Saturday, April 28, 2012

Armstrong in Retrospect

 LOUIS ARMSTRONG and his ALL STARS - Live concert in Turin (Italy) (May 1959) remembered.
Music is a common denominator. Jazz fans are the same all over the world (Quote Louis Armstrong)
Girish Trivedi - Hans Koert

The year 1959 was a hectic year for Louis Armstrong.  At the 26th of June 1959 he had to perform in Spoleto (Italy) but was suffered with a heart attack or pneumonia ... The doctors disagreed whether it was pneumonia or a heart attack, Steven Brower says, but Louis knew better .... They called it pneumonia, I just ate too much. (Source: Satchmo - The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong - Steven Brower) 
In 1959 Louis Armstrong retuned to Europe with his All-Stars  with a lot of success. The concert in Berlin ( February 1959) was sold out and in London (March) they performed at a standing-room-only crowd. He came to Holland twice ( February and May 1959) for concerts at the Kurhaus (The Hague) and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and at the Blokker veilinghal. He gave a  concert in Antwerp (Belgium) which was recorded on film. In Geneva the youth became besieged by the music, ..... they broke lose and besieged Armstrong at the end of the show. In May 1959 Louis Armstrong and his All Stars performed in Milan and Turin and Girish from Mumbai (India) who was in the audience loves to share his passion for Louis Armstrong and his remembrances to the Turin concert with the visitors of the Keep Swinging blog. (Hans Koert)
Louis Armstrong at the Teatro Alfieri in Turin (Italy) 1st of May, 1959. ( f.l.t.r.: Billy Kyle (piano) - Trummy Young (trombone) - Louis Armstrong (trumpet - vocal) - (invisible: Danny Barcelona (drums)) -  Peanuts Hucko (clarinet) - and Arvell Shaw (double bass) (Thanks to Girish)
The memory I have of the eventful Armstrong concert in 1959, is that Satchmo, after his opening number It's Sleepy Time Down South, played, among other compositions Muskrat Ramble, When the Saints Go Marching In and Tiger Rag.

A 'jaded' Armstrong at 59 was electrifying and the majestic tone of his trumpet and his interpretations were never in doubt; however, his playing did not equal his Hot Fives and Sevens recorded in the twenties.

 Louis Armstrong at the Teatro Alfieri in Turin (Italy) 1st of May, 1959. ( f.l.t.r.: Billy Kyle (piano) - Trummy Young (trombone) - Louis Armstrong (trumpet - vocal) - (invisible: Danny Barcelona (drums)) - Peanuts Hucko (clarinet) - and Arvell Shaw (double bass) (Thanks to Girish)

When Armstrong made his first trip to England, Nat Gonella, the English Dixieland trumpeter was 'surprised' to see Armstrong's small compact physical size and wondered how such a 'small' trumpet player could have such Herculean tone on the trumpet.

Others examined Armstrong's trumpet to see if there were any hidden devices that made his trumpet sound so loud and of mythical proportions in all registers.

In later years Satchmo was called Uncle Tom by Miles Davis and some others; however, given the realities and tenor of the times when the Blacks were brutally segregated, Armstrong had little choice but to play up to his white audiences and to his enterprising manager Joe Glaser (white) who promoted him but also fleeced him.

This was uncharitable and unworthy of Miles Davis and Armstrong's other detractors.

Before being exposed to Armstrong recordings in the early fifties, I was already listening to hard-boppers, like Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Howard McGhee, Fats Navarro and others.

 Later, when I witnessed Armstrong perform 'live', it opened up a whole new vista of Dixieland and Chicago style playing of trumpet players like Bobby Hackett, Jimmy McPartland, Oran Hot Lips Page and Swingers Bill Coleman, The Paris brothers and others.
 Still of a recorded TV-program at La Bussola, Focette (near Viareggio), Italy (7th of May, 1959) That said, it is quite clear that Roy Eldridge came out of Armstrong, Gillespie out of Eldridge and a whole host of trumpet players out of Gillespie.

 Armstrong was a simple charitable man and his life revolved around his music, his ladies, his food and his 'reefers'.

It is a crying shame that playing 'one-nighters' for 45 to 50 weeks annually all over the world, Armstrong, at his death left behind a 'piddle' estate of less than half a million dollars including his house in Corona, Queens, New York.

 By a sharp contrast, Benny Goodman (another jazz giant), rising out of impoverished Chicago slums died a very wealthy man on his own (although he married into the well-heeled Hammond family). In my opinion, Armstrong 'invented' the trumpet and was the Greatest Grand Daddy of them all. Inventive, noble and soulful.


Love to share with you a fragment of an Italian concert recorded a week after the Turin concert at La Bussola, Focette (near Viareggio), Italy the 7th of May, 1959. a few days before the Blokker concert. Enjoy: It's Sleepy Time Down South

Hans Koert
Twitter: #keepitswinging Facebook: Keep (it) Swinging

For Louis Armstrong the year 1959 would become a rather hectic year, as he had to stop his European tour early due to health problems.  In May 1959 Girish joined a concert by Satchmo in Turin. He loved to share his passion for Armstrongs musical heritage and the remembrances of that 1959 Turin concert. Keep (it) Swinging loves to point you to this kind of concerts. If you joined such a legendary concert in the past and you love to share photos and a retrospect with the visitors of the keep (it) Swinging blog, please let me know.  If you don't want to miss any contribution feel free to ask its free Keep (it) Swinging newsletter (  

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