March 2018: Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berrigan, and Henry “Red” Allen.

Patrick Burnette By

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March’s episodes focus on trumpet-led dates from the 1920s and ‘30s.
Episode 135 takes a thorough and loving look at Louis Armstrong's 1930's recordings for the Decca company. After a couple years nursing a blown lip and searching for new musical contexts, Louis hooked up with manager Joe Glaser and soon had a contract with Decca records, which featured him on a kaleidoscope of recordings, from remakes of some Hot Fives triumphs to collaborations with the Mills Brothers to novelty numbers about Hawaii. The resulting four hours of music is surprisingly rewarding and Louie rarely played—or sang—better. Brief discussions of Bryan Ferry's Olympia and Quincy Jones' diss of the Beatles follow in pop matters.

Listen to Episode 135

Louie Armstrong wasn't the only trumpeter playing jazz in the twenties and thirties, and in this episode the boys put him into context with discussion of recordings by Bunny Berigan, King Oliver, Henry "Red" Allen, Oscar "Papa" Celestin, and Sam Morgan. The Celestin/Morgan sides are some of the only recorded evidence of Dixieland as played by African American bands in New Orleans in the twenties (most recordings of the period took place in Chicago and New York). Henry "Red" Allen was still in Armstrong's shadow during this period, while "King" Oliver's final recordings show a player in decline soon before he completely lost the ability to play due to dental problems. The most problematic sides are the ones where Bunny Berigan accompanied white performers singing in what Mike describes as the "novelty" style but Pat labels "satanic." The only (vocal) ray of light in these sides comes courtesy of the Boswell Sisters, though Bunny's playing is exemplary throughout. Macy Gray's Stripped comes in for scrutiny in the pop matters segment.

Listen to Episode 136

Thanks for listening and see you next month!

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