If you loved the faultless W C Handy and Fats Waller albums, they are are here again in much better sound, and your eyes will open wide at the surprise of the many alternatives and rehearsals, all with life of their own and a comprehensive atmosphere that brings a presence to the discs such as I have never heard on CD before – you’ll jump when you hear Velma’s explosive yell when Louis gooses her.
Brubeck’s The Real Ambassadors suite tries too hard to deliver a political message at the expense of the music. Lambert, Hendricks And Ross have ill-conceived parts and sometimes have to sing so fast that their work becomes meaningless. Louis, despite the outstanding beauty of Summer Song and consistently good work by Carmen McRae is unable to pull the lift back up the shaft on his own. It is amazing that the quality of the rest of the album is so good that maximum stars could never be in doubt.
The first 33 tracks are from Louis’s potent 1946-7 period with RCA. The album opens with Ellington humiliated by the arch self-publicist Leonard Feather coercing him into mentioning Feather’s name on record. Feather, no friend to Louis and a man of very limited musical skill, as displayed by his mundane compositions here, had no talent on the piano but imposes himself on two tracks out of vanity. However, he’s a minor blot on the RCAs with Teagarden and Louis rampant, and Louis’s controversial big band well up to the job of backing him. Don’t be frightened by the takes of Mack The Knife. It’s fascinating to hear the All Stars (Ed Hall/Trummy version) getting to grips with the number, and gradually honing Turk Murphy’s chart. There are three versions of Back O’ Town Blues, each with a glorious trumpet ascent to dispel any canard that the man was past it. The cumulative impact of the Plays W C Handy and Plays Fats spin-offs makes them a vital addition to the Armstrong canon, and alone would make the album essential listening. This is the clearest defining of the indispensable role that Trummy Young played as right-hand man, and his playing here, with the growling less to the fore on the new things, at last shows what a great trombonist he was.
Mosaic have done an admirable job in collecting all this material, improving its sound and ordering it in an accurate way that makes the set a part of jazz history. The liner note by Ricky Riccardi, whose championing of Louis has opened our eyes and restored the man’s greatness, adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of what must be one of the finest jazz issues in years.
CD1: Long Long Journey; Snafu; (2) Linger In My Arms; Whatta Ya Gonna Do?; No Variety Blues; Joseph ’n’ His Brudders; Back O’ Town Blues; I Want A Little Girl; Sugar; Blues For Yesterday; Endie; The Blues Are Brewin’; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?; Where The Blues Were Born In New Orleans; Mahogany Hall Stomp; (5) I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder; I Believe; Why Doubt My Love; It Takes Time; You Don’t Learn That In School; (6) Jack-Armstrong Blues; Rockin’ Chair; Someday You’ll Be Sorry; Fifty-Fifty Blues (77.53)
CD2: A Song Was Born; Please Stop Playing Those Blues; Before Long; Lovely Weather We’re Having; ’Tain’t What You Do; Back O’ Town Blues; Mack The Knife (six versions and inserts) (75.53)
CD3: St Louis Blues; Yellow Dog Blues; Loveless Love; Aunt Hagar’s Blues; Long Gone; Memphis Blues; Beale Street Blues; Ole Miss; Chantez Les Bas; Hesitating Blues; Atlanta Blues; St Louis Blues (tk3); St Louis Blues (tk 4); Yellow Dog Blues (tk 1) (75.40)
CD4: Loveless Love (reh); Loveless Love (tk 8); Loveless Love (insert); Aunt Hagar’s Blues (tk1 – tk4); Aunt Hagar’s Blues (tk 9); Alligator Story; Long Gone (reh 1); Long Gone ( tk 1 and reh 2); Long Gone (tk 5); Memphis Blues (tk 2); Beale Street Blues (tk 1); Ole Miss (tk 1); Ole Miss (tk 3); Chantez-Les Bas (tk 2); Hesitating Blues (reh); Atlanta Blues (tk 3) (76.49)
CD5: Honeysuckle Rose; Blue Turning Grey; I’m Crazy ’Bout My Baby; Squeeze Me; Keepin’ Out Of Mischief; All That Meat And No Potatoes; I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling; Black And Blue; Ain’t Misbehvain’; Honeysuckle Rose (tk 1); Honeysuckle Rose (tk 5); Blue Turning Grey (tk 2); Blue Turning Grey (tk 3 and inserts); Blue Turning Grey (tk 5) I’m Crazy ’Bout My Baby (tk 5); Squeeze Me (tk 1) (78.46)
CD6: Keepin’ Out Of Mischief (tk 4); Keepin’ Out Of Mischief (tk 9); All That Meat And No Potatoes (tk 1); I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling (tk 2); I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling (tk 5); Black And Blue (reh); Ain’t Misbehavin’ (tk 1); Everybody’s Comin’; Cultural Exchange; Good Reviews; Remember Who You Are; My One Bad Habit; Summer Song; King For A Day; Blow Satchmo; The Real Ambassador; In The Lurch; One Moment Worth Years; They Say I Look Like God; Since Love Had Its Way; Didn’t Know Until You Told Me; Swing Bells/Blow Satchmo (76.30)
CD7: Nomad; You Swing, Baby (The Duke); Lonesome; Nomad (tk 10); Lonesome (tk 1); Lonesome (tk 2); Everybody’s Comin’; Good Reviews (tk 7); Good Reviews (insert 2); Remember Who You Are (tk 6); Summer Song (tk 2 and inserts); King For A Day (tk 4); Blow Satchmo (tk 1); The Real Ambassador (tk 4); One Moment Worth Years (tk 1); They Say I Look Like God (tk 1); They Say I Look Like God (tk 3); Since Love Had Its Way (tk 2); I Didn’t Know Until You Told Me (tk 5); Swing Bells (insert); Blow Satchmo (remake); Finale (tk 1) (75.37)
There are eight pages of personnels in Mosaic’s booklet. Find them assigned and complete on Mosaic’s website.