Louis Armstrong

What a Wonderful World [Jazz Hour]

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As one of the primary innovators in jazz and one of the most memorable entertainers of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong represents ceaseless optimism and easygoing virtuosity, such that there are only good Armstrong recordings--except for the really good ones.

Although this disc takes its title from one of Armstrong's most beloved tunes, it should not be confused with the classic version that most listeners will remember and which represented Armstrong's last hit record before his death in 1971. In fact, the version contained here was performed several years before the lavish studio recording, sans string section. Like the rest of the songs on this disc, it was taken from one of several live dates in California in the '60s, a period when Armstrong was experiencing something of a revival of his celebrity. While the recording quality is occasionally distracting, the album captures Armstrong and his band in moments of pure exuberance, traversing the worlds of Dixieland ("When the Saints Go Marching In"), popular standards ("Indiana"), and cabaret ("Mack the Knife") with effortless grace. From hearing his easy rapport with the audience and their enthusiastic reception, one can almost see the grinning faces.

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