Listening to the Book: Chapters 14 and 15

It's time to continue plowing ahead with audio from chapters 14 and 15 of my book,What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years. I haven't doubled up chapters yet but I think that's going to be the game plan from here on out as my later chapters are heavy on narrative without as much music discussed as the earlier ones.

Having said that, chapter 14 is a thick one, chronicling Louis's life and career from 1960 to 1963. It opens with a discussion of one of Louis's monumental sessions, his return engagement with the Dukes of Dixieland. I almost forgot how many times these sessions have been a part of my blog. You know the drill by now: I'll share the audio and a link to the relevant blog....and if you want more info, check out the book, haha. First, my favorite, "Avalon":

Avalon Blog

A close rival, "Limehouse Blues":

Limehouse Blues Blog

"Wolverine Blues" is notable for a great chase chorus between Louis and Frankie Assunto:

Wolverine Blues Blog

"Just a Closer Walk With Thee" packed an incredible emotional wallop as the session needed to be halted after Louis got through with it, everyone was so moved:

Just a Closer Walk With Thee Blog

Next up for Louis was his one and only full-length album pairing with Bing Crosby. I've written in the past with some regrets about the way it turned out but I cannot deny that it has some high spots, notably "Rocky Mountain Moon":
Rocky Mountain Moon:

Rocky Mountain Moon Blog

And "Sugar" is a lot of fun:

Sugar Blog

At the end of 1960, Louis and the All Stars embarked on a five month tour of Africa and Europe. The high point was when Louis stopped a civil war in Leopoldville with both sides calling a truce to hear Pops play. Here's newsreel footage of Louis in the Congo:

Unfortunately, the trip ended tragically when Louis's beloved female vocalist Velma Middleton suffered a stroke and passed away in Sierra Leonne. Her last surviving performance is a swinging, but in retrospect, poignant version of "Velma's Blues":

My blog on "Velma's Blues" gives more details on the background of this performance: Velma's Blues Blog

Louis was back in the States for only a few weeks before he embarked on another legendary recording session, this one with Duke Ellington. Like the Dukes of Dixieland date, I've revisited this one many times on the blog. Here's "I'm Beginning to See the Light":

I'm Beginning to See the Light Blog

And "Cotton Tail":

Cotton Tail Blog

"Don't Get Around Much Anymore":
Don't Get Around Much Anymore Blog

"It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)":

It Don't Mean a Thing Blog

And though I've never blogged about it, I had to share the audio for the spine-tingling "Azalea":

Later in 1961, Louis met up with another jazz heavyweight, Dave Brubeck, for "The Real Ambassadors," I project I love and feel has always been somewhat neglected. I devote a lot of space in the book to this project, mentioning two songs I have never written about here. But because they're prominently mentioned in the book, I feel like I need to share the audio. So here's "Summer Song":

And the chilling "They Say I Look Like God":

The one "Real Ambassadors" track I have written about is "Lonesome" and it's definitely worth a listen:

Lonesome Blog

The Dukes of Dixieland, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck....Louis played with everyone and anyone during this period, including a Hot Five reunion with Kid Ory and Johnny St. Cyr at Disneyland that was filmed for "Disneyland after Dark." The video is still up on YouTube. Here's what I wrote about it four years ago: Disneyland After Dark Blog

By 1962, Louis was still touring the world but the All Stars's repertoire grew smaller (to be discussed in a future "Anatomy of an All Stars Concert" blog) and Louis occasionally began sounding a bit tired onstage. I quickly mention in the book an "Indiana" from Paris from that year where Louis sounds like he's pushing like hell to make that solo work. Here's the audio:

He made it! Phew... But Louis still had plenty of great nights left. Here's the "Indiana" solo from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1962, just a couple of months after Paris:

No problems there. And besides staples like "Indiana," Louis proved that he could still be full of surprises, such as on this terrific by-request version of "Jazz Me Blues" from Nice, France:

Jazz Me Blues Blog

And a slower-than-slow version of "La Vie en Rose" from Chicago in August 1962:

La Vie En Rose Blog

On December 31, 1962, the All Stars performed a New Year's Eve set that captures them in good form for the period. Here's a blog I did on it that contains the entire broadcast: New Year's Eve 1962 Blog

1963 is kind of the lost year for Pops, but a DVD of an Australian performance was released a couple of years ago and I blogged about it in detail here: Live in Australia DVD Blog

Of course, 1963 ended with a bang with the recording of "Hello, Dolly!" that send Louis to the top of the charts. Here's the original recording and my blog that chronicles all the succeeding live versions:

Hello, Dolly Blog

Once the song became a hit, Kapp rushed out an album to tie-in with the song's success, an album that is filled with great moments, such as Louis's extended trumpet solo on "Jeepers Creepers":

By the end of 1964, Louis was on top of the world. He began recording for Mercury, a series of erratic performances that too often were content to rip-off "Hello, Dolly." "So Long Dearie" was one of the better ones and was even a minor hit for Louis. Here's the original:

So Long Dearie Blog

And that'll do it for a very busy period in Louis's life. Next time out, I'll share audio from Louis's Iron Curtain tour of 1965 (including "Black and Blue") and then will chronicle the slow decline of his chops throughout the rest of 1965 and 1966. Til then, thanks for listening and reading!


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