Monday, July 09, 2012

Louis Armstrong and the Allstars in Zurich

TCOB Music calls itself The Montreux Jazz Label ™ and has several different series which can be distinguished by the color of the CD spine. Red is devoted to bebop, hardbop and postbop, green is devoted to the Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series and has vintage jazz concerts recorded by Swiss radio (I have heard an excellent live Art Blakey set), while blue is devoted to the music of the forties and fifties in general.One of its recent productions in the blue series presents Louis Armstrong’s All Stars.

Armstrong’s Live in Zurich, Switzerland, dates from October, 1949 and features (I believe) the original All Stars lineup of Armstrong, trumpet and vocals; Jack Teagarden, trombone and vocals; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Earl Hines, piano; Arvell Shaw, bass, Cozy Cole, drums; and Velma Middleton on vocals.

There is nothing too fancy or surprising with the repertoire. These tunes and this band helped define the ‘Dixieland’ repertoire such as That’s A Plenty, Basin Street Blues (a feature for Teagarden’s relaxed singing and trombone before Armstrong adds his magic); Royal Garden Blues; Armstrong’s classic Struttin’ With Some Barbecue; Fats Waller’s (What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue and Honeysuckle Rose; High Society and Do You Know What it Means (to Miss New Orleans).

Plenty of high points here as Armstrong is particularly poignant on Black and Blue, with some brilliant piano from Earl Hines behind the horns and Armstrong’s vocal. Velma’s Blues is a mid-tempo blues that features Ms. Middleton trading a variety of traditional blues stanzas, while Fatha Hines is featured with his unique piano style on Honeysuckle Rose, and more rollicking playing on Fine and Dandy, whose melody is so familiar but which I can’t identify. Body and Soul opens with some very nice playing from Bigard for the first two and a half minutes before the All Stars kick up the tempo a notch, which is typical for many renditions of this standard that are not modeled on Coleman Hawkins’ classic rendition.

Back ‘O’ Town Blues is a vocal feature for Louis with Teagarden adding some verbal comments as well as his bluesy trombone solo before Louis takes off in flight which he follows with a spirited High Society, with marvelous clarinet by Bigard, although the tempo may be a bit too fast. Teagarden and Armstrong handle the vocals on Do You Know What It Means, before the All Stars close on The Huckle-Buck, with Ms. Middleton taking the mike.

A very enjoyable collection of performances and valuable for documenting a live performance of the Armstrong’s early Allstars.

This review appeared in slightly different form in the April 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 303). I believe I received my review copy from that publication. This is still available.

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