Louis Armstrong

Among My Souvenirs

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The 13th title in the German History label's 15-CD box set Louis Armstrong, Among My Souvenirs surveys a period in Armstrong's recording career when he wasn't doing much recording, 1941-1946. The usually cited reason for the sparseness of his discography in this period is the recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians. But Decca, Armstrong's label at the time, settled with the union before any of the other majors, so he was only kept out of the studio from August 1942 to September 1943. Yet there is a gap of nearly 28 months between his last pre-ban session on April 17, 1942, and the one with a white band on August 9, 1944, that resulted in no issued tracks until much later. ("Grooving" and "Baby Don't You Cry" from that session are here.) Decca had long since run out of ideas for Armstrong recordings, and he came in to record infrequently. As such, this album contains several isolated sessions over a period of more than five years with different bands, ending with the first song Armstrong cut at a session for RCA following the conclusion of his Decca contract. (The album is not a complete record of his recordings of the period, leaving out duets with Ella Fitzgerald.) As usual, Armstrong makes the best of mediocre material and re-cuts some old favorites. Especially in the April 1941 session that produces cuts four through seven, he seems to be in an unusually bluesy mood, and his performances are relaxed. There are some pleasant tracks, but nothing crucial. Although Universal Music and RCA claim copyright on this material in the U.S., the box set is readily available domestically at a modest price, which is good, since Universal did not have a comparable release in print at the time this album was released.

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