Louis Armstrong is, over 40 years after his death, one of the most famous names of 20th Century music. Born in New Orleans in 1901, his distinctive trumpet and vocal styles made an indelible mark on music. His small group recordings for Okeh in the late 20s with his Hot Five and Hot Seven defined jazz as a solo-led music and provided the world with an extensive set of classics. Whilst his work over the next few decades was never as revolutionary, it was just as important. Hit after hit followed and even as late as the 1960s he had UK and US #1s and recorded a James Bond theme.
In 1970, as he approached his 70th birthday, Flying Dutchman Records’ Bob Thiele convinced him to make a celebratory album. Friends were gathered for a party on the day ‘We Shall Overcome’ was recorded and the vocal chorus features Miles Davis, Chico Hamilton and Ornette Coleman and others. The rest of the album found Armstrong, his voice as wondrous as ever, performing typical material alongside unusual choices such as Leon Thomas’ ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ and John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’. The fine album was to be his final jazz recording.
By Dean Rudland