Slippedisc daily comfort zone (71): The age of Louis

Slippedisc daily comfort zone (71): The age of Louis

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

July 06, 2021

Satchmo died 50 years ago today. Don’t have to believe it if we don’t want to.



  • Larry says:

    The duet with Danny Kaye (from the movie “The Five Pennies”) is absolutely brilliant. Hard to believe that there was actually a time when the “average” American would recognize most, if not all of those composers.

  • CRWang says:

    One of the greatest. In Terry Pratchett’s highly readable biography, there’s a part where Karajan attended a Satchmo concert and praised the man’s musicianship. Appreciate the mention of this wonderful man and musician Norman.

    • Mock Mahler says:

      Make that Terry Teachout.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      I remember seeing Louis Armstrong late in his life as a guest on the old Tonight Show and he was talking at some length about tenor John McCormack. The subject was musical phrasing.

      Johnny Carson, who was no ignoramus when it came to music, clearly had no idea who Louis Armstrong was talking about but let him go on. Doubtful if any talk show since has gone on at such length about an insider’s views of how to phrase.

      Armstrong at his inventive best needs to be heard in recordings from the early years of electrical 78s. The 1928 “West End Blues” being a good place to start, but there is also an astounding version of the Saint Louis Blues that ends not with the tune but with a repeated chorus of just five notes, almost a cliché “time filler” over a driving rhythm, but the amazing thing is the many ways Armstrong chooses different notes for the five notes, switching them out for each other, or playing a half step different, or a third. The result is the musical excitement of relentless repetition without the musical boredom of relentless repetition.

    • Jack says:

      During a rehearsal with the VPO, Karajan sarcastically upbraided the orchestra when he told them he was going to see a Louis Armstrong concert where the musicians would never accidentally change the tempo.

  • Beinisch says:

    I produced about 40 concerts of Danny Kaye all over the world with the Israeli youth orchestra. A great man.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:


  • Amos says:

    One of the most gifted and underappreciated musicians to ever grace the 20th century. Somewhere there is a video of him performing the WC Handy piece St Louis Blues with LB NYPO which is priceless (the composer was in attendance). A clip of him performing with Bing Crosby in the re-make of the Philadelphia Story would also be worthwhile including. Stories abound in NY of him interacting with fans in the most gracious and unaffected manner imaginable.

    • V.Lind says:

      I don’t think he is underappreciated by anyone who knows how to listen to music. A musical giant.

  • M.Arnold says:

    I might have told this story before on SD. If so, my apologies for repeating it. If not, here it is again:

    First time I met Satchmo was Xmas time 1949. I had just bought a Louie 78 at Big Joe’s record store on W.46th St. I’m walking down B’way and I’m shocked to see Louie walking up B’way. I remember shouting “Satchmo” and the 2 of us walked, with our arms around each other, uptown to the Capitol Theatre where he was playing. I was so excited, I almost broke my record showing it to him. He invited me to visit him in his dressing room someday. A few days later, with a friend of mine, we bought tickets for a matinee show at the Capitol (75 cents?). After the show, we went to the stage door and I told the door man that Louie invited me to come up. He phoned up to his room, got the OK and up we went. Louie was resting in a cot and the first thing I noticed was the Star of David hanging from his neck and thought, can’t be, he can’t be Jewish! I have no idea what we said but, coming from school, I had my note book which had his picture pasted on the inside cover. He signed it (green ink) and it hangs on my wall today along with a second one he signed at another time.
    The second time was my graduation night from H.S. We were having a marshmallow roast on the beach at Coney Island when I remember saying, “Satchmo’s playing at Bop City. Let’s go.” About 5 or 6 of us took the subway and ended up at Bop City on, I believe, 47th and B’way. I told Louie who we were and he made an announcement, the exact words I still remember: “There’s a buncha kids just graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and I’d like to dedicate my next number to them.” He put his horn to his lips and blew Auld Lang Syne ending by skat singing,”old acquaintance, be forgot baba ba doo zip, yeah” all the time looking at me (us). A great musician and a warm wonderful person.

  • fflambeau says:

    As great as Louis A. was, I think Danny Kaye was even better.

    • M2N2K says:

      Why compare and rank? They were two very different geniuses. There are certainly things DK could do that no one else could. But on the other hand, LA had other skills in which he had no true equals.

  • .jpg says:

    The duet with Danny Kaye was arranged and lyrics by Sylvia Fine, Kaye’s wife.