ARMSTRONG, Louis: Satchel Mouth Swing (1936-1938) (David Lennick/ Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra/ Louis Armstrong/ Louis Armstrong Orchestra/ The Mills Brothers/ The Polynesians) (Naxos: 8.120735)
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Vol.4
'Satchel Mouth Swing' Original Recordings 1936-1938
Louis Armstrong's accomplishments were sohuge during his first decade on records (1923-33) that his Decca recordings from the secondhalf of the 1930s tend to be underrated.
Consider that Armstrong was to a large extentresponsible for jazz quickly evolving in the 1920sfrom an ensemble-oriented music to one thatfeatured the solos of colorful virtuosi. Partlybecause of his brilliant playing, the staccatophrases often heard in New York recordings ofthe early 1920s were quickly replaced by legatophrasing, introducing a swinging feel to jazz.
Satch's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of1925-28 are among the finest documentedperformances of all time and showed howpowerful a solo instrument the trumpet could bein the right hands. Armstrong's scat singing,starting with 1926's \Heebies Jeebies",popularized vocal improvising and showedhundreds of vocalists how to sing jazz. When hebegan singing current pop tunes in 1929, hebecame so influential with his phrasing that italtered pop singing forever. And his sunny andhumorous personality did more than anythingelse to make jazz look like a very attractive andfun style of music.
Born 4 August 1901 in New Orleans, LouisArmstrong grew up in a poor family and wasraised by a single mother. Although he showedearly musical ability, singing in a vocal group onthe streets for pennies and playing a little bit ofcornet, he may very well have led a forgotten lifespent in poverty were it not for a lucky break.
On New Year's Eve of 1912, he shot off a pistolin the air in celebration, and was immediatelyarrested and sent to live in a waif's home.
Armstrong enjoyed the discipline of thesurroundings and began to seriously play thecornet, graduating to the school's band. Whenhe was released two years later, he was apromising young cornettist, ready to gainexperience playing in New Orleans brass bands.
Joe "King" Oliver became his hero,recommended him as his replacement with KidOry's band in 1919, and three years later sentfor his protege to join his Creole Jazz Band inChicago. Armstrong gained a great deal ofattention while playing with Oliver (1923-24)and his playing grew month-by-month. When hejoined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in 1924,he became famous in New York. His Hot Fiveand Seven recordings made him renowned injazz and his 1929-33 big band recordings andappearances on radio and theatres made himinternationally famous.
After having spent much of 1934-35overseas, Armstrong returned to the UnitedStates just as the swing era was building upmomentum. He took over the struggling LuisRussell Orchestra, using the band as a backdropfor his playing and singing through 1940.
'Satchel Mouth Swing' begins with a fineremake of Mahogany Hall Stomp whichArmstrong had previously recorded at his firstbig band session in 1929. Trombonist JimmyArchey, tenor-saxophonist Bingie Madison andaltoist Charlie Holmes take a chorus apiece asArmstrong reprises his original solo. Then, uponhis return after Holmes' spot, he creates acompletely new chorus. I'm Putting All My EggsIn One Basket has short statements by tenorsaxophonistPaul Ricci and clarinettist SidTrucker but otherwise it is Armstrong'sshowcase, concluding with a wonderful highnote. Bunny Berigan is in the trumpet section;this session was his only chance to record next tohis idol.
The next five selections find Louis Armstrongbeing joined by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
One of the musical highpoints of Pennies FromHeaven, a Bing Crosby movie that gaveArmstrong his first opportunity to appear in amajor film, was when Louis performed TheSkeleton In The Closet. His version withDorsey's band recaptures the magic of theoriginal. While When Ruben Swings The Cubanand Hurdy-Gurdy Man are not classiccompositions, Armstrong makes them his ownthrough his charming ad-libbing (referring to'Old Gatemouth Ruben' on the former) and hissolos. Dippermouth Blues, which Satchoriginally recorded with King Oliver in 1923 andwith Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in 1925(where it was retitled "Sugar Foot Stomp"), hasa spot on clarinet by Jimmy Dorsey and Louisplaying his variations of Oliver's famous threechorustrumpet solo. It is a little surprising thatArmstrong chose to record Swing That Musicduring the session for he had just recorded it lessthan three months earlier; this version is a bitfaster and has a solo just as spectacular.
Just as Bing Crosby was captured in a lot ofdifferent musical settings during his period onDecca, Louis Armstrong also recorded frequentlyaway from his big band. To You, Sweetheart,Aloha and On A Coconut Island are successfulencounters with the Polynesians (consisting ofsteel guitar, two guitars, ukulele and bass) withguest Lionel Hampton on vibes and drums.
Hampton, who recorded his first vibes solos withArmstrong in 1930, was just three days frommaking his debut recording as a member of theBenny Goodman Quartet. Satch sounds quitecomfortable in this unusual setting.
Another unexpected but very successfulcollaboration was when Armstrong joined theMills Brothers for some dates. Billed as 'fourboys with a guitar' and renowned for their abilityto closely emulate instruments while onlyactually using their voices and an acoustic guitar,the Mills Brothers clearly inspire Armstrong tosome joyful playing and singing on In The ShadeOf The Old Apple Tree and Old Folks At Home.
The remainder of the selections on 'SatchelMouth Swing' have Satch performing in his usualsetting, with the nucleus of the old Luis RussellOrchestra. Public Melody Number One is longforgotten but the leader's trumpet breaks workquite well as does the driving drumming of PaulBarbarin. Red Cap salutes the type of workingclass job that Armstrong did not have to worryabout anymore in 1937 when he was one of thebiggest names in show business.
Satch goes south of the border, sort of,during the next two numbers. A swing version ofCuban Pete can be thought of as a follow-up to"The Peanut Vendor" which he had recorded in1930. She's The Daughter Of A Planter FromHavana, although not composed by Cubans,does utilize some rhythms that hint a little atHavana, at least until the closing swingingchoruses. Louis Armstrong composed relativelyfew songs, which makes I've Got A Heart FullOf Rhythm a rarity in his career. The optimisticlyrics, which sound like something Al Jolson orTed Lewis might have sung, are much hipperwhen rendered by Satch. Clarinettist AlbertNicholas and altoist Charlie Holmes help outbefore Armstrong takes two dazzling choruses.
Alexander's Ragtime Band, a major hit for IrvingBerlin in 1911, proves to still have plenty of lifeleft in 1937, particularly during the closingtrumpet solo.
Moving to 1938, Satchel Mouth Swing is aremake of "Coal Cart Blues" which Armstronghad recorded as part of Clarence Williams' BlueFive back in 1925. This rendition, if one listensto the words, is really a tribute to the trumpeterhimself. Charlie Holmes and trombonistJ. C. Higginbotham are heard from briefly. Incontrast, The Trumpet Player's Lament hasArmstrong singing words that make it sound asif he would rather be playing classical music thanjazz! The final chorus makes it obvious that hehad made the right career choice.
Wrapping up this collection is an excitingversion of Struttin' With Some Barbecue.
Armstrong had recorded a classic solo on thispiece with the Hot Five in 1927 and he wouldutilize a completely different set solo during theyears that he led the All-Stars (starting in 1947).
This 1938 version (which has spots forclarinettist Bingie Madison and altoist Holmes)is a gem in its own way, with Armstrong statingthe melody during the next-to-last chorus beforeimprovising a statement that d