In October 1959, more than four years since his last tribute album (Satch Plays Fats), Louis Armstrong gathered his All-Stars for a session paying homage to King Oliver -- his earliest musical hero and the man who enabled two of his breakout gigs (first in 1918, when he took over Oliver's spot in Kid Ory's band, and later, in 1922, when Oliver summoned him to Chicago to join his own group). Armstrong selected all the material, which ranges from songs with a direct King Oliver connection -- either written by him or played by him -- to a few of Armstrong's period favorites that, he admitted with a sly smile, "Joe [Oliver] might have played." The sextet, including veterans Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and Trummy Young on trombone, relaxes into a perfect New Orleans groove, allowing Armstrong to stretch out to especially good effect on the haunting dirge "St. James Infirmary" -- barely three minutes in its original incarnation as a 1928 Hot Five session but close to five here. Armstrong clearly enjoys taking vocals on songs like "I Want a Big Butter and Egg Man," "Frankie and Johnny," and even "Old Kentucky Home," while the band does him well on Oliver compositions like "New Orleans Stomp" and "Dr. Jazz." The material, originally recorded for Audio Fidelity and available on LPs like The Best of Louis Armstrong and Doctor Jazz (for Blue Moon), made its best appearance on the comprehensive Fuel 2000 release Satchmo Plays King Oliver, the first of the digital era to include both original takes and alternates, all 22 songs that came from the three-day session.
Satchmo Plays King Oliver Review
by John Bush