Louis Armstrong: Mack the Knife


Mack The Knife


Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals)


Ken Burns Jazz: Louis Armstrong (Columbia/Legacy 61440)

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Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals), Trummy Young (trombone), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), Barrett Deems (drums).

Composed by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht & Marc Blitzstein


Recorded: New York, September 28, 1955


Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

"Mack the Knife" is dramatist Bertolt Brecht's grisly answer to Jack the Ripper, a nasty narrative of murderously mutilated bodies oozing scarlet billows before being dumped in the river. Enter Louis Armstrong, genially growling about a shark's pearly whites. Only when the blood spreads is it obvious that the shark is metaphor for Brecht's knife-wielding villain, Macheath. Yet with Satchmo's trumpet leading the Dixieland merriment and his single atop the pop charts, laughing Louie has clearly neutralized Brecht's pathology. Our greatest jazzman dunks us into a voyeuristic cesspool, and we cheer as though watching Jaws and rooting for the great white. Sick stuff.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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