Monday, August 4, 2008

Louis Armstrong:Way down Yonder in New Orleans(2/22/52)

This post will give us a chance to survey one of Louis' favorite "good ol' good ones" and look at a transitional version of the All-Stars. The tune was written in 1922 by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton. Jazz fans know it from the great Bix Beiderbecke recording of 1927. It quickly became a jazz standard. I'm sure Louis played it quite a bit, over the years but didn't get it into the All-Stars reperoire until late 1950. (He did play it on a couple of 1947 broadcasts).

During the '50s and early '60s, Louis performed the tune a lot as an instrumental in the same style as Indiana, Ole Miss and Struttin' with Some Barbecue. The format was usually 2 band choruses in, solos for piano, bass, trumpet, clarinet, trombone and band out with drum breaks.

The tune seemed to disappear from the repertoire after the early 60s, but there is a nice version on a Czech film of Louis' March 1965 tour. He's playing it at a casual concert or rehearsal with the band. Pops sounds real strong here, as he did on that entire tour. We also have the novelty of clarinetist Eddie Shu playing tenor. It gives the group more of a swing sound.

When Louis and the band played "Way down Yonder" at a February 1952 dance date in Boise, Idaho, the band had some new and interesting players aboard. 1951 had seen Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines leave the All-Stars. Jack left with Louis' blessing to start his own group. Earl, however, had some ego problems and was never happy in the group, although he loved working with Pops.

Russ Phillips, a mid-west trombonist who had filled in once for Jack was called in. He had worked with territory bands such as Tiny Hill and had a stint with Wingy Manone. He was a fine player with some of Jack's feel and a lazy vocal style that fit well to boot. He joined up in September of '51 and stayed until the fall of '52 when Trummy Young came in.

Bassist Arvell Shaw had left in July of '51. (He would take frequent sabbaticals). His replacement was Dale Jones, a buddy of Jack Teagarden's. Dale was a solid player, not the greatest soloist, but got the job done. He also had a neat vocal take-off on Bert Williams' "Nobody."

To fill the piano chair Chicago great Joe Sullivan was brought in during mid-December 1951. A master at stride piano, his style didn't seem to fit as well as future All-Stars, Billy Kyle and Marty Napolean. Apparently his drinking problems ruled out a longer stay with the band. He still contributes some nice work to the band for so short a stint. Clarinetist Barney Bigard, drummer Cozy Cole and vocalist Velma Middleton were still holding forth.

The version from Boise finds Louis' chops a bit down. However, he plays a fine lead and gets off his patented solo nicely. Sullivan gives us some nice stride. Philips' solo is clean and fluid with some of the Teagarden feel. Louis and Russ play some backgrounds to Bigard's solo. (This was a common practice on the band instrumentals). My buddy and fellow trumpeter Phil Person calls these "trumpet foregrounds" because of Louis' huge sound! Going home, Pops sounds a bit tired, but still rallies himself for the ending. Louis always found a way to make those endings even with tired chops.

By the fall of '52, Arvell would be back with Marty Napolean on piano, Trummy Young in on trombone and Bob McCracken on clarinet. (Bigard would return in early '53). No matter who was in the All-Stars, the constant and driving force would always be Louis.

Till our next visit with Pops-"Good evenin', everybody."
P.S.-Recently caught a great clip of Pops and the All-Stars doing "Way down Yonder" on a Hollywood Palace show from 1965. Pops sounds great and even takes a vocal .

1 comment:

Russ Phillips said...

Dave, I just came upon your blog after listening to the 2/22/52 concert you wrote about. I'm Russ Phillips II, son of the trombonist who replaced Jack in '51. Ricky Riccardi sent me the Boise concert along with one from New Orleans. I finally got around to giving it a listen today and then googled February 22, 1952, Boise, Idaho, Louis Armstrong Concert and lo and behold! I will spend some more time with your blog, but I'm really enjoying your writing about the All-Stars in this post. I hope to edit down some of the tracks from the two concerts and post some clips on my blog. You can find it at Cheers!!
Russ Phillips