Saturday, August 06, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Happy birthday, Louis Armstrong!

Today, let's take a look at some vintage videos featuring trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong, who's back in the StLJN spotlight this week for two reasons.

First, as you may already know, this past Thursday, August 4 was the 115th anniversary of Armstrong's birth. It's true that during his lifetime, he claimed to have been born on July 4, 1900, but years after after his death, researchers uncovered information showing that Armstrong's true date of birth was in fact August 4, 1901. As a result, fans now celebrate on both days.

Second, and of more local relevance, there's an Armstrong-related event coming up soon right here in town, as a band led by trumpeter Randy Holmes will be presenting "The Louis Armstrong Festival of St. Louis" next Friday, August 12 and Saturday, August 13 at the Ozark Theatre. Holmes will be joined by Brett Stamps (trombone), Scott Alberici (clarinet), Mary Ann Schulte (piano), Kevin Gianino (drums) and Bob Lowe (bass) plus special guests for two nights performing music associated with Armstrong.

Since various Armstrong videos already have been spotlighted in this space a couple of times before, in 2012 and 2014, and as the custom here at StLJN is is to try not to recycle the same clips, today's post is focused on material featuring the trumpeter that's come online in just the last couple of years.

The most newsworthy example of that would be the only known film of Armstrong in a recording studio, a clip from 1959 that was re-discovered and made available this spring by the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the official repository of the trumpeter's archives and keepers of his legacy.

Shot while Armstrong was recording the album Satchmo Plays King Oliver, the video shows him and the band recording the master take of "I Ain't Got Nobody," plus silent footage of them listening to the playback. You can see that clip up in the embedded player up above.

After the jump, there are a couple of complete Armstrong performances recorded in 1962. The first was made as an episode of "Goodyear Jazz Concert," a series of short films for television produced by the Goodyear tire company. Originally shot on 35mm film and recorded in stereo, it offers a more high fidelity look and sound than a lot of the available video of Armstrong.

Below that, you can see Armstrong's complete set from a show in May, 1962 in Stockholm, Sweden. Both of these performances feature the same band, and the Goodyear show offers what's basically a subset of the songs from the Stockholm performance, which makes for some compare-and-contrast opportunities. For the record, the group includes Armstrong, trombonist Trummy Young, clarinetist Joe Darensbourg, pianist Billy Kyle, bassist Bill Cronk, drummer Danny Barcelona, and singer Jewel Brown, with Swedish vocalist Monica Zetterlund making a guest appearance during the Stockholm performance.

Finally, there are three songs taken from Armstrong's performance at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival, which prominently featured a tribute to him in honor of (what then was thought to be) his 70th birthday. First is "Pennies From Heaven," followed by Armstrong's take on Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," and a version of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" featuring a guest appearance by the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

For more about Louis Armstrong, check out the Louis Armstrong House Museum official site, Armstrong's page at and the tribute site For an historic appreciation of his musical and cultural significance, there's also "The Artistry of 'Pops': Louis Armstrong at 100", a presentation put together back in 200 by the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University that features trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and critic Stanley Crouch.

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