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Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Original recording remastered

4.9 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, March 25, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

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A wonderful meeting of two institutions of American music, this 1954 album was the finest recording of Louis Armstrong's later career, with the great trumpeter-singer turning to material that was very close to his roots. Both W.C. Handy and Armstrong had a complex relationship with the blues, an essential source for both Handy's popular songs and Armstrong's improvisational art, and these recordings touch on the heart of the matter. On "Yellow Dog Blues," a product of Handy's own early and chance encounter with the rural blues, there's a majesty that recalls Armstrong's early recordings with Bessie Smith. Armstrong is clearly inspired by the classic material and the chance to stretch out on record, and his regular band of the period joins in perfectly. Trombonist Trummy Young, clarinetist Barney Bigard, pianist Billy Kyle, and singer Velma Middleton contribute stellar solos and support, while bassist Arvell Shaw and drummer Barrett Deems do an exceptional job of keeping the slower tempos rock steady. This is a deeply moving and consummately executed performance. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 25, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000002ADP
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,298 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I bought this album as an LP in the early 1950's; It was one of the first LP's ever pressed, as I recall, and that is significant for lots of reasons. Mainly, not only was the sound better than 78 RPM records, the tracks could be as long as 30 minutes, allowing jazz to be heard as it really is/was, rather than limited to just 3-4 minutes.
Anyway, at the time I thought it was one of the best recordings I'd ever heard, and I still do. Louis was singing with Velma Middleton, Trummy Young was on trombone, and Barny Bigard at clarinet. This is the Louis Armstrong group at its peak, on this album.
As well as "modern" in its jazz interpretations and styling, "St. Louis Blues" is a double entendre, as Louis indeed approaches jazz sainthood on this track. The album has been remastered allowing better sound than even my new LP did, with Louis' vibratos and harmonics never in better evidence. The track also has what I consider to be the greatest short trombone solo ever made, by Trummy Young. You'll think he is playing a straight through steel pack muffler instead of a trombone, with a power and elegance no other T-bone player ever acheived.
The other tracks are all equally well done, and "Chantez Les Bas" is about as good as New Orleans jazz can get, again with Louis's scat and Trummy's Tbone well nigh perfect. "Long Gone" is funny and swings as only Louis can. His singing on all tracks is not only extremely high quality, it reveals Louis temperament and personality, and his back-and-forth with Velma shows that he never forgot he was a man's man as well as a gentleman.
If you want only one Louis Armstrong album, and want the best, this is the one. A true classic.
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Format: Audio CD
The enormously cheerful, eager-to-please persona of Louis Armstrong often overshadows his musical appeal to much of the general public. But we wouldn't know about his smiling face nor overactive white handkerchief nor wildly popular performance of a lesser song, "What A Wonderful World," if it weren't for his groundbreaking singing style. And we wouldn't know about his groundbreaking singing style if it weren't for Armstrong's groundbreaking trumpet playing. For me, his trumpet playing provides his chief appeal, but putting his playing and singing together makes for quite an experience! This CD, then, Satchmo's tribute to early blues composer W. C. Handy, provides the listener with the best of both worlds. In addition to Armstrong's spirited, vigorous interpretations of Handy's invaluable contribution to Americana, the listener gets some "bonus tracks" not on the original vinyl-- an interview with the ageing Handy about Satchmo, and various highly entertaining outtakes. If you want to know what makes Louis Armstrong the enduring legend he's become, get this CD first!
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Format: Audio CD
The reading of a new biography, "W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man who Made the Blues" (2009) by David Robertson inspired me to revisit Handy's music in this recording by Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars. Originally issued in 1954, the recording became an international best-seller. Handy himself heard and loved it. The recording has been reissued several times and it is offered in this new release at a bargain price. Armstrong and his musicians offer a joyful, urbane improvisatory and highly rhythmical account of Handy's most famous songs. Armstrong is at the center of this album with long, imaginative solo flights on his trumpet in every number. Velma Middleton and Armstrong do the singing. This CD is regarded as one of the best in Armstrong's (1901 -- 1971) long career.

W.C. Handy (1873 -- 1958) was a band leader and composer who became attracted to the blues when he heard a rural musician play with the "sadness of the ages" at a railroad station in 1903 in Tutwiler, Mississippi. His most famous composition, "St Louis Blues" dates from 1914. It initially received little attention, but beginning in 1920 it became, with the possible exception of "White Christmas" the most recorded song in the Twentieth Century. The song is a mixture of blues, tango, and ragtime. Armstrong made two earlier stellar recordings of this work, the first in 1925 with Bessie Smith and the second in 1929. The song has been done in many ways. This 1954 recording is fast, angular and highly rhythmical. In the reading, "St Louis Blues" becomes almost a rock song. It opens with a lengthy virtuosic solo by Armstrong on the tango theme of the piece (which accompanies the words "St. Louis woman! with all her diamond rings).
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Format: Audio CD
This CD sounds wonderful! LIke it was recorded yesterday. The playing and the vocals are energetic and very bluesy. This is the Louis Armstrong CD for blues lovers. The classic St. Louis Blues is the best version I've ever heard. Great pick.
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Format: Audio CD
This is one of THE cornerstone albums in the whole history of jazz, a complete pleasure from the first note to the last. The combination of W.C.Handy's historic blues compositions and Armstrong was a natural, but all concerned were soon aware that something truly outstanding had been forged in the studio over those three evenings in July 1954. It's generally acknowledged that the sessions featured Armstrong's finest playing since the early 30's, and not much else falls below the level of outstanding either: Armstrong's singing and sly asides are wonderful, the band solid and powerful at any tempo. Only clarinetist Barney Bigard's batteries (to borrow a previous comment) had run down somewhat by this time, although his lower register accompanyment to Armstrong's vocals has its moments - Velma Middleton's singing which has from day one been the subject of ill-aimed criticism is warm and homely, fitting the material and settings perfectly. But the other truly magical contribution comes from trombonist Trummy Young, who whether giving out with lusty, rasping tailgate or soft accompaniment to the vocals gives Pops a good run for his money. Armstrong's pleasure in his sideman's contribution is audibly evident at times. The extras on this cd, Armstrong anecdote, Handy interview and rehearsal sequences are a genuine plus. The excellent sleeve notes are by producer George Avakian, recounting the genesis of the project and the toe-curling story of the original recording's reconstruction after the loss of the session masters.
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