Sometimes Louis Armstrong would tackle songs that weren’t in his usual sphere, and he does this very effectively in the 1958 Verve record Under The Stars. However, the album came at a hectic time for Armstrong – it was recorded on the same day as I’ve Got The World On A String and just 24 hours after he had finished his second album with Ella Fitzgerald.
One of the main reasons Under The Stars works so well is that Armstrong had such a good relationship with arranger and conductor Russ Garcia. The Californian, who had just turned 40, had become friends with Armstrong a few years before, and the trumpeter was delighted by the fact that, as Garcia told him at their first meeting, he had learned to write by transcribing Armstrong’s solo on ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’.
Garcia’s lush arrangements are a key factor in the album’s success, as Armstrong covers standards such as ‘Top Hat, White Hat And Tails’ (Irving Berlin), ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ (Al Dubin and Harry Warren), ‘Have You Met Miss Jones?’ (Rogers and Hart) and ‘Stormy Weather’ (Harold Arlen).
Under The Stars came out at a time when vocal groups were hugely popular in America. One song that was a favourite of The Four Freshmen was ‘East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)’, written by a Princeton University undergraduate in 1934 for an a cappella performance. Armstrong puts his own inimitable stamp on his version, and it was considered such a success that it was issued as a single in November 1958.
The Under The Stars album, produced by Norman Granz, was given the thumbs-up by Billboard magazine, who said: “The great artist gives a brace of standards his wonderful and soulful, gravel-voiced treatment… The combination of talents puts this package in the top flight category.”
Under The Stars Track Listing:
1. Top Hat, White Tie and Tails 4:14
2. Have You Met Miss Jones? 4:41
3. I Only Have Eyes for You 4:16
4. Stormy Weather 4:19
5. Home 5:52
6. East of the Sun, West of the Moon 3:17
7. You’re Blase 5:01
8. Body and Soul 4:55
Recorded: November 1958
Studio: Capitol Studios (Hollywood, CA)
Producer: Norman Granz
Arranger: Russell Garcia