Many of the countless Louis Armstrong anthologies that have been assembled over the years have focused on a particular period of the seminal trumpeter/singer's career -- perhaps his Hot Five/Hot Seven jewels of the '20s, perhaps Armstrong in the '40s or '50s. But The Centennial Anthology spans 39 years of his long career and does so both aurally and visually. The Centennial Anthology is a two-disc set, though not a two-CD set; the first disc is a 58-minute audio CD spanning 1928-1967, the second a DVD spanning 1932-1967. The audio CD pays the most attention to the early '30s, while the DVD tends to favor the '60s; but taken as a whole, The Centennial Anthology points to the fact that Satchmo was not someone who had good periods and bad periods. Rather, his work was remarkably consistent, and this collection paints an exciting picture of Armstrong whether he is performing "St. James Infirmary" in 1928 (with the Savoy Ballroom Five) or "What a Wonderful World" (his final hit) in 1967. Much of the early-'30s material on the audio CD is definitive, including "Basin Street Blues," "Stardust" (recorded nine years before Artie Shaw's hit 1940 version) and "Body and Soul" -- and even the tracks that fall short of essential are rewarding. The DVD, in fact, is a collector's dream thanks to live-in-the-studio performances from the Goodyear Jazz Concert in 1962 and an early-'30s video of "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" (which Armstrong performs in a humorous fashion that makes the lyrics sound more ironic than biting). Nicely assembled by Athan Maroulis (a highly eclectic vocalist who has performed everything from '40s-style crooner jazz to goth rock and industrial rock). The Centennial Anthology is recommended to hardcore Armstrong devotees who want to see the Dixieland/classic jazz/swing legend in addition to hearing him.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2