By George Harris, Jazz Weekly
For much of his career, Louis Armstrong was denigrated for not “changing with the times” and embracing modern sounds of bebop and hard bop. What these critics and musicians didn’t understand is that, like Mozart, once you perfect a sound and style, why change directions? The broadcasts performances recorded on this essential desc have him in two settings. The first is a 1948 concert from two nights at the “Opera De Nice” in France with his classic team of all stars who originated this sound: Jack Teagarden/tb-voc, Earl Hines/p, Ellington alumnus Barney Bigard/cl, Sid Catlett/dr and Arvell Shaw/b. While it may sound that Teagarden and Satchmo are simply mugging up on pieces like “Rockin’ Chair,” “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” and “Black and Blue,” it must be appreciated that this relaxed and yet perfectly swinging collection of vocals is the epitome of sublime swing. And musicianship should never be in question either, as Hines swings hard on “Panama,” Bigard glides on “Rose Room” and the horns punch like Sonny Liston on “Royal Garden Blues.”
Fast forward four years and Armstrong is in Germany with a new team of Trummy Young/tb, Bob McCarcken/cl, Marty Napoleon/p, Arvell Shaw/b and Cozy Cole/dr. Vocalist Velma Middleton is a welcome addition, and she is bold and beautiful on “Lover Come Back To Me” and “Can Anyone Explain.” Young slides into third safely on “Coquette” and Armstrong shows he was able to adapt to the times as he boogie-woogies to “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” while tearing off the roof for “Tin Roof Blues.” Like the greatest of artists and political leaders, Armstrong knew to listen to himself and not “advisors.” This is a treat and it serves as an essential compass for musical direction.