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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Introducing LOUIS ARMSTRONG

3 CD Box Set

NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.103007

 

 

 

This set covers the period 1925 to 1936, most established jazz fans will have heard the music before, but this boxed set has much improved sound on most previous issues.

CD1 Heebie Jeebies

  1. Cornet Chop Suey
  2. West End Blues
  3. Heebie Jeebies
  4. Potato Head blues
  5. No (No Papa No)
  6. Gut Bucket Blues
  7. Knockiní A Jug
  8. S.O.L Blues
  9. Weather Bird
  10. Save It Pretty Mama
  11. Fireworks
  12. A Monday Date
  13. Struttiní with Some Barbecue
  14. Squeeze Me
  15. Willie the Weeper
  16. Sweathearts on parade
  17. Muggles
  18. Hear Me Talkiní to Ya

Louis Armstrong was one of the all time giants of jazz and even though a lot of his career was dominated by the commercial demands of his management, his musicality shines through. On these records although he is featured with many of the Ďbig namesí of the era it is Louis who is the star of every track. His playing influenced everyone involved in jazz, his timing is a revelation and he did much to drive the music forward, compare his trumpet playing to the Tenor Sax work of Happy Caldwell on track to understand my meaning. As well as his superb trumpet playing there are good examples of his vocal style which became so important later in his career. Weather Bird is a track that I was not familiar and the trumpet playing is outstanding, perhaps the presence of earl Hines on piano inspired him. Tracks 12 to 15 are the Hot Five & Hot Seven Bands that have been the basis of so called Trad jazz ever since. All the titles are in the repertoire of most bands playing music from that era today. By anybodyís standards these are good tunes and Earl Hines demonstrates that just like Armstrong, he was one of the outstanding musicians of the era.

The quality of reproduction is amazing bearing in mind the source material and the NAXOS team are very strong in that department.

 

CD2 Iíve Got the World on a String

  1. Iíve Got the World on a String
  2. Blue, Turning Grey Over You
  3. I Got Rhythm
  4. Star Dust
  5. Confessiní
  6. When Itís Sleepy Time Down South
  7. Iíll Be Glad When Your Dead, You Rascal You
  8. The Lonesome Road
  9. The Peanut Vendor
  10. Hobo, You canít Ride This Train
  11. Thatís My Home
  12. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
  13. Snowball
  14. Sweet Sue
  15. Basin St Blues
  16. Dusky Stevedore
  17. Thereís a Cabin in the Pines
  18. St Louis Blues

During the period of these recordings 1930 to 1933 the main function of bands was to play in dance halls and so on these recordings, we find our hero with a larger band than previously. Thankfully his virtuosity is undimmed and again he has superb material from all the best composers of the period to work with. Whether playing or singing, he manages to deliver on each track.

By this time Louis knew only too well that if you wanted to live a comfortable life, you had to play what the public wanted to hear. There was also the requirement to achieve record sales, which brought another source of income. A lot of this record is not classic jazz orchestration, but it is all classic Armstrong and Sleepy Time in later years became Louisís signature tune.

Glad when Your Dead became an Armstrong knock about comedy favourite, Peanut Vendor predates the Kenton version by many years, but you can see where Stan got the idea from! Kenny Ball has carried on where Louis left off with Thatís My Home, just a small demonstration of the manís influence.

CD3 Rhythm Saved the World

  1. St Louis Blues
  2. Tiger Rag
  3. Will You Wonít You Be My Baby
  4. On the Sunny Side of the Street
  5. St Louis Blues
  6. Song of the Vipers
  7. Got A BraníNew Suit
  8. Iím In the Mood for Love
  9. You are My lucky Star
  10. Iíve Got My Fingers Crossed
  11. Old Man Mose
  12. Falling In Love with You
  13. Iím Shooting High
  14. Thanks a Million
  15. Solitude
  16. Shoe Shine Boy
  17. I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music
  18. The Music Goes ĎRound & Around
  19. Rhythm Saved the World

These tracks find Louis with his regular working dance band of the period, some of the arrangements sound dated, but his brilliant trumpet work and appealing vocals always pull things through. Many of these tracks in fact demonstrate his true genius as a trumpet player, he had a tone that was thick and true, masses of technique and a fantastic range. Some of these pieces are played at quite a pace, it makes you wonder what kind of dancing the audience did to them!

The first 6 tracks were recorded in Paris in 1934 and the sound quality is good, the remaining tracks were made in New York in 1935 & 1936. From the listed names, it looks like some European musicians were included in the line up and they were well up to the arrangements, which were quite challenging for the time.

It is strange that the saxophone solos sound more dated than those from other instrumentalists, I assume that at this time the really great saxophone masters were only just beginning to make their mark on the jazz world.

By this time however the unique Armstrong vocal style was fully developed and we get a good selection on these tracks. Iím In the Mood for Love is a good example with a fine trumpet solo as a bonus. The follow up track is another good example. Iíve Got my Fingers Crossed is a good tune that deserves to be played more often. Old Man Mose, an Armstrong original stayed in the bandís library until Louis passed on and it always stopped the show.

Despite itís commercial overtones, this record gives a clear understanding of the jazz genius that was Louis Armstrong. My personal favourite Armstrong band was the 1947 All Stars, but his trumpet playing and singing on this last CD demonstrates that he was by this time already a jazz master craftsman.

Don Mather



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