Louis Armstrong

Jazz in Paris: Louis Armstrong and Friends

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The title of this compilation is a bit misleading, as Louis Armstrong only appears on seven of the CD's 20 tracks. All of them were recorded during a visit by the trumpeter to France in 1934 and were made on the sly, since he was under an exclusive contract to another label. The all-stars were primarily European musicians assembled for the session, though pianist Herman Chittison, a fellow American, makes his mark in "Super Tiger Rag," along with the leader's crisp, high-note solo. They compare favorably with some of Armstrong's later work back home with larger orchestras, but for the most part, the music is of minimal interest aside from his contributions. The other selections are a mixed bag. Pianist Freddy Johnson and trumpeter Arthur Briggs lead an orchestra that offers rather dated treatments of "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Spencer Williams' "Foxy and Grapesy." Actress Marlene Dietrich sings in her native German in "Wo Ist der Mann?" (Where Is the Man?), though the lyrics are half-spoken, backed by Briggs and Johnson leading a quintet. Tracks featuring vocalist Louis Cole with Briggs and Johnson are simply forgettable. Austrian singer Greta Keller is far more interesting than Dietrich on her pair of songs, including a moving "Goodbye to Summer" and the humorous, lightly swinging "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key." The band is a good one, with expatriates Herman Chittison on piano and trumpeter Bill Coleman soloing. Clarinetist Danny Polo leads a sextet on the last four tracks, featuring either Garland Wilson or Una Mae Carlisle on piano and the phenomenal but underrated guitarist Oscar Alemán. The unaccredited "Doing the Gorgonzola" is easily the high point of this rare session. Overall, this music falls somewhat short of being essential, though the very reasonable price (like all of the CDs in Universal's Jazz in Paris series) makes it a bit more attractive.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:45
2 3:09
3 2:50
4 2:58
5 3:09
6 3:08
7 2:57
8 3:17
9 3:38
10 3:15
11 3:19
12 3:33
13 3:19
14 3:43
feat: Greta Keller
feat: Greta Keller
17 3:06
18 2:47
19 2:57
20 2:56
blue highlight denotes track pick