasn't so much interested in the spoken word tapes, he just wanted the music, which was not a problem. We sketched out some possible ideas and I sent him on his way.
Some time passed and I didn't hear from Jerry, thinking perhaps he changed his mind. But in February, news broke that Dot Time had reached a licensing agreement with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and the Louis Armstrong Legacy Series was officially a go! Definite cause for celebration for Pops fans and if I say so myself, anyone who appreciates good music.
So what happens now? Jerry is hard at work producing the first volume, The Standard Oil Sessions. On January 20, 1950, Louis, Jack Teagarden and Earl "Fatha" Hines joined Clancy Hayes and some local San Francisco musicians to tape material for The Standard School Broadcast, the oldest educational radio program in America. The episode was part of the show's "Musical Map of America" series, with Armstrong and company brought in to provide the "Music of New Orleans." A few selected Armstrong performances were edited down and incorporated into the finished broadcast, performances that eventually made their way into the hands of some collectors. In fact, if you go to this Old Time Radio website, you can actually listen to the finished broadcast, which contains severely edited versions of "Lazy River," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and "Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues."
But after the recordings were done, the Standard Oil people sent acetates of the complete, unedited Armstrong performances--including some rehearsals--to Armstrong's home. Armstrong dubbed them to tape in December 1950, shortly after receiving his first reel-to-reel tape recorded--but that was it. They sat in the den of his Corona, Queens home for several decades until they were brought to Queens College in 1991 and they've sat there--until now!
If you go to the Dot Time website and scroll down to "The Standard Oil Sessions," you can hear samples of "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." As you'll hear, these were professionally recorded in NBC's studios and Dot Time engineer Lou Gimenez has done a marvelous job making the old acetates come alive. Dot Time hasn't put up the track listing yet but I can share with you, dear readers, that's it's nothing but top versions of many "good old good ones": "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Muskrat Ramble," "Basin Street Blues," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," "Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," "Lazy River," "Panama" and "Back O'Town Blues."
At this point, you might be wondering how to order this set (I feel like I'm doing an infomercial!). Well, here's where you can make a choice. Each volume of "The Louis Armstrong Legacy Series" will be available with a short essay by me for a modest price (and will be available on CD, LP and as a download). But if you're reading this blog, you're going to want the "Collector's Edition," which will have more rare photos from the Louis Armstrong House Museum and a much more exhaustive set of liner notes comprising a 20-page booklet.
You can get the Collector's Edition of Volume 1, The Standard Oil Sessions, for $25 BUT if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll see the opportunity to order the first four volumes of the "Louis Armstrong Legacy Series" for $99, including free shipping!
Okay, okay, so what's on the other four volumes? I can't really go into full detail because we're still working out the details, though we have a general idea of what is coming next. Later this year will see the release of a compilation of previously unissued nightclub broadcasts, each one taped by Louis Armstrong himself! Details to come as we wade through dozens of broadcasts from the 1950s, all unissued, and some that have never even been listed in discographies. After the nightclub compilation, it looks like there'll be a glorious stereo recording of the All Stars in Sparks, Nevada in June 1964, weeks after "Hello, Dolly!" hit number one and a 2-CD compilation of the best of the All Stars in South America in 1957. We have hours and hours of Armstrong in South America, including broadcasts from Caracas, Brazil and Buenos Aires, and it all must be listened to to pick the very best. So stay tuned for more details on those!
So details will be forthcoming about future volumes but if you pre-order everything for the $99 price, you'll get 5 CDs worth of music, 100 pages worth of liner notes and hours of previously unissued live Louis Armstrong. Really, whattaya waiting for?
Thank you to Dot Time Records and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation for making this happen! And don't forget the Louis Armstrong House Museum, where these materials live and where it is truly my honor to by the keeper of Pops's flame. More to come!