Bessie Smith & Louis Armstrong: St. Louis Blues

We apologize for joking in our review of Dizzy Gillespie's 1959 cover that W.C. Handy wrote "St. Louis Blues" amidst the British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and that the song is mostly heard before ballgames. It's not really that old. Still, "St. Louis Blues" ought to be the U.S. national anthem. Certainly this historic convocation of the Empress of the Blues and the Emperor of Jazz supersedes any Act of Congress to the contrary. Backed at stately tempo by a spectral, tent-meeting pump organ, Bessie & Louis stream as gallantly as Old Glory herself.

November 21, 2007 · 0 comments


Louis Armstrong: The Memphis Blues

This pairing of Armstrong’s artistry with Handy’s music seems so obvious that one might question why it took until 1954 to become a reality—but let’s just be glad that it did. Armstrong’s vocal is charming as always, and Young and Bigard add some complimentary commentary. The power of Armstrong’s trumpet sound will never be surpassed, nor will the elegance, emotional weight, and indisputable logic of his improvisations. Some fans will eternally wish that Louis played more trumpet in his later years, but listeners will be hard-pressed to imagine any more notes being added to this perfect solo. After you hear it once, you’ll never want to hear it any other way.

November 19, 2007 · 0 comments


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