This is not a posting about August 4, 1901 as “Louis Armstrong’s real birthday”: let those who want to chew that crust have at it. However, I began my lifelong adoration of Louis not with WEST END BLUES or WEATHER BIRD, but with three long-playing records: LOUIS ARMSTRONG AND GORDON JENKINS (1949-52 Decca sides on a 10″ lp), TOWN HALL CONCERT PLUS (RCA Victor 12″) and, perhaps oddly, the soundtrack to THE FIVE PENNIES (Dot 12″). It took a long time for me to be excited by the Hot Five, but I was wooed completely by Louis’ romanticism: a few examples will open the door to a lifetime’s devout listening.
These are not the songs you associate with Louis: no 250 high C’s, just sweetness, an openness to passionate feeling. On the Jenkins sides below, I can’t be sure, but I would give Milt Gabler credit for placing unfamiliar beautiful songs in front of Jenkins and Louis — what wonders!
JEANNINE (I DREAM OF LILAC TIME):
IT’S ALL IN THE GAME:
LISTEN TO THE MOCKING BIRD:
and, in 1941:
and in 1936:
a 1935 film song (listen to the “Louis” accompaniment to his vocal, and catch his four emphatic perfectly timed quarter notes after his vocal, too):
and a song I only knew through Connee Boswell’s tender reading:
and a 1957 record (with backing by Russ Garcia) that my father brought home as a gift, and I treasure today. There should be ten or so songs on this playlist, and this recording is truly the work of a mature artist at his peak of feeling. I have read that this album was made after Louis and Garcia performed this repertoire live at the Hollywood Bowl, thus “under the stars.” Where were the television cameras then?
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the mystical appearance of Louis Armstrong in it, decades ago. And I don’t even want to try.
May your happiness increase!