May 2012 CD of the Month

Jan 23, 2014

Louis Armstrong  "Red Beans & Rice-ly Yours" Smithsonian

Just five months before his passing, the legendary jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong was attending an award ceremony in January, 1971 at the prestigious National Press Club in Washington DC-despite being in poor health-he proved he was still the consummate entertainer by calling his longtime band mates to the stage for an impromptu hour long performance where he showed no signs of frailty while singing and to the amazement of all playing trumpet-a difficult instrument to play even when healthy-on two of the songs from this historic concert finally made available to the public by the collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution, The National Press Club and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. After “Pops” performance captured on this CD, he made 2 brief TV appearances and passed away on July 6th at 69 years of age.  

In addition to his insurmountable contributions to jazz as an instrumentalist and vocalist, Louis Armstrong was known to have a hearty appetite and would collect menus from the hotels and restaurants he visited around the world throughout his career. Moreover, he would write notations on the menus about his favorite dishes and comment on the other entrees. “Satchmo” was also a voracious letter writer always using his closing remark, “Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours” which now serves as the apt title of this previously unreleased concert. As a bonus, the album’s liner notes include over 30 of Armstrong’s favorite New Orleans Creole recipes. The last 2 years of his life, Louis’ doctor told him not to play the trumpet as to not aggravate his illness, Armstrong defied his physician’s suggestions and continued to play trumpet sporadically at his appearances that were mostly him just singing. This CD documents Louis Armstrong’s final recording on trumpet. According to Wynton Marsalis, “This is a great find, not so much for the virtuosity of his playing, but for the joy of his presence at that age and at that stage of his life. I'd heard those songs many times. But that he could play with this type of energy and intensity with that amount of time off. It was shocking." I agree with NEA Jazz Master Marsalis, this is a truly remarkable recording!