WHEN KINGS WALKED ON EARTH…Louis Armstrong: The Standard Oil Sessions, The Nightclubs

You’re going to have to trust me on this, but once upon a time, the greatest artists in America were also the most popular. Smelling salts, please!

These two releases from Dot Time Records find jazz progenitor Louis Armstrong at the zenith of his revival, 1950. He’s teamed with fellow Jazz Mount Rushmore’s Jack Teagarden/tb-voc and Earl “Fatha” Hines/p  along with Clancy Hayes/g, Lyule Johnson/cl and an anonymous bass and drums for a taping of San Francisco’s “Standard School Broadcast” with Jack Cahil and Hayes as the emcees. The music itself is akin to musical fur lined moccasins; pure and relaxed comfort and warmth. Armstrong and Teagarden share avuncular vocals and horns on a cozy “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” while “T” deliciously slurs both voice and ‘bone on “Basin Street” Blues.” Armstrong is Waterford Crystal clear on “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” and “Panama” and deliciously growls out “Up the Lazy River” while Hines deftly adds support and solos both here and on his swinging opus “Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues.” A pair of rehearsals complete this disc, making you vie for a time when more was said by saying less.

The second album is a collection of concert recordings from the 1950s at places like San Francisco’s Club Hangover and New York’s Bop City. Armstrong (who was celebrting successful tribute albums to Fats Waller and WC Handy at the time) sounds like a runner getting his second wind in a marathon, is teamed with the likes of Jack Teagarden/b or Trummy Young/tb, Barney Bigard/cl or Edmond Hall/cl, Earl Hines/p, Marty Napoleon/p or Billy Kyle/p, Arvell Shaw/b, Dale Jones/b, Milt  Hinton/b, or Mort Herbert/b and Barrett Deems/dr or Cozy Cole/dr. It’s irrelevant that Armstrong and company never embraced the modern sounds of hard bop and bebop, as he, like Mozart, simply kept perfecting the style he created. The team swings much harder here than on the Broadcast recordings, with Cole riding the whip on the driving “Royal Garden Blues.” Armstrong is in excellent voice on “My Monday Date” and pierces the sky on a glorious and incendiary “West End Blues.” Billie Holiday introduces the band (and you can hear her respond to one of Satchmo’s solo) while Armstrong teams with vocalist Velma Middleton for some lovely bantering on “You’re Just In Love,” “Pretty Little Missy” and “That’s My Desire.” With Young and Hall, Barrett Deems snaps the team to attention with a wild and almost free jazz take of “Tin Roof Blues/ When the Saints Go Marching In,” almost causing the walls to collapse in exhaustion. They don’t do it like this anymore-who said trad jazz was stodgy?!?!?



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