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Sunday, December 19, 2010

West End Blues...and other recommendations


"When you're sick, music is a great help.  Once, in Texas, I kicked a habit on weed, a pint of paregoric and a few Louis Armstrong records."
William S. Burroughs, Junky.  50th Anniversary Edition. Oliver Harris, ed.  New York: Penguin, 2003, 23.

Sick or strong, Louis is a good tonic all day long. What’s in your CD collection that you’d like to mention as favorite listening? When I started in August, I knew only music of the Louis from my childhood, “What a Wonderful World,” “Hello Dolly,” “Mack the Knife.” Besides my Swiss Kriss souvenir at Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM) I found a great CD—Louis Armstrong: Fleischmann’s Yeast Show & Louis’s Home Recorded Tapes. A great mix of his music through the years, but still not enough of the Hot 5 and Hot 7, the early stuff that I was reading about. So I bought West End Blues: His Finest Hot Fives and Hot Sevens 1925-1928. You’ll see when you visit iTunes store thousands of songs and hundreds of albums. Never a jazz listener let alone collector, Louis Armstrong has taken over my Playlists. I have at least ten versions of “West End Blues” somewhat accidently and it’s still number one on my hit parade.  But the early Louis is not the whole or even best story as many have tried to make us believe. An excellent recommendation of essentials CD’s comes from Stanley Crouch in Considering Genius: Writings of Jazz, “Papa Dip: Crescent City Conquistador and Sacrificial Hero” (79): “The best of Louis Armstrong’s work after fifty proves that his expressive ideas didn’t reach their peak until he was nearly sixty…Four collections that prove my point are Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy (1954), Satch Plays Fats (1955), Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography (1956/57), and Echoes of an Era: The Duke Ellington-Louis Armstrong Years (1961).

To potential collaborators: Comments appreciated on Louis favs and sharing of ideas specific to performing, play off of Armstrong’s music in the collaboration.


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