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Monday, March 28, 2011

Sometimes I'm Up, Sometimes I'm Down



“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”— today’s offering: a dangling modifer dropped from the last post. I was looking for Louis Armstrong’s whereabouts in 1958 when I bumped into Louis Armstrong and The Good Book, recorded in New York City on February 4, 6, and 7, 1958.

Gospel recordings in the land of Louis Armstrong? A new piece in the puzzle, but at that moment I was bent on finding where Louis Armstrong was on August 12, 1958, the day of “A Great Day in Harlem” photograph. His absence had me guessing where he was that day, how crazy his life was at that moment. If he recorded that day I’d have my answer. I searched the discography. February—Louis Armstrong and The Good Book; July 6—Newport Jazz Festival; October 3—Monterey Jazz Festival. Nothing in April and very few recordings all year compared to the previous three years. Then I discovered the Louis Armstrong trail in 1958 ran through Saratoga Springs. I jumped on the hometown connection, forsaking my query on Armstrong and the gospel canon.

Why wouldn’t he record gospel music? This was the decade he marched through one genre after another. It’s not much of puzzle but I wondered because I've found no mention on the gospel recordings in writings on Armstrong. Someone surely has examined them and probably at close range. Perhaps I'll find it.

I am familiar with one song on Louis Armstrong and The Good Book—“Shadrack.” He recorded it twenty years earlier on Decca with the Decca Mixed Chorus, Lyn Murray conducting. I’ve heard many times on in various mixes, Essential Louis Armstrong, Disc 1, Ken Burns Collection; another version with the All Stars, a medley with “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” for the film soundtrack, The Strip, in Los Angelos, December 1950. In fact, Armstrong recorded it fifteen times.[1]

Turns out there are several such recordings backed by a sizeable chorus and Sy Oliver’s orchestra. The gospel business in Armstrong’s recordings is probably just that, business, a good way to reach a new audience as well as something for the devoted. I selected “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” for a couple of phrases and the way Louis speaks/sings them—“Yes, lots of troubles floating around these day/Seems like everybody’s sick, sick, sick/And I’m right here with them.”  Fits right well with Louis Armstrong’s 1958.
“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”—the first track of twelve. Also on this CD: “Shadrack,” “Go Down Moses,” “Rock My Soul,” “Ezekiel Saw De Wheel,” “On My Way, Down By The Riverside,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,” “Jonah and the Whale,” “Didn't It Rain,” “This Train.”


[1] All of Me:The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong, Jos Willems, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006, 415.

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