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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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THEJAZZ PLAYS...LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Universal 8823823

 

 

 

 

 
1. What A Wonderful World
2. Hello, Dolly!
3. Jeepers Creepers
4. Let's Fall In Love
5. When The Saints Go Marching In
6. I Love Jazz
7. West End Blues
8. Pretty Little Missy
9. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
10. Potato Head Blues
11. Makin' Whoopee
12. Swing That Music
13. Cold Cold Heart
14. Stompin' At The Savoy
15. Someday You'll Be Sorry
16. Cabaret
17. Now You Has Jazz
18. We Have All The Time In The World
19. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
20. Summertime

 

Imagine you run a jazz station that appeals to jazz fans and you decide to issue an album illustrating the work of an important jazz musician like, say, Louis Armstrong. How would you start off the album? With one of Louis' stimulating performances with his All Stars? Perhaps with one of those superb duets he recorded with Ella Fitzgerald? Or with one of the classic early recordings from his Hot Five or Hot Seven?

Well, if you're the compiler of this CD, you start with What a Wonderful World - a tune that sounds like a nursery-rhyme song but was hardly one of Louis's supreme jazz performances. The compiler follows it with Hello, Dolly! - another Armstrong hit but, again, not the jazziest of tracks. So perhaps this album isn't aimed at jazz devotees at all, although they might well buy it and hope to find personnel details listed. If so, they'll be disappointed - because the sleeve-note gives only minimal information.

Apart from these grouses, the album supplies a fair a cross-section of recordings by Armstrong in a variety of contexts. There are several tracks by the All Stars, and the Hot Five's definitive West End Blues is also here. There's Potato Head Blues, although it's not the ground-breaking 1927 recording but a later interpretation. And Now You Has Jazz is not the original version with Bing Crosby from the film High Society but an All Stars performance which lacks the excitement of the original. Thankfully there are three glorious duets between Louis and Ella Fitzgerald: two artists who seemed born to perform together. The highlight of these three is Stompin' at the Savoy, which starts slowly but soon picks up into a joyful romp.

Since Louis was such a consummate performer, even What a Wonderful World has its pleasures. It exemplifies how everything Armstrong played or sang was imbued with his jazz phrasing - the conversational rhythms, small delays at the start of phrases, subtle variations in vocal tone and, of course, the concluding "Oh, yeah..." which marks it with the Armstrong trademark. Hello, Dolly! also has string accompaniment but adds some jazz players and Louis gets to do a trumpet solo. We Have All the Time in the World - an Armstrong vocal used on the soundtrack for a 1969 James Bond movie - has the poignancy of knowing that Louis didn't have all the time in the world. Despite this compilation's shortcomings, it could hardly fail because Louis Armstrong's charisma and musicianship pervade every track.

Tony Augarde



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