Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s finest and most innovative trumpet playing came during the 1920s, first as a sideman with King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson and Clarence Williams, then fronting his Hot Five and Hot Seven combos. His recordings with these aggregations still are regarded as revolutionary in terms of jazz improvisation.
From the early 1930s until 1947, Armstrong followed the fashion of the age and led a big band, becoming a “pop” star in the modern sense. He was known more as a singer and entertainer, and less as a jazz trendsetter.
In 1947 Armstrong played a concert in New York with a small group of selected musical friends, including trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko and cornetist/trumpeter Bobby Hackett; the latter plays the first solo in the recording here, following Armstrong’s vocal, and his phrasing is noticeably modeled on Bix Beiderbecke.
The concert was a smash success; big bands were in the process of dying amid changing postwar times, and so Armstrong wisely formed the All Stars, a band with revolving members, with whom he toured for the remainder of his life. By the time of his death, Armstrong had added fame as a global cultural ambassador to the list of so many achievements.
Subversively, and perhaps presciently, Satchmo also was an unapologetic user of marijuana throughout his adult life.
By the way, I love this version of the Fats Waller classic song.
In 2020, as my sabbatical proceeds, it is my aim to recall cultural landmarks ignored in these forgetful times.