YOUNG LOUIS ARMSTRONG
Outstanding early recordings by a great jazzman
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (#1-3): Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong (cnt) Honore Dutrey (tb) Johnny Dodds (cl) Stomp Evans (as) – (#1 and 2 only) Lil Hardin Armstrong (p) Bill Johnson (bj) Baby Dodds (drs)
Richmond, Indiana; #3 on April 5, 1923; #1 and 2 on October 5, 1923
Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra (#4): Armstrong, Howard Scott, Elmer Chambers (cnt) Charlie Green (tb) buster Bailey (cl) Don Redman (as) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Fletcher Henderson (p) Charlie Dixon (bj) Bob Escudero (tu) Kaiser Marshall (drs) New York; Winter, 1924
Ma Rainey (#5 and 6) and Trixie Smith (#12); vocals accompanied by members of the above Henderson band: Armstrong, Green, Bailey, Henderson, Dixon, probably Marshall
New York; # 5 and 6 in late 1924; #12 in early 1925
Red Onion Jazz Babies (#7 – 11 only); Armstrong (cnt) Aaron Thompson (tb)(on # 7-9 only) Charlie Irvis (tb)(on #10 and 11 only) Buster Bile (cl) (on #9-9 only) Sidney Bechet (ss)(#10 and 11 only) Lil Armstrong (p) Buddy Christian (bj) Vocal on Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning by “Josephine Beatty” (Alberta Hunter); on Cake Walking Babies by Beatty and Todd
New York #9 on November 8, 1924; #7 and 8 on November 26; #10 and 11 on December 28
KING OLIVER’S CREOLE JAZZ BAND
Alligator Hop (2:22) (Joe Oliver)
Krooked Blues (2:53) (Spikes – Johnson)
I’m Going Away to Wear You Off My Mind (2:58) (Smith – Johnson)
FLETCHER HENDERSON ORCHESTRA
Mandy, Make Up Your Mind (3:05) (Irving Berlin)
Jelly Bean Blues (3:20) (Lena Arrant)
Countin’ the Blues (3:21) (Gertrade Rainey)
RED ONION JAZZ BABIES
Terrible Blues (2:49) (Clarence Williams
Santa Claus Blues (2:45) (Straight – Kahn)
Of All the Wrong You’ve Done to Me (2:41) (Payton – Smith – Dowell)
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (2:51) (Tom Delaney)
Cake Walking Babies From Home (3:23) (Williams – Smith – Troy)
12. The Railroad Blues (2:56) (Trixie Smith)
Among the very few statements about jazz that can be made with little fear of contradiction, probably the safest is this; in the first half of this century, no other single figure has loomed so large on the jazz scene as LOUIS ARMSTRONG.
As an all-pervading musical influence and as an over-whelming personality, Satchmo stands alone, on the top rung of the ladder. And, as this album helps to demonstrate, he has been up there for quite a long time.
This collection amounts to a panoramic view, a cross-section of the jazz played by a youngster rather far removed from the Armstrong of today. The Louis to be heard here is in his very early twenties, performing with the first groups the played with after leaving his native New Orleans for the big cities of the North. But this hardly means that he was any sort of awkward or diffident beginner. Armstrong, at 23, was a vibrant and powerful cornetist, already capable of far more than most other musicians could ever hope to achieve. Enthusiastic, confident, but constantly learning, this young jazz artist was gaining his first real control over the instrument he was to command so superbly. Thus the rare and exciting magic on this LP is that of one of the most fascinating of human experiences – of a vast creative talent first coming into its own.
Young Armstrong – “Kind Louis” they had called him back home – came to Chicago in 1923 because King Oliver had sent for him. Oliver had been much like a father to Louis, and had been the major musical influence of his formative years. When the King had gone North, Louis had taken his place in a band Kind Ory was leading in a noted Storyville dive. He had gained further jazz experience on the Mississippi riverboats. Then came the telegram that brought teacher and protege together again and introduced Armstrong into what become (with no small amount of help from him) perhaps the greatest of all traditional-jazz groups: Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.
The first three selections here are from Louis’ stay with that remarkable band, which included on e of the finest of New Orleans clarinetists, Johnny Dodds, and the pianist who was to become Mrs. Armstrong for a time, Lil Hardin. (For other Armstrong performances with Oliver, see the LP listings in the right-hand column.)
These numbers show a strong, firm cornetist, perhaps held down a bit by the early acoustical recording techniques and by his role as second horn to King Joe, but nonetheless a key member of a most important group. Louis rather quickly came to overshadow Oliver. There have always been stories to the effect that the older man sent for Louis to bolster his own fading talents, and stories of the conflicting pulls of loyalty, ambition and outside advice on the rising young star. What ever the facts of the matter, there came the inevitable break-up of the classic Creole Band lineup and, by 1924, Armstrong had moved on to New York and a chair in the trumpet section of the outstanding Negro dance band of the day.
Louis may not have fitted with complete ease into Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra (there are the stories about his problems in reading the rather difficult arrangements), but he surely learned much of such things as technique and showmanship while playing alongside such early Henderson stars as Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, and Charlie Green. There were occasions when he could burst through with memorable solos like the chorus he takes on Mandy. And there were those record dates as part of a unit from the band backing the greatest singers of the greatest era of the blues. You might say that Armstrong was merely a sideman on numbers like the Ma Rainey and Trixie Smith recordings here, but “merely” has never been a suitable word for Satchmo. His tone, still rough and ‘dirty’, fits the blues to perfection: high-spirited on The Railroad Blues, deeply and beautifully mournful on Jelly Bean, underlining the cynicism of the great Ma Rainey’s lyrics to Countin’ the Blues, always supplying richly inventive support for a singer.
His stay in New York also produced a number of sides made with small groups put together strictly for recording purposes by music publisher-composer-pianist Clarance Williams. Some had Williams on piano; those reissued here made use of Lil Hardin Armstrong in quintet lineups that included Buster Bailey in some cases and the great New Orleans virtuoso Sidney Bechet (just getting started on the soprano sax) in others. Immediate predecessors of Louis’ immortal Hot Five record sessions, these selections seems to represent a transition between the original ensemble style and the more free, solo-emphasizing jazz that lay ahead of him. The Red Onion recordings have long been collector’s items, as much for their high musical quality as for their rarity. They offer some of the first examples of Louis as a driving lead horn in the close-knit unity of the New Orleans idiom.
In the three decades that followed, Armstrong has of course gone on the several kinds of stardom. This LP, in indicating what he was doing and how he sounded when his career was first getting under way, manages to be doubly valuable. It is both a jazz document and – because Louis was never less that a first-class musician and was always surrounded by most distinguished colleagues – a collection of outstanding early jazz that’s well worth listening to for its own sake.
A discographical note on original Label and master numbers :
Alligator Hop / Krooked Blues originally appeared on Gennett 5274 (master number GE 11633 and 11638); I’m going Away … was Ge 5134 (GE 11386); Mandy was Paramount 20367 (1874). Jelly Bean / Countin’ were coupled on Para 12238 (1926 / 1927). Terrible / Santa Claus – Ge 5607 (GEX 9206 / 9207); Of All the Wrongs … / Cake Walking Babies – Ge 5627 (GEX 9177 / 8248); Nobody Knows – Ge 5626 (GEX 9246). Railroad Blues – Para 12262 (2064)
The slight surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes; it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities. Some of this material reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner.
Another 12-inch Riverside LP of great early jazz is:
N.O.R.K. – New Orleans Rhythm Kings, with Jelly Roll Morton (RLP 12-102)
Ten-inch albums featuring the greatest figures in traditional jazz include:
LOUIS ARMSTRONG with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (RLP 1029)
NEW ORLEANS HORNS (including three Oliver-Armstrong selections) (RLP 1005)
JELLY ROLL MORTON: Rediscovered Solos (RLP 1018) – Classic Jazz Piano, Vol. 1 and 2 (RLPs 1038, 1041) –Kings of Jazz (RLP 1027)
BIX BEIDERBECKE and the Wolverines (RLPs 1023, 1050)
JOHNNY DODDS, Vol. 1 and 2 (RLPs 1002, 1015)
FATS WALLER: Rediscovered Solos (RLP 1010) – The Amazing Mr. Waller, Vols. 1 and 2 (RLPs 1021, 1022)
THE GREAT BLUES SINGERS: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Chippie Hill (RLP1032)
LP produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews; notes by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover by Gene Gogerty; photograph courtesy of George Hoefer.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.