This compilation of vocals by the legendary Louis Armstrong spans the years 1929 (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”) to 1967 (“Cabaret”) and shows, more than anything else, that only the instrumental backing changed while Louis remained essentially the same from his earliest years to the end of his long and storied career. Considering the many sources from which the material came, the sound reproduction is quite remarkable, especially on “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which sounds nothing like a recording that was made and released in 1929 (could the booklet’s information be in error?). There’s one duet, “Long Gone John from Bowlin’ Green,” recorded in 1954 with an unnamed female vocalist, and one instrumental, “Twelfth Street Rag,” recorded in concert in January ’56 for an enthusiastic audience in Milan, Italy. “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” which closes the album, is from another concert date, this one in Chicago in June ’56. What always fascinated me most about Armstrong was his remarkable vocal range; for someone who didn’t seem to have much of a voice to work with, he never missed a note, no matter how far he was required to reach. The album opens with one of Armstrong’s biggest hits, “Mack the Knife,” from 1955, and includes another, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” released (it says here) in 1931, but as with “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sounding notably clear and blemish–free for a tune recorded seventy years ago. Kudos to those who cleaned up the source material, whoever they were — and to those who supervised the compilation for including such gems as “I’m Crazy About My Baby,” “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “The Memphis Blues,” “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along” and “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” along with the songs already mentioned. A thoroughly engaging package with wonderful singing (and trumpet–playing) by one of the seminal pathfinders in Jazz.
Contact:North Star Records, 22 London St., East Greenwich, RI 02818.