JJ 05/62: Louis Armstrong preview

Sixty years ago Sinclair Traill gave a warm and inspiring welcome to his hero, who was about to tour the country that named him 'Satchmo'. First published in Jazz Journal May 1962


Although our country has never had and probably never will have a jazz musician of the stature of Louis Daniel Armstrong, it is to our credit that it was upon these shores he came by his nickname of ‘Satchmo’. A contraction of Satchelmouth, this happy soubriquet has stuck to him ever since his first visit to Britain in 1932.

Since those early days Pops – as he is affectionately known by his jazz intim­ates – has, under the astute guidance of the man he always refers to as Uncle Joe (Joe Glaser to you and me), become one of the biggest names in show busi­ness. With his various and varied All Stars he has appeared in almost every country in the world – missing out on Russia only because of illness. Louis Satchmo Armstrong – international am­bassador of jazz – whose golden-toned horn and gravel voice are universally recognised by people in all walks of life.

For a man of sixty-two Louis is quite remarkable. He is not the hypochondriac the national press would make him seem, although he very sensibly takes care of his health. “I ain’t as young as I used to be”, he said to me last year in Paris, “but as long as I can blow good I’ve no complaints.”

That he is still blowing good is amply borne out by his most recent records. The latest – made in company with Duke Ellington – will be an ear-opener for those who claim he is ‘over the hill’. The voice is as jazz-inflected as always and his trumpet playing as gay and full of surprises as ever.

This has been a fine year for Arm­strong recordings. In addition to those mentioned on another page of this issue we had two excellent reissues on the Ace of Hearts label – Louis Armstrong Jazz Classics and New Orleans Nights plus a fine cross cut of his big band days on RCA, entitled A Rare Batch Of Satch.

Let us welcome this great man to Britain – this jazz original – the only one of his kind – uniquely irreplaceable. Let us jam those concert halls to capacity for that sweet, probing trumpet, that jazz saturated solution of his sandpaper singing and the white flash of that in­fectiously happy, toothy grin. Never mind what some say of his clowning – it takes more than a few soured critics to kill a personality completely devoid of affectation and to whom the jazz harlequinade comes as naturally as fly­ing to a bird. For Pops has over the years become more than just a jazz trumpet player – he is the jazz enter­tainer par excellence – he is the living legend.

Each time he puts his horn to his lips or opens that cavernous satchelmouth to grind out one of his salty vocals he is creating something new for you. It happens every time Louis does it – something new – something that has just happened for the very first time. And he has been doing just that now for over forty years – creating superlative music, the brainchild of the most fertile im­agination jazz music has ever known.

Don’t miss him! Lightning seldom visits the same place twice and Louis Daniel Armstrong may not pass our way again.