Louis Armstrong: St. Louis Blues (1929)


St. Louis Blues (1929)


Louis Armstrong (trumpet)


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: 1923-1934 (Sony/Legacy 57175)

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Louis Armstrong (trumpet), J.C. Higginbotham (trombone), Albert Nicholas (clarinet), Pops Foster (bass),

Otis Johnson, Henry “Red” Allen (trumpets), Charlie Holmes (alto sax), Teddy Hill (tenor sax), Luis Russell (piano), Will Johnson (guitar), Paul Barbarin (drums)


Composed by W.C. Handy


Recorded: New York, December 13, 1929


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

On Friday the 13th, six weeks after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Louis Armstrong was singing the blues—to be precise, the "St. Louis Blues," and to be even more precise, playing not singing. Five years earlier, Armstrong had contributed cornet obbligatos to Empress of the Blues Bessie Smith's mournful recording of W.C. Handy's anthem, but now it was Louis's turn to take the lead, and he gives us a very different reading indeed. After a short tango intro, Pops Foster's sturdy bass powers a surprisingly jaunty two-beat romp featuring Higginbotham's trilling trombone and Nicholas's keening clarinet. But above all shines Armstrong's trumpet—stunningly, transcendently, everlastingly brilliant. We don't know if Louis played the stock market, but he sure could play that damn trumpet.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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