From the Record Shelves #175

On the Sunny Side of the Street

CD Jazz in Paris 51 Gitanes 013 979-2

This is a great recording, but somehow hidden. I don’t think that I ever had it on an LP, but I had it recorded on reel-to-reel tape from the radio. In the beginning of the 30s, Louis Armstrong, driven hard by his agent, had to prove over and over again that he was the king of the trumpet, playing as many high “Cs” as possible. It came to the point that he wore out his lips and couldn’t play at all.

In 1935, he came back and started a long series of record sessions for Decca with a more reasonable and more musically rewarding attitude.

But in 1934, he was in Europe resting his lips and only playing now and then. Louis later declared that this recording, made in Paris and the first outside the US, was his best ever! At the time, he had to be discreet about it since it meant that he had broken the exclusive contract he had at home.

I agree with him; it’s at the very top of his performances, that is to say, after 1930. It is music that applies to the masses and is still irresistible to the most critical jazz connoisseur.

It was released on the two sides of a 78 rpm disc, the first one with the singing and then with his trumpet on the reverse. His singing is concentrated and has a marvelous presence. And his trumpet playing gets a new dimension since he has to fight his lip problems; it’s so touching.