Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash (1970)-Blue Yodel No. 9

Thanks to Youtube,this wonderful performance has become very popular. For years only a few musicians and  critics  spoke of it and how beautifully Louis played on one of his last TV spots playing trumpet.
Louis had been seriously ill since mid 1968, but sang and played in Oct. 1969 for the James Bond film,On her Majesty's Secret Service.(his first performing since that time).
In early 1970 he started making TV appearances, mostly singing. By fall of 1970 he had recovered enough to start working with his All-Stars again.

This appearance on the Cash show was to promote Louis' new Country and Western lp. I remember catching the show and recording the sound on my Wollensack Reel to Reel Recorder.(No VHS or DVD,then). Louis performed a medley of Ramblin'Rose and Crystal Chandeliers from the lp wearing a big 10 Gallon hat and was in great,bubbly spirits.
But the surprise of the night was when Cash brought Louis over to a small set and there was his Trumpet!

Johnny mentioned how Louis backed up the Country music great Jimmie Rodgers in 1930 on Blue Yodel No. 9 and they proceded to recreate the recording 40 years later! The original recording had ex-wife Lil on piano with Louis filling in Rodgers' strange meter with beautiful phrases ala his many blues accompaniments of the 20s.
Things don't change much in 1970. Backed by Cash's Music Director, Bill Walker on piano, Louis fills the performance with lovely middle register obbligatos and takes a strong blues chorus of his own.
Thankfully the meter is straight ahead.

This is not the powerhouse Louis of the 50s and early 60s. His health issues had made it neccesary to limit his trumpet work to certain tunes and on some nights he might have played more or less than the previous.
But it was still Pops with his lovely,burnished tone and those choice,musical ideas flowing out.
Louis cracks Cash up several times at the Yodel refrain by "harmonizing" with him.
As my fellow Louis advocate and friend Ricky Riccardi summated:"Louis turns back into the Louis of 1925 backing Bessie Smith and others."

I finally transferred the reel copy to cassette and now have it on DVD,but it was a very exciting and triumphant night for Louis and his fans to see him playing again with such grace and beauty.
There are more such moments for Pops leading up to his last gig in March 1971.
This one is very special. Check it out on Youtube and you'll see.

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