Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

3

Louis Armstrong: The Decca Singles 1935-1946

Patrick Burnette By

Sign in to view read count
Good news, jazz fans—rhythm saves the world again. The Universal Music Group tentacle labeled "Verve Records" has issued The Complete Decca Singles 1935-1946. Don't be put off by the term "singles." Since this was the 78 era, all recordings were essentially singles and the set thoroughly covers Satchmo's output for Decca during the period. (Even the spoken-word "Elder Eatmore" sermons are included). This material previously appeared in a fine Mosaic box and a Definitive Records set of dubious provenance. Both are out of print, so it's good to see this material available "digitally" (by which UMG means streaming and mp3 only).

These Decca sides are often overlooked because they fall between Armstrong's earth-shattering Hot Fives and Sevens and his return to his Dixieland roots with the All-Stars, but there is a plethora of fantastic music here. By the mid-thirties, Armstrong's trumpet-playing reached new heights of power and polish. His improvisational forays aren't as lightning-bolt startling as the best of the fives and sevens, but as examples of sheer instrumental excellence and control they surpass the earlier work. His choruses on the remake of "Struttin' with Some Barbeque" justify the set on their own, and his genius for paraphrase and elaboration remains at a summit throughout these sides.

Decca featured Louis' singing more heavily than his trumpet playing. Most jazz fans agree that Billie, Ella, and Sarah are the top female jazz vocalists, but the pantheon for men is harder to pin down. Is there any better candidate for top dog than Louis? Since Decca had him sing just about every kind of song popular during the thirties, this collection shows what a master vocalist he'd become by the mid-thirties. Critics complain that most of the songs assigned to him were mediocre at best, which is quite true, but listen to the results. Louis doesn't need the cream of the great American songbook when he can spin gold from the dross. And a few of the novelty numbers—the brilliant "Trumpet Player's Lament," for instance—are as good as anything he put to wax. Only a few tunes elude redemption at his hands. The Hawaiian numbers are too insipid for even Louis to strike sparks from, and "If It's Good Then I Want It" is just plain stupid, period.

Armstrong's collaborations with the Mills Brothers provide many of the highlights here (the blend of voices, acoustic guitar, trumpet and "mouth trumpet" is sublime) but also include a couple songs with painfully retrograde lyrics—the kind that got the trumpeter in trouble with black progressives in the fifties and sixties. Listen carefully to this set, and you'll learn lots about the thirties as a cultural moment as well as about Louis' incomparable artistry, charisma, and good humor. The Hot Fives and Sevens remain the essential starting place, but this trawl shows Satchmo's alchemical powers at full force and provides hours of fun listening. Don't overlook it.

Track Listing: Visit udiscovermusic.com for a complete listing of all 136 tracks.

Personnel: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, with the Luis Russell Orchestra, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Mills Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, and others.

Title: The Decca Singles 1935-1946 | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Universal Music Group

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Radio
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Film Reviews
Under the Radar
Jazz Bastard
Album Reviews
Getting Into Jazz
Genius Guide to Jazz
Building a Jazz Library
Jazz Primer
The Vinyl Post
Book Reviews
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
From Far and Wide
Profiles
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
Pops Is Tops. The Verve Studio Albums.

Pops Is Tops. The...

Verve international
2018

buy
The Night Clubs

The Night Clubs

Dot Time Records
2017

buy
The Standard Oil Sessions

The Standard Oil...

Dot Time Records
2017

buy
The Decca Singles 1935-1946

The Decca Singles...

Universal Music Group
2017

buy

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Duologue Album Reviews
Duologue
By Dan Bilawsky
January 17, 2019
Read Showing Up Album Reviews
Showing Up
By Nicholas F. Mondello
January 17, 2019
Read Chez Hélène Album Reviews
Chez Hélène
By Glenn Astarita
January 17, 2019
Read Original Demos Album Reviews
Original Demos
By Chris M. Slawecki
January 17, 2019
Read Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard Album Reviews
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard
By Mark Sullivan
January 16, 2019
Read SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk Album Reviews
SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk
By Doug Collette
January 16, 2019
Read Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967 Album Reviews
Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967
By Mike Jurkovic
January 16, 2019

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/chunks/overlay/aaj-sitemap.php on line 5