“EVERYONE KNOWS HIS CREATIVE PERIOD WAS BEHIND HIM BY _______.”

Louis Armstrong reached his artistic peak somewhere before 1929, when his recording of commercial songs — I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE as opposed to POTATO HEAD BLUES — was ruinous.  Right?

As we say in my country, “Oh, please!”

You play what you are!  And Louis in 1954 and 1960 still embodied the deepest human truths of joy and sorrow.

These two videos are now available widely thanks to the tireless collector, historian, and archivist Franz Hoffmann.

The first, from May 9, 1954, is part of a wonderfully odd CBS-TV program,
“YOU ARE THERE: “THE EMERGENCE OF JAZZ,” which purports to recreate the closing of Storyville as if it were a news story happening at the moment.  In 1954, I wasn’t sufficiently sentient to have been watching this episode, but I gather that this neat gimmick allowed various actors to recreate events in history — with light brushes with accuracy and the help of Walter Cronkite to make it seem “real.”  Here, Louis was asked to become King Oliver, fronting his own All-Stars . . . all African-Americans, with the exception of drummer Barrett Deems, who had his face blacked to fit it.  The other band members are Barney Bigard, Trummy Young, Billy Kyle, Arvell Shaw.  In other segments, Louis Mitchell was played by Cozy Cole and Jelly Roll Morton by Billy Taylor. No doubt.  Here, much of the fun is that the Oliver band is “challenged” by an offstage White band — the Original Dixieland Jazz Band — impersonated by Bobby Hackett, Bill Stegmeyer, Lou Stein, Cliff Leeman, and Lou Mc Garity.  To see and hear Louis play BACK O’TOWN BLUES and read his lines is enough of a pleasure; to hear Louis and Bobby improvise on the SAINTS is a joy.

Six years later, with no faux-news report, just a substantial production for a BELL TELEPHONE HOUR (January 1, 1960), we see Louis in magnificent form (although this segment is taxing).  After SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET and LAZY RIVER — with the plastic mute Jack Teagarden made for him — there is one of the most touching episodes of Louis on film, beginning at 3:30.  If you ever meet anyone who doubts Louis’ sincerity, his acting ability, his skill in conveying emotion, please play them this video and let them hear and see the ways he approaches SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD, intensely moving.  Then the mood switches to an early-television meeting of Louis with an unidentified vocal quartet for MUSKRAT RAMBLE.  In all, eight minutes plus of wonderful music.

Louis sustains us as he sustained himself.

Thanks to Franz Hoffmann and of course to Ricky Riccardi, who has done so much to remind us that Louis never, ever stopped creating.

May your happiness increase.

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5 responses to ““EVERYONE KNOWS HIS CREATIVE PERIOD WAS BEHIND HIM BY _______.”

  1. Michael !
    I don’t kow if you are able to see me through these few words I’m sending your way, but right now I’m in my living room giving you a Standing Ovation over the last few minutes for posting these fabulous clips of Louis!
    I really look forward to seeing Jazz Lives in my email listings each day always knowing that there’s something good commin’ my way. But today, well, this is really something special…………..Pure Louis! Excuse me while I go and watch them again.
    Jimmy Mac

  2. “May your happiness increase.”

    Ohhhhhhhhh Yeaaaaahhhhh!

  3. jOhn P. Cooper

    Later Louis is highly under-rated.

  4. Pingback: Everyone knows his creative period was behind him by _______ | Denton Jazz Chronicles

  5. Bing is a fine musician and a great singer, one of my favs; and he and Louis are obviously old friends from way back ( 30+ years at that point); and Louis’ musicianship and artistry are so powerful, such an amazing performer and player. I am in awe. I presume any musician would be, especially those of us old enough to appreciate that Louis at 60 years old could deliver so well in those conditions: live and probably under-rehearsed, a big gig and a huge venue, and he just does it – wow!!

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