While most jazz listeners and critics name Louis Armstrong as the genre's foremost innovator, Scott Robinson still believes that certain Armstrong contributions have been overlooked. Whereas Armstrong has received credit for his improvisations and his scat-style singing, few recall his compositions. Jazz Ambassador: Scott Robinson Plays the Compositions of Louis Armstrong makes just such a case, with multiple instrumentalist Robinson and a handful of other players offering interpretations of 14 pieces written or co-written by Armstrong. What's strange, and kind of neat, is how elastic many of these Armstrong compositions are. One would assume that his music would be played in New Orleans or Dixieland style jazz, but Robinson performs "Hear Me Talkin' to Ya," first played in the '20s, as though it were bebop, and "Someday You'll Be Sorry" as a smooth bit of bossa nova. "Wild Man Blues" features a stripped-down arrangement with Robinson on baritone sax, Pat O'Leary on bass, and Mike LeDonne on organ, altering this oldie into '60s soul-jazz. There's one nice vocal by pianist Mark Shane on "Red Cap," and a bizarre, post-bop take, bordering on free jazz, on the closer "Tears." Jazz Ambassador makes a strong case for Armstrong's compositional skills, and will be an eye opener for those who've long since pigeonholed this early jazz pioneer.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.