|Louis Armstrong was a
madman. He drove himself and his band to play over 300 dates a year - even
well into his sixties. Granted, the guys were well paid, but they never
had any time to enjoy their money. What is more impressive is actually
seeing and hearing the All-Stars in concert. Jake was priviledged to see
them once, and it was an experience of a lifetime. These guys were on the
stage, playing, laughing, clowning around and acting like this was their
first night - not their 250th that year. Their collaborative energies were amazing
- even though they played virtually the same tunes night after night, they
made the audience feel like they were kids having a giddy day on the bandstand.
Realizing that we already
have a seminal work on here entitled Ambassador Satch
- which chronicled The All-Stars' tour in Europe in the 1950's, we stumbled
upon yet another concert (probably around the same time).
We'll not repeat any songs that can be heard on Ambassador
Satch, but we felt it is our duty to share our good fortune with you.
(When It's) Sleepytime Down South was Louis' opener and closer for every show. It's a kick to hear the band being introduced, and of course when Louis is introduced, the audience goes spastic. The song is hauntingly beautiful, with Trummy Young's trombone playing perfect counterpoint. Louis and Trummy make some beautiful two-note chords, and Peanuts Hucko's clarinet is the perfect third. (We know that isn't Peanuts in the photo, but our old pal Edmond Hall) The vocal is - as always - superb. Listen to the bridge ("Steamboats up the river..."), because the progression takes this tune to greater heights. Louis cannot resist his scat vocal closure, which always made the audience laugh. Just another night at the ranch.
|(Back Home Again In)
is played at the All-Star's usual frantic pace. Billy Kyle tries to hold
them onto the stage with his perfect piano solo, but you can sense the
urgency in Danny Barcelona's drums before Mort Herbert takes the bass solo.
Louis can be heard saying, "That boy's swatting them there" - talking about
fanning those bass strings. Peanuts takes his solo as Trummy and
Louis get ready for the jailbreak. Trummy tests the waters while Louis
ties the sheets. Louis leads the way as they scale the wall - Danny's drums
pushing from behind.
Basin Street Blues has been covered here by James Davis, but we'd be remiss if we didn't let you hear Louis' version. Just fine ensemble playing in the beginning. Great three-note chords on the chorus. Standard fine vocal by Louis with Trummy's obligato to the cool scat. During Billy Kyle's piano solo, you can hear Louis in the background declaring, "Camels are coming, there". Warning the audience that Danny is gonna rip a tempo-changing solo, and take the last rides up-beat. Obligatory solos follow - sometimes with ensemble help, sometimes not. Louis' ride-out is a classic - especially the hit-and-hold-and-wait-for-the-others-to follow..."Has Anybody Seen My Gal" is woven into the fabric by Louis as he leads the boys in a grand march to the saloon.
Bassists usually get a raw deal in groups like this, but Satchmo always gave his guys room to soar if they wanted it. Mort Herbert takes Love Is Just Around The Corner for a whirl. Introduced by Trummy, he plays a great few choruses with Billy Kyle giving just the right chords for accompaniment. Having seen this before, we know Satch and the boys snuck backstage for a quick smoke, but they get back to take their supporting 16 bars. After a reprise, Herbert is cute in ending this tune - climbing up that bass until he runs out of string, and says.........
Mack The Knife has always been an Armstrong classic - as you can tell by the audience's reaction. It's on all the CD's in every store today, but one wonders what the Hell it has to do with Dixieland jazz? I look at it this way - Louis made it a standard for his following (as did Bobby Darin and the whole Berthold Brecht / Kurt Weill gang), so listen and enjoy.
We didn't like C'est
Si Bon when we were younger. We thought it was syrupy trash. Thank
God maturity changes some things for the better. Just mostly Louis and
Trummy in the beginning, with Peanuts sliding in and out wheh he wanted
to. But when the vocal starts, the band comes together like a little Paris
bistro late-night bunch, kinda there and not-there at the same time. Nice
punching notes support that exquisite vocal.
Except for Jack Teagarden, we think Trummy Young is the best trombone player to ever work with the All-Stars. Granted, he was never exceptionally original like Teagarden, but he provided solid support, and could "twin" his boss sometimes in ways reminiscent of the way Louis used to do Joe Oliver. He was a great sideman. His spotlight is a pop vocal "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter". Dixieland? No way!! Cute vocal? Way!! Why is it here? Because it's our damned site - next question???
Louis Blues is a surprise. Louis brings on his favorite foil Velma
Middleton. Their vocal sparring and jabs on stage have made audiences laugh
for years. They are a perfect match on this tune. Just listen to the guys
in the band give her shit - she can take it. When Louis takes his vocal
turn, the band turns into a Louis Prima soundalike. Listen to his vocals
- when he slips the "face" in there, things start to break up. Listen to
audience - we can only imagine what is going on. Peanuts tries to keep
order, but the band has its own idea.
Once Velma is on stage, she demands attention. Don't You Know (Kokomo) gives her and Louis another chance to sing. Starting off with a calypso beat, it quickly takes on a Velma flavor. Listen to their interaction - wish we had a video of this stuff!!! Velma used to do splits on stage, and drummer Barrett Deems used to say, "We were scared one time she'd not make it - but she always did". She matches Satchmo one-for-one on scatting, and Danny takes it...
|...to The Saints. Everbody's nickel. This is a classic. Just shut up and listen. This time, this is the ride-out tune...Louis calls up the band for a final bow.|
Wish we'd been there.