In 1950, Louis Armstrong acquired his first reel to reel tape recorder. During the next 20 years, he often recorded his own band’s performances which helped him to plan his repertoire and the pacing of his shows. The invaluable tapes are part of the research collection of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Arrangements have been made by the Dot Time label to release four CDs from the tapes. Volume 2 is called The Nightclubs.
Five different overlapping versions of the Louis Armstrong All-Stars are heard from on selections taken from 1950-58. The recording quality is listenable if not impeccable.
The set begins with heated versions of “Royal Garden Blues” and “My Monday Date” from the 1950 band with Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, and Earl Hines. The next three numbers are by a transition group in 1952 (with Russ Phillips temporarily on trombone), performing before an audience that includes Billie Holiday who Armstrong mentions in his comments.
A radio announcer unfortunately talks during the first part of an otherwise magnificent version of “West End Blues.” 1953’s “New Orleans Function” (Armstrong’s impressions of a New Orleans funeral) reminds one how skilled a drummer Cozy Cole always was. A stretched-out “Muskrat Ramble” is the highpoint of a 1955 broadcast with Bigard and Trummy Young. The last six numbers, from the 1958 band with Young and Edmond Hall, include “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” a still-funny “That’s My Desire,” and a medley of “Tin Roof Blues” and “When The Saints Go Marching In” that should have been utilized by Satch more often.
Louis Armstrong truly loved performing and tended to sound inspired nearly every time he played before an audience. His playing and singing throughout The Nightclubs is a constant delight.
Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for AllMusic.com. He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.
Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.