Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars- Satchmo at Symphony Hall (Verve, 1954)
Armstrong and Teagarden had both defined what it meant to play their instruments as sidemen and soloists in the 1920’s and both had felt the swing and grandeur as bandleaders during the Count and Duke’s reign in the 30’s. But during the war Armstrong was able to brand himself, play the game with Hollywood while big band musicians like Teagarden had trouble touring and was often cutting uneven sides at rushed sessions. It made a small difference at the time that makes a big difference now. It meant that after the war Armstrong had the connections and popularity to take an act on the road and guarantee an audience.
Teagarden steals the show, however, with his near perfect version of “Stars Fell on Alabama”, from the moment he first mutters almost indecipherably, to his careful reinterpretations of the choruses that follow your attention is securely fixed on him. He was only matched in his purity of expression and brilliant technique by Louis Armstrong but never strictly surpassed. Armstrong, who can be heard on and off mic throughout the night scatting and humming along when not playing his trumpet, was a graceful yet forceful performer and could carry a show off his personality alone. But Armstrong rarely if ever seems to be crowding the spot light and he plays on this record with a subdued tenderness, and he plays with understanding. On “Since I Fell for You”, another album highlight, both Teagarden and Armstrong dance around singer Velma Middleton’s incredibly honest voice with such grace one could find themselves lost in it on repeat for some days.
Bunk Johnson & Leadbelly- New York Town Hall 1947 (American Music, 1994)
Two masters of American Popular Music share the stage for a night of incredible playing and fantastic standards. This set is an extremely fun listen, but serves as well as a delightful contrast to the All Stars set of the same year. Armstrong learned to play off of guys like Bunk but this disc compared to Symphony Hall shows you what Armstrong did with it. more information here and here
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars- Satchmo Plays King Oliver (best release Fuel, 2000) Here Satchelmouth reinterprets the music of his old bandleader in a deep blues haze. You can feel it on this entire session. Most CD versions of this album play the alternative takes directly after the LP version but I never mind. Press play, pour a glass and you won’t regret it. More information here .
Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker- Town Hall, New York City, 1945 (2005)
On this disc the kings of bebop show you what a small band can really do and two years earlier than either of the Jazz greats mentioned above. Though Dizzy would become one of Jazz music’s greatest showman here he plays along the oracle of bop, Parker, and sails above the heads of almost everybody in the audience.