The story goes that when young Louis Armstrong arrived in Chicago from New Orleans to join King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, he was so intimidated after hearing the group rehearse for the first time that he tried to flee town for fear that he would be unable to hold his own with them. Just a few months later, Armstrong had so overcome his initial shyness and become such a dominant member of the band that for their first recording date, while his colleagues huddled around the primitive recording equipment, he was banished to the far corner of the room so that the sound of his horn did not overwhelm the other musicians.
Although widely available in other packages, these legendary sessions, made in April and October of 1923 at the Gennett studios in Richmond, Indiana, have been reissued in a new, digitally remastered edition from Tradition Records. And they have never sounded so clear or so crisp. Mind you, these are still 75-year old tapes (!), so don't expect miracles. The music too, for all its historical importance and foreshadowing of what was to come, can sound quaint and old fashioned at times. And the CD runs a bit short at just 30 minutes.
But much of what is here is simply remarkable. Armstrong is already playing at a tremendously high level and beginning to introduce his original brand of soloing into the Dixieland ensemble framework. The interplay on cornet between Armstrong and his hero Joe Oliver is especially dazzling. If you don't already have a version of Louis Armstrong's very first recordings in your collection, or if you wish to trade up to the defintive sounding version, you'll want to pick up this disc.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.