(Sony – 2000)
by Matt Robinson
The first thing to notice about this lovingly-crafted collection is its clarity. So much so, that listeners might be send fumbling for th eliner notes to see that these tracks originally appeared not in the digital era, but deep in th eanalog and pre-analog days. Though some of these sides date back to the Depression, even the victrola-mono tunes seem more charmingly retro than archaic. Next is that tone- both on the horn and on the mike. If he did not invent it, Armstrong brought “scat” to the masses and, combining this luyrical nonsense with his brassy horn and rusty golden vocal chords, revolutionized the ways of instrumental and vocal jazz, earning him at least a place on the “artist of the century” podium.
Though the female vocalists who accompany and parry with King Louis pale greatly in comparison with Satrchmo and the women who might have been available at the time, Armstrong’s own range shines on this compilation, from the trademark gravelly rasp of “I’m Crazy Bout My Baby” to the surprisingly open matinee croon of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Louis throws ina bit of Jolson-esque mugging as well on Hoagy Carmichael’s “My Sweet.” In addition to the contemporary cleanness noticible on this disc are moments of very modern tecording technology, including a two-track self harmonization on Thomas “Fats” Waller’s “I’ve Got A Felling I’m Falling” (taken from the seminal recording Satch Plays Fats).
Live cuts from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and a concert in Milan and a previosuly unreleased version of “Ko Ko Mo” make this set all the sweeter. From the dixieland sources to the original interpretations, Love Songs draws from Columbia’s vast Armstrong archives and wraps up a brilliant career in a tidy package with love.
©2003, M. S. Robinson, ARR