Yes, July 4th!
I found this holy relic for sale on eBay. Do I have to say how much I would have given to be there? But alas, my parents had not even met. So there goes that dream. It is, of course, only a piece of paper. But Louis’ big band did broadcast between 1939-43, and some extraordinarily rare and fine music was preserved for us — and issued on a CD on the Ambassador label, Volume 10 of their Armstrong series, the gift of the late Gosta Hagglof to all lovers of hot music.
So in honor of Louis and in honor of his birthday (let’s not argue about the date this year, please) I have extracted two very lively and different performances. Alas, neither is from the Port Arthur dance, but they are by his remarkable big band — with him remarkably out in front, showing the way, as he continues to do.
This composition by Joe Garland got the dancers on the floor and kept them there. The band for this performance is Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Shelton Hemphill, Bernard Flood, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet; Wilbur deParis, George Washington, J.C. Higginbotham, trombone; Charlie Holmes, Rupert Cole, alto saxophone; Bingie Madison, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Joe Garland, bass sax, reeds, arranger; Luis Russell, piano; Lee Blair, guitar; Pops Foster, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. Cotton Club, New York City, March 22, 1940. Listen for Sidney Catlett catching every detail in the arrangement, Garland on bass saxophone, Red Allen on trumpet — further evidence that Red wasn’t “buried” in Louis’ band — and the sound of the respective sections, well-rehearsed, before Bingie Madison’s clarinet and Louis’ entrance, his sound so recognizable, then the duet with Sidney, electrifying:
and a lovely performance (missing the cadenza at the end) of a song written for Louis in 1936 by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin, SHOE SHINE BOY. The band’s personnel had changed: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Frank Galbreath, Shelton Hemphill, Bernard Flood, trumpet; George Washington, James Whitney, Henderson Chambers, trombone; Rupert Cole, Carl Frye, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Joe Garland, reeds, arranger; Luis Russell, piano; Lawrence Lucie, guitar; John Simmons, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. Casa Manana, Culver City, California, April 1, 1942. Hear the tenderness in Louis’ voice (and the sweet inspired trumpet obbligato behind his singing), again with Catlett’s heroic support. The incomplete recording catches me by surprise, but I can imagine the notes that follow and hope you can also:
Bless Louis, and his orchestras, and the unknown recordists. The dancers, too. To me, every day is Louis’ birthday. I hope for you also.
May your happiness increase!