Jul 21, 2009

Louis Armstrong Sings

I don’t know if Louis Armstrong is the first person most people think of when you mention jazz singers. That’s probably Jolson because of his association with the first talkie. Louis’ gravelly voice is unmistakeable though.

I’m Not Rough is from the Hot Five recordings, and features Kid Ory on trombone, and Lonnie Johnson on guitar.

St. Louis Blues is the W. C. Handy song. Recorded in 1929 it features Henry “Red” Allen and Otis Johnson on trumpets, Teddy Hill on tenor sax.

On the Sunny Side of the Street is from 1956. Here Louis voice conveys a gritty optimism.

Mack The Knife, recorded in 1955, is the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill song that was a hit for Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby Darin. The Threepenny Opera derives from John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, works set in the underworld of whores and thieves. The song should convey some menace. Mack the Knife, or Macheath in the original, is a violent criminal. Louis’ rendition includes the menacing later portion, about cement being for weight. In at least one rendition of the song Ella forgets the words, and resorts to scat singing. I don’t recall if Bobby Darin’s rendition included all the lyrics, or just the bit about the shark having pearly teeth.

Summer Song was recorded in 1961, and can be found on The Real Ambassadors album. The personnel on this one include Dave Brubeck and Billy Kyle on piano, and Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums. Here Louis manages to convey the image of a man looking back and remembering the summers of his youth.

The album is a good introduction to Louis Armstrong and the range of his vocal recordings, and his ability to convey a variety of moods.