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Published: 2008/06/20
by Mark Burnell

Louis Armstrong: Live In Australia 1964

Medici Arts

It’s a good time to be a jazz fan, as there seems to be an endless flow of classic performances from the 1950s and 1960s finding their way onto DVD these days. Hot on the heels of last year's superb Jazz Icons series comes another fine archival release courtesy of Australian television.

By 1964 Armstrong is in the twilight of his career, but he is also riding what would turn out to be his second-to-last wave of resurgent popularity, thanks to his singing the title song from the hit movie Hello Dolly, a song which is oddly missing from his performance here. Nevertheless, both he and his band are in fine form.

Armstrong possessed what may be the single most recognizable voice in music history, and here, even at age 63, it still sounds superb. He’s more a vocalist than a trumpet player by this time, but his playing skills certainly haven’t diminished. The only sign of his encroaching health problems arrives towards the end of the show when, looking very weary, he turns the spotlight over first to clarinetist Joe Darensbourg for a sprightly “Sweet Georgia Brown” and then to chanteuse/prot Jewel Brown for a less successful pair of torch songs. Apart from this closing segment, which is naturally wrapped up with a rousing “When the Saints Go Marching In," Satchmo is front and center for the rest of the performance, and that is exactly how it should be. A fine performance it is, admirably showcasing both sides of Armstrong’s talents (courtesy of a wonderful “Blueberry Hill” and a goose bump-inducing “Basin Street Blues”) while also allowing room for his supporting players to shine (Arvell Shaw’s bass solo in “How High the Moon” is especially sweet).

The picture quality is as good as you can hope for from a 40 year old tape, and the sound is crisp and clear. This is a valuable document of Armstrong’s later career and a must have.

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