Music Reviews

Louis Armstrong

The Best of Louis Armstrong

Vanguard

Louis Armstrong remains in the eyes of many to be the predominant figure in the history of jazz, ranking right up there (if not a hair above) giants such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie. But what is most impressive about Armstrong, besides his overall impact of the music form he helped create, was his incredible staying power.

His periods were many: the innovative solo trumpeter while leading the Hot Five and Hot Seven combos during the 1920s, the big band days of the ’30s, and his sextet work in the ’40s and ’50s, with his vocal work laced throughout and beyond. One wonders when he ever really faded.

That is no more evident than on Vanguard’s first-time, two-CD release of this 1976 recording, The Best of Louis Armstrong, pulled from his performance at the Palais de Sports in Paris in 1965. This is the lion in winter, and Armstrong barely seems to have lost a step as he rips through 26 songs featuring (of course) many of his popular tunes – as trumpeter, bandleader, and vocalist.

Despite his advanced age – Armstrong died in 1971 at the age of 71 – Armstrong’s solo work was no less inspired, and even though his trademark gravelly voice had become even more weathered over the years, he still knew how to respect the tunes he sang. Love overcame any technical dips (and besides, people loved hearing Armstrong’s voice regardless).

His rapport with the audience is unmistakable, with fans roaring after anything from the opener, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” to the massive hit “Hello, Dolly,” in which “Satchmo’s” trumpeting work glides seamlessly in between his famous lines.

But Armstrong was certainly not alone at this performance, leading an impeccable nine-piece that included stellar piano work from Billy Kyle (“When I Grow Too Old to Dream”) and Mary Napoleon and Eddie Shuree, though I’m not sure which one provided the beautiful dancing notes on “On the Alamo.”

Yes, you get the hits like “Hello, Dolly” and “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home,” as well as classic reworkings of “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Volare,” “Mack the Knife,” “Cabaret,” and a brilliant medley, “Tenderly/You’ll Never Walk Alone/Mop Mop (Boff Boff).” But you also get strong improvisations of “Blueberry Hill,” “It’s Easy to Remember,” and “Teach Me Tonight.”

Not as all-encompassing (or studio-driven) as a true “Best of” might be, The Best of Louis Armstrong shows a portrait of the artist as an old man, and seemingly no worse for wear. Vanguard Recording Society, 2700 Pennsylvania Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404


Recently on Ink 19...

New Music Now 011: Nora O’Connor

New Music Now 011: Nora O’Connor

Features

On today’s New Music Now, Judy Craddock talks to our musical guest, Nora O’Connor, about her solo album, My Heart, and the captivating new music she’s listening to right now. Tune in for great music, and more ’90s references than you can shake a scrunchie at.

Big Time Gambling Boss

Big Time Gambling Boss

Screen Reviews

Writer Kazuo Kasahara and director Kôsaku Yamashita transcend genre conventions to create the memorable film Big Time Gambling Boss. Phil Bailey reviews.

Frank Bello

Frank Bello

Features

Frank Bello’s new memoir Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax takes us from a New York childhood, to Anthrax stadium tours, to fatherhood with the charming informality of a conversation with an old friend. Then I’m Gone, Bello’s first solo EP, provides accompaniment. Joe Frietze reviews.

An Interview with Starberry

An Interview with Starberry

Interviews

Rising musician Starberry blends rock and roll and post-punk for a refreshing punch that sticks around. Elijah McDaniel talks with the New Jersey artist about creativity, falsettos, and grinding the internet.

%d bloggers like this: