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



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LOUIS ARMSTRONG VOL.4

Satchel Mouth Swing

NAXOS JAZZ Legends 8.120735

 

 

 

  1. Mahogany hall stomp
  2. I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
  3. The Skeleton in the Closet
  4. When Ruben Swings the Cuban
  5. Hurdy-Gurdy Man
  6. Dipper Mouth Blues
  7. Swing That Music
  8. To, Sweetheart, Aloha
  9. On a Coconut Island
  10. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
  11. Old Folks at Home
  12. Public Melody Number One
  13. Red Cap
  14. Cuban Pete
  15. She’s the Daughter of a Planter from Havana
  16. I’ve Got a Heart Full of Rhythm
  17. Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  18. Satchel Mouth Swing
  19. The Trumpet Player’s Lament
  20. Struttin’ with Some Barbecue

These recordings were made in the period 1936-1938, mostly they are recorded when Louis took over the nucleus of the Louis Russell Orchestra, which had been struggling for work. It was a polished outfit of very fine musicians and suited his purpose as a backing band very well. Tracks 3 to 7 find Louis in the company of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and again the musical empathy works out well. There are a couple of tracks with the Polynesians that feature Lionel Hampton on vibes, but they are hardly classic ‘Hamp’ tracks!

There are a couple of tracks which feature The Mills Brothers (10 & 11). Satch solos with them, they sing well and he plays well, but I am not sure why these tracks should be included in this album, as they are really just novelty pieces of little interest to jazz fans.

What is fascinating is how Louis, by this time, had already adapted to the swing format, which was so different from the music of the Hot Five and Hot Seven bands. His vocal style had also become much more flexible and a significant part of his performance. It is however his trumpet playing which is so remarkable, the change of style made even more use of his big tone and phenomenal technique. The bands are all very musical and staffed by the top musicians of the day, with names like Bunny Berigan, Pops Foster. Paul Barbarin, J C Higginbotham and Henry Allen, he really couldn’t go wrong! We do have to bear in mind however, that this was essentially dance music, with Louis adding the jazz content. Track 17 sounds like an early Dorsey Band until you hear the vocal and then recognition is instant. The ‘Trumpet Player’s Lament’ is a strange piece which despite some fine playing from Louis would have been better to remain forgotten. The last track is a fine version of Struttin’ with Some Barbecue which is different from any previous versions and shows Louis to be the No1 man of the jazz trumpet at that time.

Overall this is a valuable piece to add to our knowledge of the fantastic musical world of the unique Louis Armstrong, genius of the trumpet and one of the true founders of the great jazz tradition.

Don Mather

 



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