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LOUIS ARMSTRONG

A SATCHEL FULL OF SATCH

Jazz Crusade JCCD-3069 2001, 19 tracks, 74 min

Tiger Rag, Jeepers Creepers, I Got Rhythm, The Blues, Honeysuckle Rose, On The Sunny Side Of The Street, I Cried For You, Ain't Misbehavin', When It's Sleepy Time Down South, Boogie On St Louis Blues, On The Sunny Side Of The Street, That's My Desire, Steakface, When It's Sleepy Time Down South, Indiana, Someday, Dardanella, Ole Miss Rag, A Kiss To Build A Dream On

To most people who aren't traditional jazz aficionados, Louis Armstrong is traditional jazz. If you go into most of the smaller conventional CD stores you will find that the traditional jazz section, if they have one, consists mainly of Satchmo compendium albums. The problem with almost all of these CDs are that they cover the whole period of Armstrong's long career and therefore you get not only all the tunes normally associated with him, but a variety of Armstrong styles and band types. The big thing with this CD offered by Jazz Crusade is that it consists of three live recordings. The first, with a classic line-up including Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman and Fats Waller, is a radio broadcast from 1938. The second session is from the Nice Jazz festival in 1948. The third, and final session, is a previously unreleased recording made at the New York night-club, Basin Street East in 1956.

So, the rarity and the fact that you get complete sessions with defined line-ups make this a desirable CD to get; but how about the jazz? Well when I played the first track I did wonder; Satchmo's demonstration of his ability to play a long series of sustained high notes grated: very clever, but … However, from then on the jazz swings and I got to enjoy listening to the master perform.

I have always enjoyed the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, but been less keen on the later material, but I realise now that I will have to reassess my opinion. I was particularly impressed by the 1956 tracks, especially When It's Sleepy Time Down South and Someday.

The live recording capabilities of the day will always ensure that the recordings made won't be perfect. In addition to the occasional balance and off mike problems, on the 1948 version of, When It's Sleepy Time Down South, the mike for the vocal cuts out altogether! There is also a lot of surface noise, again particularly noticeable on the 1948 tracks. It takes many hours of patience to clean up old recordings, I know as I have just spent many, many, hours removing noise and scratches from those jazz recordings I own that haven't been commercially re-issued on CD so I am having to burn my own. Cleaning up is not always easy, but it can be done, and given the historic value of these recordings, I think they deserved a good 'filter' before being issued.


LOUIS ARMSTRONG ALL STARS

A VANCOUVER CONCERT – LIVE 1951

Jazz Crusade 2007, JCD-3120 17 tracks 70 min

Royal Garden Blues, I Used To Love You, The Hucklebuck*, Back-O-Town Blues, I Love The Guy*, Ces’t Si Bon, Stardust, Old Rocking Chair, Tea For Two, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, Lover, Love Me Or Leave Me, La Vie En Rose, C-Jam Blues, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stomping At The Savoy, Where Did You Stay Last Night*

 

My Aunt Margaret’s husband was a Satchmo fan and, knowing I loved traditional jazz, he used to insist on playing his LPs when I went over to visit. I used to smile and thank him, but I wished he hadn’t because I must confess that for me Louis reached his peak with the Hot 5 & Hot 7 and that from then on it was all downhill for, whilst I appreciated his great skill and talent on trumpet, his tendency to spend too much time in the upper register and his hogging the musical lime light turned me off. So, it was with some trepidation I approached this CD.

I needn’t have worried for this concert is great stuff, even if, being live, it sometimes gets a little out of balance. However the ‘live’ aspect certainly gives it great ambiance with crowd chatter and background banter between the band members.

The band consists of Louis on trumpet (of course), Jack Teagarden on trombone, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Earl Hines piano, Arvell Shaw bass, Cozy Cole drums and 3 vocals by Velma Middleton*. As you will see, this is truly an All Stars band, unlike many of Satchmo’s later outfits. Not only is the band ‘all star’, they all get opportunities to shine, which many of the later musicians didn’t get.

Satchmo is in excellent form and after his years playing with big bands has slipped back into the traditional style with little apparent effort.

Jack Teagarden is, well Jack Teagarden. He gets to feature on ‘Stardust’ and ‘Lover’, liquid trombone all the way.

Now some may say that ex-Duke Ellington band member, Barney Bigard wouldn’t fit it, especially as his prime instrument had been the tenor sax, but to my ear he does. This is especially evident on ‘I Used to Love You’, and indeed, this track shews all the band working well together. Barney gets to play an Ellington tune in ‘C-Jam Blues’ and even on a rather up tempo ‘Tea for Two’ uses some of his ex-boss’ phraseology.

Earl Hines features on ‘Love me or Leave Me’ and it is here that drummer Cozy Cole to my mind shews that he often lacks sympathy for the traditional jazz idiom. He also slips his chain during the drum break on ‘Stomping at the Savoy’.

Vocalist Velma Middleton sings well and has a good ‘jazz/blues’ voice. I must confess that this is the first time I have heard the lyrics to ‘The Huckaback’, a dance that, if Velma’s instructions are carried out, must surely have led to many chiropractors getting rich. On ‘‘Where Did You Stay Last Night’ she is obviously having a ball and enjoying flirting and ‘playing’ with the band.

Indeed there is a lot of fun going on between the band members during this concert. This relaxed and jovial atmosphere is very apparent in the interplay between Armstrong & Teagarden, especially on ‘Old Rocking Chair’. Although the intros to the tunes are very much ‘stage Satchmo’, there is also much genuine banter and joking going on that is ‘in house’ rather than for the audience.

This is a live show that indeed ‘showcases’ what must be Louis Armstrong’s best post Hot 5 & Hot 7 bands.

 

 

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