Louis Armstrong: When the Saints Go Marching In (live, 1956)
When the Saints Go Marching In (live, 1956)
Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals)
Basin Street Blues (1201 Music 9007)
Billy Kyle (piano), Dale Jones (bass), Barrett Deems (drums).
Recorded: live in concert, July 1956
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
From the first notes of that famous melody flowing from Satchmo and the All Stars, you just can't help but get a smile on your face, the toe starts tapping, and spirit of Ol' New Orleans begins to take hold of you. Blessedly, despite the fact that Louis Armstrong had played this essence-of-New Orleans tune two or three thousand times, and the members of the band had played it hundreds of times, they play it with verve and passion, carrying the Crescent City spirit on a wave of song to their delighted and responsive audience for this live recording.
In his autobiography, the great clarinetist Barney Bigard said of Armstrong and the All Stars, "The band bridged the gap between show business and art." This tune, like that other essence-of-New Orleans song, "Basin Street Blues," was an ultimate demonstration of that - something you can clearly hear in the recording, as the audience is obviously highly entertained; but they are also hearing that supreme master of his instrument and singing, the one and only Satchmo, make musical art, with help from this great band. That includes the band members, again in the spirit of New Orleans, vocally echoing lyrics sung by Satch. Edmund Hall plays a clarinet solo early on that swings mightily, but as with other tracks on this album, his thin, screechy tone is the only negative. Trummy Young adds a wailing solo, with his usual fine tone, style and power, which takes it up a notch and hands it off to Armstrong for a grand finale, with vigorous ensemble backing.
It's easy to play this famous song in a caricatured manner, or just plain sloppily. (I've heard such versions of "The Saints.") But the tune is a significant piece of the culture of that unique yet quintessentially American city, New Orleans, and this live recording by Armstrong and the All Stars is one to enjoy again and again.
Reviewer: Dean Alger