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Louis Armstrong – Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography (1956)

In 1956, Louis Armstrong began undertaking the task of recording his ‘musical autobiography’, as Satchmo was still fond of his early jazz recordings.

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Satchmo A Musical Autobiography

At the end of 1956, Louis Armstrong began undertaking the monumental task of recording his “musical autobiography”. Unlike some veteran jazzmen of the time, Armstrong was still fond of his early recordings and, with this 4LP set, proved that he was supremely capable of revitalising many of his earlier successes.

The arrangements were split between two trusted musicians. Bassist Bob Haggart was in charge of all the small group recreations, while Sy Oliver wrote new arrangements for songs from the trumpeter’s big-band days.

The highlights come thick and fast and include a driving solo on ‘Dippermouth Blues’ and the masterful performances of ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love’, ‘Exactly Like You’ and ‘I Surrender Dear’, among many others. On ‘Heebie Jeebies’, Satchmo shows that a middle-aged man can still scat, while the narrated memoir element of the recordings, with overdubbed background piano by Billy Kyle, adds to the appeal of a fascinating piece of musical history. The only damp squib, arguably, is the vocal contribution of blues singer Velma Middleton.

Here and there, age occasioned that a song’s key is lowered (the 55-year-old trumpeter couldn’t possibly match the energy of his 25-year-old self), but the overall effect was magnificent. The sheer magnitude of the task is remarkable (43 new tracks recorded over seven sessions) and, in some cases (‘Wild Man Blues’ and ‘King Of The Zulus’), Armstrong arguably improves on the wonderful original performances.

As Armstrong biographer, Ricky Riccardi wrote: “Louis Armstrong had done what he set out to do: quiet his critics and prove that in his mid-50s, he was still ‘playing better now than I’ve ever played in my life’. Needless to say, Armstrong was a big fan of the finished product, owning multiple copies of the set and transferring it to his reel-to-reel tape collection over a dozen times: more times than he listened to his original recordings of the 20s and 30s.”

Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography Track Listing:

Disc One
1. Introduction 1:24
2. Dippermouth Blues 3:14
3. Introduction 0:40
4. Canal Street Blues 2:56
5. Introduction 0:27
6. High Society 3:52
7. Introduction 0:22
8. All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me 3:13
9. Introduction 0:25
10. Everybody Loves My Baby 3:37
11. Introduction 0:23
12. Mandy, Make up Your Mind 2:06
13. Introduction 0:58
14. See See Rider 3:31
15. Introduction 0:37
16. Reckless Blues 2:28
17. Introduction 0:23
18. Court House Blues 2:51
19. Introduction 0:32
20. Trouble in Mind 2:37
21. Introduction 0:24
22. New Orleans Function/Free as a Bird 6:16
23. Introduction 0:38
24. Gut Bucket Blues 3:11
25. Introduction 0:30
26. Cornet Chop Suey 2:59
27. Introduction 0:23
28. Heebie Jeebies 2:33
29. Introduction 0:22
30. Georgia Grind 3:19
31. Introduction 0:46
32. Muskrat Ramble 6:12
33. Introduction 0:40
34. King of the Zulus 3:55
35. Introduction 0:36
36. Snag It 3:46
37. Frog-I-More Rag 2:24

Disc Two
1. Introduction 0:44
2. Wild Man Blues 3:55
3. Introduction 0:25
4. Potato Head Blues 2:22
5. Introduction 0:25
6. Weary Blues 2:59
7. Introduction 1:00
8. Gully Low Blues 4:38
9. Introduction 0:35
10. Struttin’ With Some Barbecue 5:55
11. Introduction 0:33
12. Hotter Than That 3:12
13. Introduction 0:32
14. Two Deuces 3:18
15. Introduction 0:16
16. My Monday Date 3:32
17. Introduction 0:26
18. Basin Street Blues 5:49
19. Introduction 0:32
20. Knockin’ a Jug 3:41
21. Introduction 0:32
22. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love 4:20
23. Introduction 0:20
24. Mahogany Hall Stomp 3:56
25. Introduction 0:38
26. Some of These Days 3:02
27. Introduction 0:47
28. When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) 4:00
29. Introduction 0:29
30. Song of the Islands 4:01
31. Introduction 0:24
32. I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me 3:26
33. Introduction 0:23
34. Dear Old Southland 3:54
35. Introduction 0:27
36. Exactly Like You 4:06

Disc Three
1. Introduction 0:16
2. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) 3:17
3. Introduction 0:20
4. Body and Soul 4:59
5. Introduction 0:29
6. Memories of You 3:27
7. Introduction 0:19
8. You Rascal You 3:16
9. Introduction 0:27
10. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South 3:18
11. Introduction 0:22
12. I Surrender, Dear 4:38
13. Introduction 0:30
14. Them There Eyes 2:58
15. Introduction 0:22
16. Lazy River 3:49
17. Introduction 0:14
18. Georgia on My Mind 3:21
19. Introduction 0:32
20. That’s My Home 3:25
21. Introduction 0:24
22. Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train 3:11
23. Introduction 0:24
24. On the Sunny Side of the Street 5:47
25. Conclusion 2:15
26. My Monday Date

Album Credits:
Recorded: November 1947 – January 1957
Studio: Civic Auditorium (Pasadena, CA), New York, Symphony Hall (Boston, MA), The Crescendo (Hollywood, CA)

Louis Armstrong: Discover The Stories Behind The Albums...

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