Louis Armstrong: The University Of Louis Armstrong 1923-25

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Dave Bennett has been working on the Creole Jazz Band tracks for years and I must have a dozen CDs of his various attempts. He’s finally expressed himself satisfied and the first five outstanding clean-ups are a good example. I’m now more familiar with the Bennett versions than the clouded original English Brunswick ones.

“The Southern Stomps” proved the most difficult to work on, and the clarity of this one is amazing, with the bass sax of Charlie Jackson bursting through in a Rollini-like explosion. “Riverside” is the one everyone knows by heart and thus is the keystone for introduction to the Bennett versions, with Oliver’s heart-rending final solo coming through with heart-stopping emotion.

The Red Onion Jazz Babies track too suffered particularly from the murkiness of the times. They spring to new life, with the first real chance to hear Louis at his magnificent Henderson period.

The last 20 tracks of the CD also present the what-might-have-been partnership of Armstrong and Bechet, but speculation has to be confined by the obvious fact that no two such giants would ever be subordinate to the other, let alone work on equal terms. Sid is particularly dominant on the exquisite “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel”, an extraordinarily prescient forerunner to the 1940 version.

While Louis flies away with everything, Clarence, a modest pianist, was very much aware of his opportunities and seized them whenever they arose. He must have been a great organiser, and the vast bulk of his records are of colossal importance to the development of jazz. He deserved all his kudos. But nothing can displace the fact that this is a great Armstrong album, full of history, and a dazzling achievement of the most modern technology available, where this country still leads the world.

Available from Dave Bennett directly.

Discography
(1) Working Man Blues; Mabel’s Dream; Mabel’s Dream (alt 1); The Southern Stomps; Riverside Blues; (2) Everybody Loves My Baby; Texas Moaner Blues; Of All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me; Terrible Blues; Santa Claus Blues; Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning; Early Every Morn; Cake Walking Babies; (3) Texas Moaner Blues; Of All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me; Everybody Loves My Baby; Mandy Make Up Your Mind; I’m a Little Blackbird; Cake Walking Babies; Pickin’ On Your Baby; Papa De-Da-Da; Just Wait Till You See My Baby Do the Charleston’ Livin’ High Sometimes; Coal Cart Blues; You Can’t Shush Katie; (1) Mabel’s Dream (alt 2) (78.49)
(1) King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band: King Oliver, Louis Armstrong (c); Johnny Dodds (cl); Honoré Dutrey (tb); Charlie Jackson (bss); Lil Hardin (p); Johnny St Cyr (bj); Baby Dodds (d). Chicago, September and December 1923.
(2) Red Onion Jazz Babies: Louis Armstrong (c); Buster Bailey (cl, ss); Aaron Thompson or Charlie Irvis (tb); Lil Armstrong (p); Buddy Christian (bj); Albert Hunter and Clarence Todd (v). NYC, November 1934.
(3) Clarence Williams’s Blue Five (composite personnel): Louis Armstrong (c); Sidney Bechet, Buster Bailey cl, ss, as); Coleman Hawkins (ts); Charlie Irvis or Aaron Thompson (tb); Clarence Williams (p); Buddy Christian (bj); Eva Taylor (vf). NYC, 1924-25.
HQ Discs HQ05