Louis Armstrong

An American Icon

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This three-CD set brings together recorded highlights from the last 25 years of Armstrong's career, starting with his return to a small sextet from his big-band recordings and his unprecedented run of hit recordings in the pop-jazz vein. Rather than only utilizing the many masters Armstrong cut for Decca over the years (Hip-O and Decca both draw from the same MCA master pool), compiler George Avakian also pulls in rarities and hits recorded for RCA Victor, Columbia, Verve, Roulette, Kapp, Mercury, ABC-Paramount, as well as Gene Norman's GRD and GNP Crescendo imprints. Disc one covers the years 1946 to 1954 and finds Pops moving away from his big band sound in favor of small groups like his All Stars and also moving smoothly into a string of jazz-pop chart hits including "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "That Lucky Old Sun," "You Can't Lose a Broken Heart" (with Billie Holiday), "Gone Fishin'" (with Bing Crosby) and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Disc two covers 1954 to 1956 and is a delightful collection of Louis and the All Stars at their very best. In addition to the hit "Mack the Knife," "When You're Smiling," and "I Surrender, Dear," hot live versions of "Basin Street Blues," "Blueberry Hill" and "Lazy River," the disc also includes some fine duets with Ella Fitzgerald. The final disc takes recordings from 1956 to 1968 and finds Louis firmly in pop-music territory. Tunes like "Hello Dolly," "Mame," "What a Wonderful World," "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "Georgia On My Mind" are, oddly, the tunes that modern-day listeners will always associate with Satchmo -- and rightly so. No jazz artist crossed over more times than Louis Armstrong, and never once was it a musical sellout. With Satchmo, it was all of one piece, and this excellent three-disc set is a great place to start digging a large chunk of his genius.

blue highlight denotes track pick