Louis Armstrong: Storyville Masters of Jazz: Louis Armstrong

Greg Thomas By

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Was Louis Armstrong more an entertainer or artist? The dichotomy suggested by this question won't be resolved by this disc because it's a matter of perspective, like particles and waves in physics.

Although liner notes author Mike Hennessey claims that he was "an entertainer first, a brilliantly gifted jazzman second, Armstrong made it clear that "the cause of happiness ultimately defined his power of intention. He kept the blues at bay by his graceful authority, down-home humor (at times edging on the bawdy), soulful singing and seasoned blowing.

Most of this music was recorded live in 1962, three years after he had suffered a heart attack. Since Armstrong and his All Stars (including trombonist Trummy Young) were in tight yet loose form, we owe a debt of gratitude to the relaunched Storyville label for presenting this complete concert performance in high fidelity. Armstrong's trumpet playing is so vibrant (for example, on "Indiana ) that some listeners may be stunned. This is late period Satchmo whose wailin' swing beamed from his throne.

The first fourteen cuts are typical of his latter-day repertoire—the pop contours of which were likely determined by his manager, Joe Glaser—while the last six tracks are from a few radio dates in the '40s, featuring notable sidemen such as Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines and Sid Catlett. The sound quality of the 1962 date is vastly superior, though Armstrong's tender, melancholy synthesis of sacred and earthly in 1947 on "Dear Old Southland, interpolating "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, might move you to tears.

Einstein heralded general relativity a century ago, but long before then, mystics and poets posited the Law of Polarity: male/female, day/night, sun/moon, east/west, yin/yang. Pops transcended such relative notions as entertainer/artist, avant-garde/traditional, gutbucket/cosmopolitan, tragic/comic, learned/vernacular and genius/court jester.

By way of the towering majesty of his refined musical conception, the many-splendored nuances of his emotional eloquence, and the spiritual depths of his humanity, Louis Armstrong integrated and balanced art and entertainment, bringing love and joy through his soaring horn and gravelly voice to countless millions.

Check out this recording and you'll count yourself in that number.

Track Listing: When It's Sleepy Time Down South; Indiana; Give Me A Kiss To Build A Dream On; The Bucket's Got A Hole In It; Mack The Knife; Blueberry Hill; When The Saints Go Marching In; Ole Miss; Tiger Rag; High Society Calypso; C'est Si Bon; La Vie En Rose; The Faithful Hussar; When It's Sleepy Time Down South; I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Dear Old Southland; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans; Someday You Will Be Sorry; A Song Is Born.

Personnel: Louis Armstrong: trumpet, vocals; Arvell Shaw, Billy Cronk, Jack Lesberg: bass; George Washington: trombone, vocals; James Whitney, Frank Galbreath, Bernard Flood, Henderson Chambers: trumpet; Louis Russell, Rupert Cole, Carl Frye, Joe Garland: reeds; Sid Catlett, Danny Barcelona, George Wettling: drums; Trummy Young: trombone; Barney Bigard, Joe Darensbourg: clarinet; Ernie Caceres: baritone and bass saxophone; Billy Kyle, Earl Hines, Dick Cary: piano; Lawrence Lucie: guitar; Bobby Hackett: cornet; Jack Teagarden: trombone, vocals; Peanuts Hucko: tenor saxophone.

Title: Storyville Masters of Jazz: Louis Armstrong | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Storyville Records


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