Louis Armstrong: Basin Street Blues (live, 1956)


Basin Street Blues (live, 1956)


Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals)


Basin Street Blues (1201 Music 9007)

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Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals), Trummy Young (trombone), Edmund Hall (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), Barrett Deems (drums),

Dale Jones (bass)


Composed by Spencer Williams


Recorded: live in concert, July 1956


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

This live recording opens with Louis Armstrong's spoken introduction of the song title. The immediate roar of approval from the audience is a good illustration of how, by the mid-1950s, so many reveled in Louis and his All Stars, and how the band had brought this music to a wide public and made something of a cultural icon of "Basin Street Blues," one of the songs that presents the essence and spirit of original New Orleans jazz. As Barney Bigard, the great clarinetist who formerly played with the All Stars and Ellington, said: "…it was just that the time was right. That band was to be the main group that brought jazz to the people, all over America and all over the world." And: "The band bridged the gap between show business and art."

It did indeed. With Louis Armstrong as the musical master of ceremonies and maestro of the trumpet, they brought this art to the audience in a most engaging way. "Engaging" is meant literally, as Armstrong's personal magic, love of the music, and unique connection with his audience brought them into active involvement with the experience of making this music (and thus, was an updated version of the original New Orleans jazz setting as a collective activity). One can hear this in the audience response; beyond the rousing applause at Satch's announcement of the tune title and the storm of applause at the end, the audience is part of the action when Armstrong, after singing "…in New Orleans, the land of dreams," goes into a scat line with flair (no doubt accompanied by some delicious mugging) with the audience's delighted response completing that part of the performance.

Musically, Armstrong is in fine form, playing with excellent tone, style and verve. Trummy Young adds his usual superb trombone work, as does Billy Kyle on piano; and adding to the rousing spirit of this refined New Orleans jazz, we are also treated to two bang-up drum solos by Barrett Deems. One negative here is the thin, shrill tone of Edmund Hall's clarinet. He swings like crazy, but the tone is hard on the ears. (For ultimate examples of good clarinet tone, check out Barney Bigard on "Mood Indigo" or "Black and Tan Fantasy", or Sidney Bechet on "Blue Horizon".)

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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  • 1 ROBERTO // Feb 25, 2009 at 09:34 PM