If New York is really the capitol of jazz, why is that so many American jazz greats have had an easier time earning a living in Europe? Why did Stockholm, Paris, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen offer many improvisers the steady work that eluded them in Mighty Manhattan? Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, and Art Farmer are among the many American jazz icons who spent long periods of time living in Europe, the continent that also attracted Benny Bailey. The Cleveland-born trumpeter was in his late twenties when he moved to Europe in the early 1950s, and he was still living there when the 20th century came to a close. Many of Bailey's albums have come out on European indies, including The Satchmo Legacy, which was recorded for Germany's Enja label in 1999. As its title indicates, this mostly instrumental CD is a tribute to the seminal trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong. Joined by pianist John Bunch, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Grady Tate, a 74-year-old Bailey is in good form on "After You've Gone," "Ain't Misbehavin'," and other classics that Armstrong was known for. "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," "Basin Street Blues," and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" aren't songs that Armstrong wrote -- in fact, "Someday You'll Be Sorry" is the CD's only Armstrong original -- but they're songs that he defined. On this session, Bailey's playing isn't as forceful, aggressive, and brassy as it was in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, although he is still enjoyable and expressive. The Satchmo Legacy isn't among Bailey's essential albums and isn't recommended to casual listeners, but it's a respectable effort that his diehard fans will appreciate.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson