Louis Armstrong

Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong

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No other American musician had the sustained impact on pop music that Louis Armstrong had, who not only charted hits for forty some years beginning in the '20s and running through the '60s, but also completely revolutionized the very way pop material is delivered, both as the absolute ground zero for jazz trumpet and as a singer whose horn man's phrasing changed the way the American Songbook is sung. Pops was a master of making art out of the moment, and he made his playing and singing appear as if his approach to whatever melody he was working had just then occurred to him, and in many cases, it had. This gives almost everything he recorded a joyous freshness, and he never, even in the latter stages of his career, gave way to playing or singing by the numbers. This three-disc set (two discs of recordings and a third of archival video footage) makes a wonderful introduction to the full sweep of Armstrong's timeless and essential contributions to pop music. The focus is mainly on his vocal work, and it includes key sides like his 1955 theme song "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," the stunning "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue?," also from 1955, 1946's poignant "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," a priceless duet with trombonist Jack Teagarden on "Rockin' Chair" from 1947, a definitive take on "Blueberry Hill" (recorded in 1949, seven years before Fats Domino's version), and his stirring and heart-breaking turn on George David Weiss' "What a Wonderful World" from 1967, which served for all purposes as Armstrong's career summation. Serious Armstrong fans will already have all of these tracks and will doubtless be more intrigued by the DVD, which features thirty years of Armstrong performances beginning in the '30s. As a set that clearly shows why Armstrong is "the beginning and end of music in America," as Bing Crosby put it, The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong is a concise delight.

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