This is the fourth of four Louis Armstrong CDs put out by the Dot time label (www.dottimerecords.com). Unlike the first three, most of the music on Live In Europe has been out before although just released by mostly tiny labels. The great Armstrong is featured with two different versions of his All-Stars, from Paris on Feb. 22-23, 1948 and Berlin from Oct. 12, 1952.
Due to the Musicians Union recording strike of 1948, that year’s All-Stars (with trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Barney Bigard, pianist Earl Hines, bassist Arvell Shaw, and drummer Big Sid Catlett) did not have many opportunities to record in the studio, and those were in 1949. The Paris broadcasts start out a bit rough with a presentation made in French, a brief “Muskrat Ramble,” a so-so version of “Rockin’ Chair,” and Bigard’s feature on “Rose Room.” However things pick up from then on, with jam session renditions of “Royal Garden Blues,” “Panama,” “Mahogany Hall Stomp” and “Them There Eyes,” and fine renditions of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” and “Black And Blue.” While Hines (who had just joined the group) is not heard from much, Teagarden and Bigard are both in excellent form and Armstrong sounds inspired by the stiff competition, playing with plenty of power. The music is full of fire and much more spontaneous than many of the All-Stars’ performances in the 1950s.
The 1952 All-Stars (with trombonist Trummy Young, clarinetist Bob McCracken, pianist Marty Napoleon, bassist Arvell Shaw, and drummer Cozy Cole) find Armstrong putting on more of a well-rehearsed show. McCracken was not with the band long (Edmond Hall would soon take over) and Young, who spent more than a decade with the All-Stars, was a new member. Velma Middleton sings on “Lover Come Back To Me” and a humorous duet with Armstrong on “Can Anyone Explain”; both of those performances were previously unissued. Best from the 1952 set are “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans,” Young’s feature on “Coquette,” and “A Kiss To Build A Dream On.”
While not flawless, Live In Europe is full of fun and high energy, making this an excellent addition for Louis Armstrong collectors.
FRANCE LINE-UP: Louis Armstrong, trumpet/vocals; Jack Teagarden, trombone/vocals; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Earl Hines, piano; Arvell Shaw, bass; Sid Catlett, drums. GERMANY LINE-UP: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocals; Trummy young, trombone; Bob McCracken, clarinet/vocals; Marty Napoleon, piano; Arvell Shaw, bass; Cozy Cole, drums.
Imagine, stepping into a magical transformer and being whisked back in time. For a minute, just pretend you have entered a time machine. Moments later, you are sitting in a small jazz club in New Orleans, it’s 1946, and just mere feet away from your table, a young man, destined to become a living legend, is blowing his horn. Other’s on the scene are Jack Teagarden on trombone and Barney Bigard on clarinet. Crouched over the piano keys is Earl “Fatha” Hines. Arvell Shaw stands tall next to his double bass and Cozy Cole is slapping the trap drums. The leader, standing center stage in a dark suit and bow tie, is Louis Armstrong. The ensemble is performing together in preparation for a European tour.
It appears that eventual tour was recorded on February 22 – 23, 1948 during the Nice International Jazz Festival. It was recorded live at the famed Nice Opera House and also at the Titania Palast in Berlin, Germany. The group of musicians varies. Velma Middleton is featured, along with Louie, on vocals. Sometimes the dynamic Sid Catlett is the drummer and other times, it’s Cozy Cole. Earl Hines is the pianist in France and Marty Napoleon plays piano in Germany. But the steadfast trumpeter and star of this live production is Louis Armstrong.
This recording is part of Dot Time’s Legacy Series and these treasured tracks were recovered in forgotten, European archives of a live performance of Louie Armstrong and his All Stars in both Nice, France and later, in Germany, during a Berlin recorded broadcast on RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) files.
On the bluesy presentation of “Rockin’ Chair,” Jack Teagarden lends his smooth vocals to the mix, with Armstrong playfully answering him in his signature vocal style and adding a bit of comic relief during their duet. One thing I always admired about Louis Armstrong, (other than his amazing musical agility on his trumpet) was his penchant for entertaining. Sometimes musicians play only for themselves and each other, forgetting about the audience or having the attitude you can love it or leave it. Louie Armstrong knew that singing was a strong audience pleaser and always included this in his shows, as well as adding comedy relief. Louis Armstrong understood the importance of entertaining. The story goes that Armstrong’s manager at the time, Joe Glaser, told him before his European tour not to sing. He said they were all foreigners and didn’t speak any English. Armstrong nodded gravely, but as you hear, he paid absolutely no attention to Glaser’s instruction not to sing. In his own way, he was a serious activist, using music as his catalyst. He opened every concert singing Fats Waller’s poignant “Black and Blue” composition. It reflected the racism in America and always was received with marvelous applause and appreciation. You will hear his performance of that song on this album, along with the popular, “Sunny Side of the Street.”
He scats his way through “Them There Eyes,” as only Louie could do and I was intrigued with the blues song, “My Bucket Got a Hole In It,” featuring the boogie-woogie bass line I used to hear my own father play on our upright piano. Louis Armstrong then pays homage to his roots on “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and on “Mahogany Hall Stomp” the band has an on-stage jam session with Arvell Shaw making a strong statement on his bass and Barney Bigard swinging his clarinet solo boldly into the audience. Closing with “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” Louis Armstrong leaves us a message from beyond this world and a promise, like a blown kiss, that love crosses all boundaries the same way great music does.