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JSngry

Album Of The Week: June 1 - 7

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Red was kind enough to ask me to select the next album of the week, and my response was, "I'm sure I can think of SOMETHING" ;)

Well, I could, and I did. Many things. In fact, TOO many things. I wanted to dip into something that I felt "essential" in some form or fashion, yet something that was not overly familiar, something that might stimulate some people to check out something a little different than their usual bag(s), something, like BLACK MARKET, that stepped outside the "usual" music discussed in this great forum. Which way to go? Warne Marsh? Albert Ayler? Anthony Braxton? Lester Young? A vocalist? Brian Wilson? Gospel? Blues? Maybe even a COMEDY record? Who? What? When? Where? WHY?

?????????????????????????????

Finally, I decided to go where any good jazzman goes when he/she needs a simple yet profoundly true answer - Louis Armstrong. Therefore, my selection for Album Of The Week for June 1 - 7 is

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LOUIS ARMSTRONG PLAYS W.C. HANDY (click here to buy)

Simply put, this is, in my mind, one of the greatest jazz records ever, as well as one of the better reissues. If you only have the earlier CD, the ill-fated one with the "drum major" cover, treat yourself to the later issue. It's true to the original LP, has a wealth of priceless new material, sounds freakin' GREAT, and the liner notes tell a story (or two!) that you'd not believe if you heard it from anybody else. As good a major-label single disc package as there is, in my opinion, in terms of presentation.

As for the music itself...

If you don't have this album at all, get it A.S.A.P. and B.A.M.N.. Trust me, it IS that good. If your impression of Louis Armstrong is still that of an sweaty old man with a handkerchief singing "Hello Dolly" and/or an aging manchild who "naively" sang "What A Wonderful World" at the height of the Vietnam conflict, or even as a once bold firebrand who somewhere in the 1930s settled into a comfortable, nice-but-not-too-involved routine, YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS ALBUM! Hell, EVERYBODY needs to hear this album!

Great band too. Maybe not the dazzling array of "name brands" of the Hines/Teagarden/Cattlett/etc. years, but whoopdee-damn-doo about that. Dig THESE players - funky-ass Barney Bigard on clarinet, the consistently invigorating Trummy Young on (do I have to tell 'ya? ;) ), Billy Kyle on piano (Young & Kyle were both pivotal "swing-to-bop" musicians, something largely forgotten today but worth remembering if you listen to this album and find it "traditional" but still vaguely "modern" at the same time), the recently deceased Arvell Shaw on bass (and playing with a great big, old school, FULL sound that is marvelously captured), the irrepressible Barrett Deems on drums, and the warmly warm, nothing if not down home Velma Middleton on sometimes vocal. Nobody's slacking, everybody's in the peakest of their peak form, and if "St. Louis Blues" doesn't rock your world like getting hit in the face by a steel beam swinging into your face from across the street (only in a GOOD way. of course...), then I just don't know what to say.

Hope y'all dig it!

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I guess it is about time I hoid this album! ;)

Actually, my mother-in-law has the original six-eye Columbia LP, scratched all to hell. So I've heard it before, but I really need to get this CD.

Dare I say it? I have no Louis in my collection. Oh the shame of it..... :unsure:

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This is a great album. I'm really glad you picked it!

I look forward to listening to some Satchmo next week.

:rsmile: :g :rsmile:

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Great choice!

I used to walk by this one almost every week. A few months back, I stopped walking by it, and bought the damn thing.

I have to say it is excellent, do not hesitate to grab a copy.

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Dare I say it? I have no Louis in my collection. Oh the shame of it.....

Actually, my mother-in-law has the original six-eye Columbia LP, scratched all to hell. So I've heard it before, but I really need to get this CD.

Well, I daresay that not having any Louis, or just some sort of sampler, in a collection is probably more common these days than might be thought, and this is as good a place to start as any, since it's marvellously "hi-fi" AND totally kickass musically (but you're going to HAVE to get the Hot Fives & Sevens eventually. You just are!).

Yeah - the CD bonus material is fascinating, notably the cuts where you get to hear Louis the bandleader in action, rehearsing some things and structuring the routines for recording purposes . So much for the myth of the "naive genius" - this guy knew EXACTLY what he wanted and how to get it. And, again, GREAT liner notes.

And yeah, the alligator story is almost worth the cost of admission alone! ;)

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Inspired selection!

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Haven't listened to it for awhile so good opportunity. Thanks Jim.

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Good choice indeed, I look forward to hearing this for the first time. The scene Catesta describes in always 'walking by' the album applies to me as well, except that he has the album now, while I've yet to pick it up. That'll change soon.

The lineup sounds similar to the one on the Duke-Louis album (except for the pianist, of course) and that's a very good thing!

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Jim

Excellent choice. Might be my favorite later period Satchmo. :)

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Yes! Once again, I already have it! No one has picked a CD I don't own! I wonder what that says about me? :blink:

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Yes! Once again, I already have it! No one has picked a CD I don't own! I wonder what that says about me? :blink:

So, maybe it's time to change these threads to "stump Alexander." B)

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Yes!  Once again, I already have it!  No one has picked a CD I don't own!  I wonder what that says about me?   :blink:

It implies that your growing concentration of musical capital has pushed us into Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism. The Organissimo Army of the Unemployed will soon expropriate your capital for the creation of a new musical order.

Edited by John L

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Yes! Once again, I already have it! No one has picked a CD I don't own!

Careful there, my friend. It's not too late for me to change my selection to something of this ilk:

Paraphernalia.jpg

:w:w:w:w;)

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Great choice Jim! I'll pull this one out this weekend.

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Thanks for picking this,I had paased by this frequently until yesterday when I spent all of £5 on it. Well, well worth it. Much better than the rather tired Satch Plays Fats which is the only other Satch I have from this period. Even Velma what-its-name is inspired on the delightfully wacky "Long gone".Excellent !!! :D:D

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What I love most about this album, is that Armstrong is dealing with an artist who is truly his equal: W.C. Handy. Yes, Armstrong is playing great on this record, but the more I listen to it, the more I'm drawn into the world that Handy created in his songs. It a world of joy, love, hatred, death, and everything in between. Where a person's life is so precarious, that he/she needs live life now! because it can be gone in a minute. For Handy, real life is not with the "officially good people", but with those who know how to enjoy life, and take advantage of that golden moment where life is truly a joy -- where friends gather to celebrate this gift of being alive; where they gather to hear the blues being played from the heart. So, here's to the world of W.C. Handy and the Kingdom of the Blues.

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I am so attached to "Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy" that I find it difficult to post on it. I agree that this is a truly great album. The All Stars never sounded better than on this album, especially Trummy Young. And Pops is consistently magestic in the way that only he could be, bantying around with light humor one moment and blowing the deepest shit you ever heard the next. There may have been quicker and flashier chops back in the 20s. But just one note of this mature Armstrong can send shivers down your spine. Every note is played so forcefully and with such velocity. This is the Grand Canyon of jazz trumpet.

I own a large collection of Armstrong from this period. Although most of it is excellent, "Plays Handy" really gives you a feel for what this band was capable of when it was rested and genuinely concentrating in the studio. The Fats Waller tribute worked extremely well too, even if it didn't quite reach the plateau of "Handy." :tup:tup:tup

It is hard to choose a favorite from among the masterworks on this album, but "Hesitating Blues" might be it for me.

Thanks to this thread giving me the excuse to indulge myself in this one again this evening!

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Having a mostly modern centred record and cd collection I'm a little ashamed to say I have no Armstrong in my collection except for the odd sampler track. Fortunately I was able to borrow a vinyl copy of this album so I'm without any bonus tracks.

I looked forward to hearing this especially as this was the sort of music that introduced me to jazz in the first place. Regretably it didn't do much for me and I found my attention wandering halfway through the second side. That's not to say I didn't find things to enjoy, Louis' jaunty playing on Loveless Love and the out choruses on Yellow Dog for example. Bigard is a turn off for me, I've never found his vibrato attractive.

Despite my anticipation it was for me a pleasant enough hour and not much more though I'm sure it's fine stuff. I guess it must be too late for me to get back into this. But it's another good example of what AOTW is all about. Without it I would never have heard this album. Sorry guys.

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Have to thank Jim again for selecting this blast from my past.

This was the first Armstrong lp I ever owned, and it was a real eyeopener, a MILESTONE in my jazz listening in many ways. I had come back from Swaziland with the sound of the British Blues bands in my head, and the sound of that South African music that is so distinctive, and most of what was playing on the airwaves I had no referrence point to, though I learned to later. . . . A copy of Filles De Kilamanjaro somehow planted for me to find in the Burton, Ohio public library knocked me for a loop. . . here was a fusion of a lot of the sound and feel I had been longing for, and I found that Miles at Fillmore was out there for me to grab in the Coventry area of Cleveland, and I became an electric Miles fanatic, and then on to Weather Report, Return to Forever, and more. . . and an exploration of the urban blues greats of the forties and fifties began as well, simultaneously.

Then I went to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago and I finally met people who were into the electric Miles and the fusion stuff (which I saw as two separate categories) and was exposed to Coltrane and earlier Miles too (I had gotten a copy of ESP and one of the Blackhawks at the same time in a hip little record shop that was a long walk from my dorm.) And I found that you could ride a subway and spend all your money for the week and see John Lee Hooker at a bar for a few sets, and so I started seeing some of the Chicago greats in clubs, and even helped arrange to have J. B. Hutto come to a dance at the University. Heady times for me, this musical discovery!

So one time at the record store I stood transfixed with a copy of Plays W.C. Handy in my hand. I don't know what drew me to this lp, but I had it in my hands, and I couldn't put it back in the bin. I'd heard some Pops, and read of how important he was, and really liked some of the big band sides like "I'm Cofessin' that I Love You". . . but this was different, an older Pops, one I really didn't know anything of, it wasn't Hello Dolly, but what was it?

I bought it. I got back to the dorm, I put the needle into the groove. . . and was really surprised at what I heard. First voice I hear is Velma Middleton! And then that fat and juicy trumpet, and t hat booming bass and then that happy and joshing Armstrong voice. I was fascinated. I listened to that lp over and over. The way that Barrett Deems hardly played and then was swinging the band away and then hardly played and still was swinging the band away. The way that Trummy Young just forced excitement into the grooves. The way that Velma and Louis were flirting and cooing and laughing. This seemed so ADULT. It wasn't like the Clapton or Jagger of Winwood or Santanna vocals I'd heard over and over. They were adult, they were in a way reckless in the clarity of the feeling they were singing out. . . . I kept listening to this lp and driving a rather not appreciative roommate to the library. And it seemed to bridge the Chicago blues I was drinking in and the jazz that I was moving towards. . . .

AND I made a link in my mind and heart between the playing of trumpet on this album and Miles' Blackhawk lp. The Blackhawk lp had floored me too and showed me a different Miles indeed, hardly at first even recognizable as the Miles of Live/Evil. But the more I listened, the more I focused on the swing in the sound and the way that Wynton Kelly played that brief solo piano piece that closed a side. . . the more I dug this. That Blackhawk volume brought me into a new world of music. And so did the Armstrong, because within six months I had several other Columbias from the fifties, and a Decca with Teagarden, and over theyaers I kept going to Pops and getting that reality dose. Real feeling, real swing and drive. . . .

One other interesting thing about this lp that I'll tell you about. (I feel like an old man spinning some yarn of youth, but you don't have to read it after all. You can click to the next post. . .) About three months after I got this Pops lp, a "prospective student" came to stay with the "House Master" of our dorm and his wife, to see if she liked the University. She was from Houston, she was dark and desirable and I ws wondering if I should make some sort of play because she seemed to be okay with talking with me a bit. There was a little party in the common area for her, and they were playing the usual stuff, which actually in those days included some bozo playing "Hooked on a Feeling" at eleven on the volume dial, which is an agony that I still remember. At one point she came over to me and said "Isn't there some different music to play?" I was in a tizzy as I slipped back to my dorm and my meager, weird collection of jazz, blues, Ravi Shankar, Crazy Horse. . . etc. I pulled out a few, and Plays W. C. Handy was one of them. Given the mandate by Lavinia, I commandeered the turntable, I put that one on, it certainly was different. . . . SHE LOVED IT. She came and sat with me and read the back of the album cover. We were pretty inseparable for the next few days. It was grand. . . . Ultimately she never came to UC, which is something I certainly don't blame her for, and we exchanged some letters for a while and then stopped, and I wonder what has happened to her. . . . And ironically six years later, I was in Texas and have been here ever since. I really think it was POPS that wooed her for me.

So, this is a sentimental favorite, but it's solid, it needs no nostalgia or sentiment to prop it up. The way that the sound booms in that Chicago studio, and the voices and the horns are so prominent and full and rich. The way that the band does its little riffy arranged heads and the way that the singing is so fantastically swinging and joyful and the way that the music seems to be just flowing out with no effort . . . . This is a milestone recording in so many musical ways. I want this one with me always!

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Is it safe to say that the nine minutes of sheer joy that is "St. Louis Blues" speaks volumes about jazz, its past, its present (at the time and even now) and its future? If I ever need to exlpain jazz to someone, I'll just play this one track. From Dixieland to swing, bop to blues, it's all contained in this one tight little package!

Honestly, I haven't listened to too much beyond that, because that one track is so GOOD, that I wanna keep playing it over and over and OVER!!!

Lon is right on about Pops trumpet: fat and JUICY!!! And as if that wasn't brassy enough, there's Trummy Young playing the dirrrrrrrrrtiest 'bone I've ever heard! So baaaaad I gotta lock up the children!

Once again Jim, this was a fantastic choice. Thanks for kickin' my butt to listen this! :tup

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GREAT POST LON!!!!!!!

Man, I love it when people are passionate about certain albums! This certainly hit the nail on the head for Lon and Jsngry, as well as many others.

This is a good example of why Album of the Week is so great. It's been responsible for me opening up to albums I wouldn't have otherwise. Armstrong plays W.C. Handy is on my "to buy" list now, with a big star buy it. Although I probably won't be able to get it in time for this week, I will post when I can comment on it.

Great job everyone (especially Lon).

Album of the Week is one of the best aspects of this board, and one that (to my knowledge) hasn't been "successfully" attempted anywhere else. Not even the old BNBB.

I really look forward to it each week, even if I don't have the album or time to thoroughly participate.

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Same here Soul Stream. Unfortunately, most of the albums chosen are not yet in my collection, so I have a hard time participating. I do love to read these threads though!

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Pops is consistently magestic in the way that only he could be, bantying around with light humor one moment and blowing the deepest shit you ever heard the next.  There may have been quicker and flashier chops back in the 20s.  But just one note of this mature Armstrong can send shivers down your spine.  Every note is played so forcefully and with such velocity.  This is the Grand Canyon of jazz trumpet.

Indeed.

The thing that has always moved me about this album is just how fully realized and MATURE, to echo Lon's first reaction, a musical statement this is. Art of this caliber, of this degree of perfection, is rare in ANY medium, I think.

If we can take as implicit that one of the major motivators in playing jazz, perhaps THE major motivator for some, is the discovery and subsequent assertion of one's unique "self-self", then it is not at all an unreasonable yardstick to use when measuring the "success" of any endeavor just how much of yourself you've found and just how confident you are in asserting it. In this album, we have what surely must be the Gold Standard.

Armstrong here is so TOTALLY himself, so TOTALLY in command of every aspect of this performance - not just the technical details, but the intangible elements like vibe and such. The man fully inhabits every element of this music in a way that is as natural as it is absolute, and you know how I know (as opposed to "feel")?

Timing.

Timing is everything. Timing is what ultimately differentiates between FEELING confident and BEING confident. Timing can destroy even the best people if it's even a microsecond off, if the situation is critical enough. And believe it or not, the stakes in Louis' game ARE that critical. It's a given among musicians that it's harder to play slow than it is fast, REALLY play, and that the same holds true for playing less than more. The reason is simple, really - the slower and simpler anything is, the more room there is for a misfire in timing, and a mistake that at a faster/more busy pace could be glossed over by musician and listener alike suddenly becomes EXTREMELY obvious, unsettling even, because it has no place to hide, nothing forthcoming to immediately cover it with.

When listening to this album, I'm constantly struck, no, AWEstruck, at how absolutely freakin' PERFECT Pops' timing is, in both his playing and his singing. It's not just in the placement of the notes either, it's in the falloffs and upwards glisses, it's in the attacks and the cutoffs, it's in the vibrato, it's in the constant shifting of vocal tone (technical term unknown to me), it's so omnipresent as to be the defining factor of this music and this artist.

But such a miracle does not come about as a matter of strictly mechanical indoctrination. Practice will only get you so far down this road. After that, it comes down to what you find when you get to yourself - what and who you REALLY are. Well, the revelation that Louis Armstrong was one of the purest, most wholly-formed spirits of this or any other time should come as nothing but a world-class DUH!!! to most jazz folks, but we take that as a given at the risk of glossing over it, of not fully understanding EXACTLY how profound what the man accomplished was in purely HUMAN terms. Music is just the surface - what counts, REALLY counts for me is how one man could be SO self-aware and SO confidently joyous at the same time. There is no cheapness in Armstrong's music. Over the years, there was often a veneer of cheapness in the setting, the material, and/or the presentation, all there as a commercial necessity. The veneer often obscured the essence for many, and probably still does today. But there is none of that on Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy, and we can see the man revealed for the triumph of the human spirit that he truly was, no filters or blockage in place. A pure, unalloyed triumph. This is more than great music - this is a benchmark for humanity. That might be prose of the purple variety, probably is, but I stand behind the sentiment.

Once again, genius and its power are rare in this world, but they cannot be denied or glossed over when one is confronted with them if one has any hope at all of living a truly honest life. This album contains just such genius.

Just my opinion, of course. ;)

Edited by JSngry

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