Happy Birthday Louis!






The following playlist is by no means a definitive overview of Louis Armstrong’s career. Nor is it an expert-driven selection of his finest, best, most sublime or perfect recordings. Rather, this passel of songs reflects Armstrong as the artist, man, tidal wave and sweetie-pie that he was. What’s more, the music showcases some of his best collaborators and sidemen, including Earl Hines, Zutty Singleton, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard and Big Sid Catlett. Enjoy!


1. Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya

(L. Armstrong)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five: Fred Robinson, tb; Jimmy Strong, cl; Earl Hines, p; Mancy Carr, bj; Zutty Singleton, d.

CD: Louis Amstrong the Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
Originally released by Okeh Records,1929.
Sony Music Entertainment, 2000.

Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya became the title of a seminal 1955 history of jazz by editors Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff. The book, published by Rinehart & Co., Inc., tells the story of jazz exclusively through the words of the musicians who played it. New Orleans-born banjo and guitar player Danny Barker appears first. New Orleans-born trombonist Jim Robinson appears last. Armstrong is everywhere in-between.


2. Jazz Lips

(L. Hardin, L. Armstrong, S. Robbin)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five: Kid Ory, (trb); Johnny Dodds, cl; Lil Armstrong, p; Johnny St. Cyr, bj.

CD: Louis Amstrong the Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
Originally released by Okeh Records, 1926.
Sony Music Entertainment, 2000.

Recorded at the peak of Louis Armstrong’s creative powers. Jazz Lips also features the first iteration of the Hot Five.


3. The Song Is Ended

(I. Berlin)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong & The Mills Brothers: Harry; Herbert; Donald; John Mills, Sr.; Norman Brown, gtr.

CD: Louis Armstrong Highlights from His Decca Years
Recorded June 13, 1938.
MCA Records, 1994.

The Mills Brothers had extraordinary four-part harmony. They also could sound like instruments in a jazz quartet. Louis Armstrong recorded a number of songs with the group.


4. Body and Soul (Live at Symphony Hall, 1947)

(J. Green)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong and The All Stars: Barney Bigard, cl; Jack Teagarden, trb & vocal; Dick Cary, p; Arvell Shaw, b; Big Sid Catlett, d.; Velma Middleton, vocal (but not on this track).

CD: Satchmo at Symphony Hall
Originally released 1954.
UMG Recordings, Inc. 1996.

An important selection from a live concert recording that is nothing short of brilliant. This constellation of All Stars is unbeatable and New Orleans-born clarinetist Barney Bigard is out front. Before joining Armstrong, Bigard played for many years with Duke Ellington. He co-wrote the song, Mood Indigo.


5. Chantez Les Bas

(W.C. Handy)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: Trummy Young, trb; Barney Bigard, cl; Billy Kyle, p; Arvell Shaw, b; Barrett Deems, d; Velma Middleton, vocals (but not on this track).

CD: Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
Columbia CD
Originally released by Columbia Records, 1954.
Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

Critics call this album the best of Armstrong’s recordings in the 1950s. The song, which Armstrong sings and plays with irresistable charm, conjures an early theme of New Orleans jazz. Band leaders such as Buddy Bolden and Joe “King” Oliver are remembered for telling their ensembles to play at extremely low volume — soft enough to hear the footsteps of the people on the dance floor.


6. Perdido Street Blues

(L. Armstrong)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong, tpt; Claude Jones, trb; Sidney Bechet, soprano sax; Luis Russell, p; Bernard Addison, gtr; Wellman Braud, b; Zutty Singleton, d.

CD: Louis Armstrong Highlights from His Decca Years
Recorded May 27, 1940.
MCA Records, 1994.

Perdido is one of the most elegant street names in New Orleans. Perdido Street ran close to where the young Armstrong and his family lived. Their neighborhood, known then as Back ‘o Town and/or The Battlefield, featured many of the toughest characters in town. The Battlefield is now the site of City Hall and other municipal buildings in downtown New Orleans.


7. A Kiss To Build a Dream On

( B. Kalmar, Harry Ruby, O. Hammerstein II)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong tpt & vocal; Bing Crosby, vocal; John Scottt Trotter & His Orchestra.

CD: Louis Armstrong The Wonderful Duets
Originally performed on “The Bing Crosby Show,” broadcast November 28, 1951.
EMI United Partnership, Ltd.
Avid Entertainment, 2002

Armstrong appeared often on The Bing Crosby Show and the chemistry between the two performers was something to write home about. In this recording, he sings circles around Crosby and Crosby happily cedes to Armstrong’s power. On the same album, they also perform a wonderful version of Blueberry Hill. Armstrong originally recorded Blueberry Hill in 1949. And while his version was a hit, Fats Domino went on to record the best-selling (and most beloved) version in 1956.


8. The Dummy Song

( L. Brown, B. Rose, R. Henderson)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: Personnel unconfirmed.

CD: Louis Armstrong’s All-Time Greatest Hits
MCA Records
UMG Recordings, Inc., 1994

This was an old vaudeville song from 1925 that Armstrong made into a modern-day hit. Armstrong loved all things vaudeville. His favorite entertainer was reportedly Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.


9. Stompin’ At the Savoy

(A. Razaf, B. Goodman, C. Webb, E. Sampson)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong tpt, vocal; Ella Fitzgerald, vocal; Oscar Peterson, p; Herb Ellis, gtr; Ray Brown, b; Louie Bellson, d.
Original LP: Ella and Louis Again. Recorded 1956.

CD: The Complete Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on Verve
Verve Records, 1997.

This duet starts with the best intentions and ascends into utter glee. Armstrong clearly forgets the words mid-recording and wings the rest with Fitzgerald playing it straight. “Rip me! Rip me! Rip me! Rip me!” is what Armstrong hollers during Fitzgerald’s inspired scatting.


10. Band Discussion on Cottontail

PERSONNEL: Barney Bigard; Louis Armstrong; Duke Ellington

CD: The Complete Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington Sessions
Roulette Jazz
Recorded April 3-4, 1961.
EMI Records, 1990.


11. Cottontail

(D. Ellington)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong, tpt, vocal; Duke Ellington, p; Barney Bigard, cl; Trummy Young, trb; Mort Herbert, b; Danny Barcelona, d.

CD: The Complete Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington Sessions
Roulette Jazz
Recorded April 3-4, 1961.
EMI Records Ltd, 1990.

The Great Summit, as it was called, is required listening for any jazz lover. This once-in-a-lifetime recording session between Louis Amstrong and Duke Ellington featured most of Armstrong’s All-Stars with Ellington on piano. The ensemble plays an Ellington program. Clarinetist Barney Bigard is in the coveted position of having played, recorded and toured with both geniuses.


12. La Vie En Rose

( L. Louiguy, M. David, M. Louiguy, E. Piaf)

PERSONNEL: Louis Armstrong, tpt, vocal; Sy Oliver Orchestra.

CD: Louis Armstrong Highlights from His Decca Years
Recorded June 25, 1950.
MCA Records, 1994.

Too pretty to leave out. The ever-wonderful Oscar Peterson is on piano.