The new, complete two-disc edition of SATCHMO AT SYMPHONY HALL: 65th ANNIVERSARY — THE COMPLETE PERFORMANCE is a limited edition of 3000 copies.
I didn’t know about the “limited edition” part of that sentence until a day ago, so I am encouraging JAZZ LIVES readers to act promptly rather than to lament that the edition is all sold out. You can purchase it here — if you live in the New York area, you can visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, which has its very own stash.
What does “the complete performance” mean? THIRTY MINUTES OF NEW MATERIAL . . . .
I’ll let Ricky Riccardi, Louis scholar and the Archivist for the LAHM, explain:
The original 1951 2-LP Decca set had the majority of the music, but there were some edits, including four complete performances, all the themes, Louis’s announcements and some solos (Dick Cary’s on “Royal Garden Blues” and some extra noodling by Barney Bigard at the end of “Tea for Two”). When Orrin Keepnews finally put it on on CD in the 90s, he made the choice to strike three tunes (“I Cried for You,” “That’s My Desire” and “How High the Moon”) AND he completely shuffled the original order of performances. I’m the Archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum and last year, we learned that the Swedish Armstrong collector Gosta Hagglof donated every scrap of his Armstrong collection to the Museum. It arrived last summer.
The first thing I looked for was “Symphony Hall” because Gosta told me in 2007 he was working on a complete edition. And sure enough, I found a disc…and another…and another…and another. All in all, I found about 30 individual CDs with Gosta’s Symphony Hall work. He somehow had access to the original acetates and made multiple CD copies of those and then he made extra copies with pitch correction, skips edited out, noise reduction, etc.
Last October I contacted Harry Weinger at Universal and he came out to our Archives to listen to it. He flipped and we’ve been off and running since. It’s a 2-CD set on the Hip-O Select label, with the original liner notes by Ernie Anderson and new liner notes by yours truly. The concert will be sequenced in the original order, starting with the band tuning up. All of the announcements will be heard for the first time, in addition to the themes. And there will be complete versions of “Back O’Town Blues,” “St. James Infirmary,” “Velma’s Blues” and “Jack Armstrong Blues.”
They’re all fantastic. I can only assume “Back O’Town,” “St. James” and “Jack Armstrong” were not on the original LP because Victor had just released versions. And even “Velma’s Blues” is a knockout, as it’s almost 7 minutes long with a long interlude where Velma danced and the All Stars just played the blues (Sid Catlett catches her every move).
I’m a biased Armstrong nut who has always loved this concert, of course, but trust me, hearing it complete, in the original order, with the announcements, the new tunes, everything, is a really, really special experience.
For some listeners, this won’t in itself be enough. I understand that in the linguistic battle between “fixed income” and “limited edition,” the first phrase wins.
But I urge you to consider purchasing this set if you can for a few reasons. One is the precious experience of going back in time . . . settling into a chair in your living room and being able to sink into a plush velvet seat at Symphony Hall in 1947 while Louis Armstrong and what I think of as the best small band he ever had play for you. That, in its own way, is far more important than simply being able to hear a new Dick Cary solo.
I first heard this concert (in its edited form) more than forty years ago and I can attest that it is life-changing music.
Secondly, there is the matter of the responsive audience as a motivating force. In blunt words, why do companies like Universal issue Louis Armstrong discs and packages? Some of it is the spiritual love that people like Harry Weinger have for the music: something I do not doubt. But if record companies see that their products sell, they create more . . . so that buying SASH is your way — the only effective way — of saying, “Please, sir, we want some more!”
Don’t wait until they’re gone and you’re reduced to desperate means . . .
But make sure you leave enough in the Jazz Piggy Bank for a copy of the Grand Street Stompers’ CHRISTMAS STOMP. I’ve heard that and it is wonderful. More to say about that one soon . . .
May your happiness increase.