LOUIS ARMSTRONG — Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (review)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG — Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy album cover Album · 1954 · Classic (1920s) Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
"T'aint what you do, it's the way you do it" and Louis Armstrong could do any of it. The father of Jazz with his All Star Band providing support decides to play the father of blues W.C. Handy ( William Christopher ) and the results were spectacular. When W.C.Handy heard the album he cried with delight and thanked Loius to which he replied, "Aint no work making records like this! Them old time good ones play themselves Mr Handy". Louis is on trumpet of course and vocals, Velma Middleton had been doing vocals with him for thirteen years at the time of this recording, Trummy Young is on trombone and played in the All Stars for eleven years, Barney Bigard is playing clarinet and this New Orleans local had been spending his time with Duke Ellington previously, Billy Kyle is doing piano with Arvell Shaw on bass and Barret Deems on drums. Traditional Jazz with the exhuberence and talent of Louis Armstrong and who else could have made these blues tunes like this with its Southern influence and even though W.C. Handy comes from Tennesee,( born in Alabama) this is pure New Orleans.

Naturally Louis starts with "St Louis Blues" with his trumpet opening the song with clarity and perfect pitch, Trummy is providing support on trombone. Barney Bigard stated in his autobiography that he could barely keep up with either but the harder he played both of them just went up another notch. Trummy Young on trombone made the same comment concerning just Louis. Velma Middleton also contributes with vocals which was always in a duet fashion with Louis and always a cheeky comment with humour injected into the songs. Everbody gets a solo with all three doing beautiful jobs but the ones from Louis and Trummy are spectacular and in their interplay one feels both are trying to get louder than the other. One blazing opening first song is followed by the more down tempo "Yellow Dog Blues with Louis doing vocals on his own and a great solo with all three interjecting and playing with each other and that trumpet by Louis just soars over it. " Loveless Love" originally taken fron the song "Careless Love" was adapted by W.C. Handy. Velma Middleton is back and she leads with the first vocal in this timeless tune. The music once again is exemplary with the band, Louis's trumpet, Barney's clarinet and Trummy blazing away on trombone trying to keep up. "Aunt Hagar's Blues follows along and then we come to "Long Gone" ( From Bowlin' Green) with its loud intro and Velma and Louis doing vocals together and always a quick or playful interjection between the other. Trummy Young comes in blazing when his chance arrives but Louis takes it higher and one great little romper of a tune with humour and just a little spice is the result. "The Memphis Blues"( Mister Crump) follows which W.C. Handy's first wrote in 1909 for Edward Crump's mayoral campaign. Louis does this one on his own without Velma. 'Ole Miss is the only instrumental on the album and this is where Louis solos on his own with just the rythmn section all the other solos on the album are with the others as well. Three other beautifuuly played blues songs to still follow being "Chantez-Les Bas ( Sing 'Em Low ), "Hesitating Blues" and "Atlanta Blues" ( Make Me a Pallet on the Floor) and all are perfect.

Louis Armstrong is perhaps the greatest muscian ever put on this earth and his legacy not only to Jazz but to Popular music was immense. One of his finest albums which should be in any decent Jazz collection.
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