Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Bill Sager Celebration Jam Session

Friday, October 31st, 2014



Here are some more details about Bill Sager’s memorial next Saturday at Cezanne: There will be a brief memorial service for Bill at 1 PM followed by a jam session until 3 PM.

If you would like to make a contribution to help his family with his medical and funeral expenses, a PayPal account has been set up for that purpose. Open your PayPal account and choose “Send & Request,” then “Send money to friends and family” and then send to Thanks to Tianna Hall for setting this up.

Bill was quite a guy!


Bob Henschen

Buddy Bolden

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Buddy Bolden is generally considered to be the first bandleader to play the improvised music which later became know as Jazz. He was the first “King” of cornet in New Orleans, and is remembered by the musicians of that time period as one of the finest horn players they had ever heard. He is remembered for his loud, clear tone. His band starting playing around 1895, in New Orleans parades and dances, and eventually rose to become one of the most popular bands in the city. In 1907 his health deteriorated and he was committed to a mental institution where he spent the remainder of his life. Trombonist Frankie Dusen took over the Bolden Band and renamed it the Eagle Band and they continued to be very popular in New Orleans until around 1917. Bolden made no recordings, but was immortalized in the Jazz standard “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say) which is based on Bolden’s theme song “Funky Butt”. Several early Jazz musicians, like Sidney Bechet (as a child musician) and Bunk Johnson, apparently played in Bolden’s bands occasionally.

Red Nichols

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Red’s style of playing cornet was greatly influenced by Bix Beidebecke, but he was a better overall musician and an excellent sight reader. Nichols learned to play music from his father, a college music teacher. After moving east from Utah he teamed up with a Midwestern band called The Syncopating Seven. After that band broke up he moved to New York in 1923. He soon teamed up with the trombonist Miff Mole and the two would go on to make a great many records together under a variety of names such as, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Arkansas Travelers, The Red Heads, The Louisiana Rhythm Kings, The Charleston Chasers and Miff Mole and his Little Molers. Usually these sessions featured the same or similar personnel. Red did a series of recordings for the Brunswick Record Company under the name of Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, although the bands were often quite a bit larger. These sessions at first featured trombonist Miff Mole and Jimmy Dorsey on alto and clarinet, and later in the decade featured a who’s who of great White Jazz musicians, such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini and Gene Krupa among others. Red appeared on over 4000 records in the 1920s. Nichols survived the Depression by working in Broadway shows, even leading the pit orchestra for two of George Gershwin’s shows; “Girl Crazy” and “Strike Up the Band”. In 1934 Red fronted a band for the radio show sponsored by Kellogg’s Cereal and led many studio orchestras including one for the Bob Hope Show. In 1959 Hollywood made a highly fictionalized picture of his life called “The Five Pennies”, starring Danny Kaye as Red.

Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael (1899-1981)

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Hoagy Carmichael is remembered today as one of America’s great composers of popular songs. Several of his tunes, like “Star Dust” ,”Georgia on My Mind” ,”Up The Lazy River“, “Lazybones“, “Skylark” and “Heart and Soul” have become standards which are still widely performed. While studying to be a lawyer at Indiana University, Hoagy wrote a couple tunes for a band called Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists. The songs were “Washboard Blues” and “Boneyard Shuffle” and they were recorded in 1924 for Gennett records with Carmichael on piano. Through his association with this band he meet Bix Beiderbecke, who was a member of the Wolverine Orchestra at that time. The two became close friends and the Wolverines went on to record Carmichael’s “Riverboat Shuffle“. Music publisher Irving Mills heard the Wolverine’s record and wrote Carmichael asking if his company could publish the song, to which Hoagy agreed. Carmichael himself led several other sessions at Gennett, where he recorded the first version of “Stardust” in 1927. But Carmichael took a job in Florida as a law clerk after graduating. While there, he unexpectedly heard a recording of his song, “Washboard Blues“, by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies. He had been unaware that the song had been re-recorded. It was then that he decided to abandon law and become a musician. Carmichael returned to Indiana and resumed his music career. Several of his friends, including Bix, were playing in Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra by this time. Whiteman was familiar with some of Carmichael’s Gennett recordings and also went on to record Hoagy’s “Washboard Blues” in 1927. Hoagy sings and plays  piano on the track and it holds up as one of the Whiteman Orchestra’s best performances. In 1930 Isham Jones and his Orchestra had a huge hit with a ballad version of Stardust. By 1935 Hoagy was working in Hollywood as a songwriter and he also became a character actor, appearing in over twenty films throughout his career. In 1941 he had a number one hit with the song “Huggin’ & Chalkin”. In 1951 he won an Oscar for his song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” that was performed by Bing Crosby in Paramount’s “Here Comes the Groom”. In 1956 Carmichael recorded an excellent LP called “Hoagy Sings Carmichael” on the Pacific Jazz Label. The record placed Hoagy back into a no-nonsense Jazz setting for the first time in years and featured several West Coast Jazz musicians including Art Pepper on alto saxophone. In 1959 and 1960 he was a regular on the western TV series Laramie. In the 1960s he composed two orchestral works, “Brown County In Autumn” and “Johnny Appleseed” which were unsuccessful. He never resumed his songwriting career after the failure of these two works.

For additional information on Hoagy Carmichael’s life and music you are encouraged to visit The Hoagy Carmichael Collection at the Indiana University Digital Library

Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (1903-1931)

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Bix Beiderbecke was one of the great jazz musicians of the 1920′s; he was also a child of the Jazz Age who drank himself to an early grave with illegal Prohibition liquor. His hard drinking and beautiful tone on the cornet made him a legend among musicians during his life. The legend of Bix grew even larger after he died. Bix never learned to read music very well, but he had an amazing ear even as a child. His parents disapproved of his playing music and sent him to a military school outside of Chicago in 1921. He was soon expelled for skipping class and became a full-time musician. In 1923 Beiderbecke joined the Wolverine Orchestra and recorded with them the following year. Bix was influenced a great deal by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, but soon surpassed their playing. In late 1924 Bix left the Wolverines to join Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra, but his inability to read music eventually resulted in him losing the job. In 1926 he spent some time with Frankie Trumbauer’s Orchestra where he recorded his solo piano masterpiece “In a Mist”. He also recorded some of his best work with Trumbauer and guitarist, Eddie Lang, under the name of Tram, Bix, and Eddie. Bix was able to bone up on his sight-reading enough to re-join Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra briefly, before signing up as a soloist with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. Whiteman’s Orchestra was the most popular band of the 1920′s and Bix enjoyed the prestige and money of playing with such a successful outfit, but it didn’t stop his drinking. In 1929 Bix’s drinking began to catch up with him. He suffered from delirium tremens and he had a nervous breakdown while playing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and was eventually sent back to his parents in Davenport, Iowa to recover. It should be noted that Paul Whiteman was very good to Bix during his struggles. He kept Bix on full pay long after his breakdown, and promised him that his chair was always open in the Whiteman Orchestra, but, Bix was never the same again, and never rejoined the band. He returned to New York in 1930 and made a few more records with his friend Hoagy Carmichael and under the name of Bix Beiderbecke and his Orchestra. But mainly, he holed himself up in a rooming house in Queens, New York where he drank a lot and worked on his beautiful solo piano pieces “Candlelight”, “Flashes”, and “In The Dark” (played here by Ralph Sutton; Bix never recorded them). He died at age 28 in 1931 during an alcoholic seizure. The official cause of death was lobar pneumonia and edema of the brain.

For more information about Bix check out the Bix Beiderbecke Resources A Bixography

Thank you

Bix Beiderbecke and his Rhythm Jugglers Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang
Bix Beiderbecke and his Orchestra

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
In A Mist (Bixology)
(Bix Beiderbecke)
9-9-1927 New York, New York Okeh

Bix; Man And Legend, by Richard M. Sudhalter and Philip R. Evans, Arlington House Publishers, 1974
Bix; The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, by Philip R. Evans and Linda K. Evans, Prelike Press, 1998
Remembering Bix, by Ralph Berton, Harper & Row, 1974
Bix: The Definitive Biography Of A Jazz Legend, by Jean Pierre Lion, Continuum Publishers, 2004
Bix Beiderbecke by Burnett James, Cassell & Co, Ltd., 1959
Sometimes I Wonder by Hoagy Carmichael and Stephen Longstreet, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1965
The Stardust Road by Hoagy Carmichael, University of Indiana Press, 1946
Bugles for Beiderbecke by Charles Wareing and George Garlick, Sidgwick and Jackson Limited, London, 1958
The Bix Bands: A Bix Beiderbecke Disco-biography by Vittorio Castelli, Evert, Ted Kaleveld, and Liborio Pusateri. Raretone, Milan, 1972
La vita e la leggenda di Bix Beiderbecke” by Aldo Lastella, Nuovi Equilibri S.R.L., Roma, 1991
Bix Beiderbecke: Sein Leben, Seine Musik, Seine Schallplatten by Klaus Scheuer, Waakirken-Schaftlach, Oreos Verlag, Germany, 1995
Bix Beiderbecke: Jazz Age Genius by David R. Collins, Morgan Reynolds, Inc., Greensboro, North Carolina, 1998

Bessie Smith (1895-1937)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Bessie Smith was a rough, crude, violent woman. She was also the greatest of the classic Blues singers of the 1920s. Bessie started out as a street musician in Chattanooga. In 1912 Bessie joined a traveling show as a dancer and singer. The show featured Pa and Ma Rainey, and Smith developed a friendship with Ma. Ma Rainey was Bessie’s mentor and she stayed with her show until 1915. Bessie then joined the T.O.B.A. vaudeville circuit and gradually built up her own following in the south and along the eastern seaboard. By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville. In 1923 she made her recording debut on Columbia, accompanied by pianist Clarence Williams. They recorded “Gulf Coast Blues” and “Down Hearted Blues.” The record sold more than 750,000 copies that same year, rivaling the success of Blues singer Mamie Smith (no relation).

Throughout the 1920s Smith recorded with many of the great Jazz musicians of that era, including Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman and Louis Armstrong. Her rendition of “St. Louis Blues” with Armstrong is considered by most critics to be one of finest recordings of the 1920s.

Bessie Smith was one of the biggest African-American stars of the 1920s and was popular with both Whites and African-Americans, but by 1931 the Classic Blues style of Bessie Smith was out of style and the Depression, radio, and sound movies had all damaged the record companies’ ability to sell records so Columbia dropped Smith from its roster. In 1933 she recorded for the last time under the direction of John Hammond for Okeh. The session was released under the name of Bessie Smith accompanied by Buck and his Band.

Despite having no record company Smith was still very popular in the South and continued to draw large crowds, although the money was not nearly as good as it had been in the 1920s. Bessie had started to style herself as a Swing musician and was on the verge of a comeback when her life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in 1937. While driving with her lover Richard Morgan (Lionel Hampton’s uncle) in Mississippi their car rear-ended a slow moving truck and rolled over crushing Smith’s left arm and ribs. Smith bled to death by the time she reached the hospital. John Hammond caused quite a stir by writing an article in Downbeat magazine suggesting that Smith had bled to death because she had been taken to a White hospital and had been turned away. This proved not to be true, but the rumor persists to this day.

Courtesy of

Cindy Scott Interviews Ron Carter

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Interview with NEA Jazz Master Ron Carter
January 20, 2010
by Cindy Scott

Ron Carter is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has recorded with many of music’s greats: Tommy Flanagan, Gil Evans, Lena Horne, Bill Evans, B.B. King, the Kronos Quartet, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, and Bobby Timmons. In the early 1960s he performed throughout the United States in concert halls and nightclubs with Jaki Byard and Eric Dolphy. He later toured Europe with Cannonball Adderley. From 1963 to 1968, he was a member of the classic and acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet. He was named Outstanding Bassist of the Decade by the Detroit News, Jazz Bassist of the Year by Downbeat magazine, and Most Valuable Player by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (from

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Carter in anticipation of a workshop he did at the University of New Orleans on Friday, January 22, 2010.  Following is a transcription of our talk. My questions are in boldface, and his answers are in italics.

When you think about the future of jazz, do you go dark, or do you get excited? Where is this music going to end up, do you think?

Every bandleader hopes that they know where jazz is headed, and they hope that their band is leading in that direction. Jazz will always be around. It doesn’t have the level of encouragement that other genres have, for whatever reason.

I’m never discouraged when I hear young people [play jazz]. I just did a master class at the Berklee School of Music in Boston for a bunch of 10 to 14-year-old kids. They were enthusiastic about the music and knew the names of some important jazz musicians. They were really involved in trying to learn how this music works for them. If we can keep this kind of youthful activity and interest in this music, it’s going be around forever.

You’ve played a fair amount of “free” jazz. Do you recommend
exploring that style of playing to your students? Why or why not?

You mean not getting paid, or “free jazz”?

Oh, no, I mean “free” jazz. It’s often the same thing, though, isn’t it?

(Laughs) It seems to be the same. I encourage students that any job is a free lesson for them. I’ve heard them say that the music isn’t hip enough for them or it didn’t maintain their focus. I tell them this is a chance to work on other avenues of playing their instruments. If you want to find a better half note, or a better sound for the notes, better intonation, or maybe you want to find a better way to play the parts every night, use that gig to work on those things. So, every instrument, every [type of] music, every musician who plays a job that’s not his favorite kind of job can find musical value in these situations. I’ve encouraged my students to look at that as free school.

What are the most important tools for young bassists to have
together on the bandstand?

Actually, the getting it together part starts way before the bandstand. They have to have a teacher. Music’s going too fast and it’s too complicated to continue to play it by ear and rely on pure instinct and talent. Musicians write parts for bass players, now, and they want to have the parts played. Well, if you can’t read it, you’re going to have a tough time. So my first recommendation to any bass player is to get a teacher. They’ll help you learn the instrument, help you find out how to get a better instrument, show you how to read music, show you how to practice. Show you how to develop a discipline on the instrument, and those are all things that are very critical — before you get to the bandstand.

Many of us who study jazz end up teaching jazz. What do you think makes a great jazz educator?

That’s a pretty easy question. Those educators whose classes I’ve enjoyed the most have been those who have actually been in the field, and who’ve played lots of gigs, and have sometimes NOT found the best bands to play in. They’ve traveled and gone through the hardships of transportation difficulties. They’ve also played in GREAT bands, and have enjoyed their success and have enjoyed the camaraderie.

How does a drummer’s playing style affect your own playing? How do you reach rhythmic agreement, when you work with so many different kinds of drummers?

Well, I’m taller than most drummers, so I kind of have a head start. (Laughs) Secondly, if a bass player brings a point of view to the bandstand of where he thinks the time is and is verbal enough to explain to the drummer where he thinks the time is, should they not be in the same place, they can work it out. One of the problems is that this music has no specific language. A word that means something to Person A means something completely different to Person B. So you have to find a kind of common verbal language with this drummer to try to help them find the right musical time path, as it were.

A good bass player should know how the drums operate. If he knows that the drums are pitched a certain way that is blocking out certain notes on the bass, he should be comfortable enough to tell the drummer, ask him, if he would change the pitch of this drum or change the tone of that drum. That’s something that’s really not that complicated for drummers to do. And I’ve found drummers look for advice, they look for recommendations, because they want to have a good time playing. They want to have a good sound. They want to have a good time feeling with the bass player, and they’re open to most suggestions. The bass player must, however, know to make the suggestions.

You have spoken in other interviews about New Orleans-style
drumming. Have you played with many drummers from here? In your opinion, what makes New Orleans drummers unique?

As far as the New Orleans drum style is concerned, my first exposure to the New Orleans drum sounds were with Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. It took me a while to feel where they were playing the beat. They played, if this makes sense, more straight up and down rather than slanted like Tony Williams or Billy Cobham. One thing that caught my attention was the beautiful sound they got on the snare. New Orleans drummers get a great, great snare drum sound. And anytime I find a drummer with that kind of snare drum sound, we can find something to do together. I heard Herlin the other day on a recording, and boy, what a great sound on the snare!

You work with many great jazz musicians all over the world. How is it different working with, say, Milton Nascimento, i.e., playing Brazilian music with Brazilians, versus playing Brazilian music with Americans?

Well, the natives always do what the natives do best. The Brazilian musicians have a different sound on the guitar. The drum rhythms are a little more complicated than the way Americans typically play Brazilian styles. I have had the pleasure of playing with some fabulous Brazilian drummers. And I enjoy playing Brazilian music with American drummers. The feel is not quite the same, but equally enjoyable with an American drummer playing Brazilian music.

If you find the rhythms more complicated, do you find it challenging to rhythmically agree with Brazilian musicians?

The sound is an important factor, because the Brazilian drums are pitched differently. And certainly, their rhythms are a little more complicated. They’ve kind of gotten a little “freer” than the records we heard with Stan Getz when he first brought Brazilian music to the States in the 60s. The drummers down there are much more aggressive than the kind of conservative Brazilian approach by most American drummers.

I see. And you just figure out how to make that work and have a great time because you’re such a fantastic musician with so much experience in doing that?

You can say all that again, I don’t care. (Laughs)

Well you know it’s true.

Ok. (Laughs)

Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I’m really looking forward to the workshop at UNO.

Me, too. See you Friday at 1:00!


The workshop was presented Friday, January 22, 2010 at the University of New Orleans courtesy of the National Endowment of the Arts, the Theloneious Monk Institute of Jazz, and the University of New Orleans Jazz Studies Program.

Carter also has a new authorized (and collaborative) biography written by Dan Ouellette called Finding the Right Notes. The 435-page book chronicles the artist’s colorful life from his first days as a musician until early 2007. It is only available online through

Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Kid Ory was the greatest trombone player in the early years of Jazz. He originally played banjo, but then switched to trombone. Perhaps his banjo playing helped shape the “tailgate” style of playing he later developed on the trombone. In the “tailgate” style, the trombone plays a rhythmic line underneath the trumpets and cornets. From 1912 to 1919 he led one of the most popular bands in New Orleans. Ory’s Band featured many of the great musicians who would go on to define the Hot Jazz style. At various times King Oliver, a young Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet and Jimmie Noone all played in Ory’s band. In 1919 Ory relocated to California for health reasons. He assembled a new group of New Orleans musicians on the West Coast and played regularly under the name of Kid Ory’s Creole Orchestra. In 1922 they became the first African-American jazz band from New Orleans to record. They used the name of “Spike’s Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra” and recorded the songs “Ory’s Creole Trombone” and “Society Blues“. In 1925 he moved to Chicago, and played regularly with King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and Hot Seven and with Jelly Roll Morton and several other Chicago groups. During the Depression Ory played very little and ran a chicken ranch with his brother. When the Dixieland revival occurred in the 1940′s, Ory found his style of music back in vogue. He revived Kid Ory’s Creole Orchestra in 1943 and was able to continue to play, tour and record Jazz until he retired in 1966.

Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet was a child prodigy in New Orleans. He was such good clarinet player that, in his youth he was featured by some of the top bands in the city. Bechet’s style of playing clarinet and soprano sax dominated many of the bands that he was in. He played lead parts that were usually reserved for trumpets and was a master of improvisation. In 1917 he moved to Chicago. In 1919 he was playing with Will Marion Cook’s Syncopated Orchestra and with Louis Mitchell’s Jazz Kings in Europe. While overseas he bought a soprano sax and from then on it was his main instrument. Back in the U.S. Bechet made his recording debut in 1923 with Clarence Williams and during the next two years he appeared on several of Williams’ records backing up blues singers and on a classic session with the Clarence Williams Blue Five, featuring Louis Armstrong whom he knew as a child in New Orleans. He played in an early version of Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians but unfortunately never recorded with them. From 1925 to 1929 Bechet lived and played in Europe, playing in England, France, Germany and Russia. While living in Paris, Bechet got into a dispute with another musician and a gun fight broke out. Three people were wounded and Sidney spent a year in a French jail as a result of the fracas. He was deported upon release from prison and went to Berlin, Germany. He could not stay in France and he would not get a visa for England so he stayed in Berlin till 1931 then joined the Noble Sissle Orchestra and returned to America. Bechet managed to keep playing during the Thirties, but he also ran an unsuccessful tailor’s shop with Tommy Ladnier and made some memorable recordings with the trumpeter under the name of the New Orleans Feetwarmers. In 1938 he had a hit record of “Summertime“. In the Forties Bechet worked regularly in New York with Eddie Condon and tried to start a band with Bunk Johnson. Bechet was a popular figure of the Dixieland revival of the late Forties often recording with Mezz Mezzrow. Bechet returned to France in 1952 and was warmly received there. While in France he recorded hit records that rivaled the sales of pop stars. Bechet was one of the great soloists of early Jazz. He lived a very rich life, always managing to “make the scene” where it was “happening”, whether it be in New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Berlin or Paris.

Here’s a special bonus recording courtesy of

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Louis Armstrong was the greatest of all Jazz musicians. Armstrong defined what it was to play Jazz. His amazing technical abilities, the joy and spontaneity, and amazingly quick, inventive musical mind still dominate Jazz to this day. Only Charlie Parker comes close to having as much influence on the history of Jazz as Louis Armstrong did. Like almost all early Jazz musicians, Louis was from New Orleans. He was from a very poor family and was sent to reform school when he was twelve after firing a gun in the air on New Year’s Eve. At the school he learned to play cornet. After being released at age fourteen, he worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal from a cart. He didn’t own an instrument at this time, but continued to listen to bands at clubs like the Funky Butt Hall. Joe “King” Oliver was his favorite and the older man acted as a father to Louis, even giving him his first real cornet, and instructing him on the instrument. By 1917 he played in an Oliver inspired group at dive bars in New Orleans’ Storyville section. In 1919 he left New Orleans for the first time to join Fate Marable’s band in St. Louis. Marable led a band that played on the Strekfus Mississsippi river boat lines. When the boats left from New Orleans Armstrong also played regular gigs in Kid Ory’s band. Louis stayed with Marable until 1921 when he returned to New Orleans and played in Zutty Singleton’s. He also played in parades with the Allen Brass Band, and on the bandstand with Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra , and the Silver Leaf Band. When King Oliver left the city in 1919 to go to Chicago, Louis took his place in Kid Ory’s band from time to time. In 1922 Louis received a telegram from his mentor Joe Oliver, asking him to join his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens (459 East 31st Street) in Chicago. This was a dream come true for Armstrong and his amazing playing in the band soon made him a sensation among other musicians in Chicago. The New Orleans style of music took the town by storm and soon many other bands from down south made their way north to Chicago. While playing in Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Armstrong met Lillian Hardin, a piano player and arranger for the band. In February of 1924 they were married. Lil was a very intelligent and ambitious woman who felt that Louis was wasting himself playing in Oliver’s band. By the end of 1924 she pressured Armstrong to reluctantly leave his mentor’s band. He briefly worked with Ollie Powers’ Harmony Syncopators before he moved to New York to play in Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra for 13 months. During that time he also did dozens of recording sessions with numerous Blues singers, including Bessie Smith’s 1925 classic recording of “St. Louis Blues“. He also recorded with Clarence Williams and the Red Onion Jazz Babies. In 1925 Armstrong moved back to Chicago and joined his wife’s band at the Dreamland Cafe (3520 South State Street). He also played in Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra and then with Carrol Dickenson’s Orchestra at the Sunset Cafe (313-17 East 35th Street at the corner of Calmet Street). Armstrong recorded his first Hot Five records that same year. This was the first time that Armstrong had made records under his own name. The records made by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be absolute jazz classics and speak of Armstrong’s creative powers. The band never played live, but continued recording until 1928. While working at the Sunset, Louis met his future manager, Joe Glaser. Glaser managed the Sunset at that time. Armstrong continued to play in Carrol Dickenson’s Orchestra until 1929. He also led his own band on the same venue under the name of Louis Armstrong and his Stompers. For the next two years Armstrong played with Carroll Dickerson’s Savoy Orchestra and with Clarence Jones’ Orchestra in Chicago. By 1929 Louis was becoming a very big star. He toured with the show “Hot Chocolates” and appeared occasionally with the Luis Russell Orchestra, with Dave Peyton, and with Fletcher Henderson. Armstrong moved to Los Angeles in 1930 where he fronted a band called Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra. In 1931 he returned to Chicago and assembled his own band for touring purposes. In June of that year he returned to New Orleans for the first time since he left in 1922 to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Armstrong was greeted as a hero, but racism marred his return when a White radio announcer refused to mention Armstrong on the air and a free concert that Louis was going to give to the cities’ African-American population was cancelled at the last minute. Louis and Lil also separated in 1931. In 1932 he returned to California, before leaving for England where he was a great success. For the next three years Armstrong was almost always on the road. He crisscrossed the U.S. dozens of times and returned to Europe playing in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and England. In 1935 he returned to the U.S. and hired Joe Glaser to be his manager. He had known Glaser when he was the manager of the Sunset Cafe in Chicago in the 1920s. Glaser was allegedly connected to the Al Capone mob, but proved to be a great manager and friend for Louis. Glaser remained Armstrong’s manager until his death in 1969. Glaser took care of the business end of things, leaving Armstrong free to concentrate on his music. He also hired the Luis Russell Orchestra as Louis’ backup band with Russell as the musical director. This was like going home for Armstrong, because Russell’s Orchestra was made up of predominantly New Orleans musicians, many of whom had also played with King Oliver. The band was renamed Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra and was one of the most popular acts of the Swing era. Glaser put the band to work and they toured constantly for the next ten years. During this period Armstrong became one of the most famous men in America. In 1938 Lil and Louis finally got a divorce. Louis then married Alpha, his third wife. The endless touring was hard on their marriage and they were divorced four years later, but Armstrong quickly remarried Lucille and they remained married for the rest of his life. For the next nine years the Louis Armstrong Orchestra continued to tour and release records, but as the 1940s drew to a close the public’s taste in Jazz began to shift away from the commercial sounds of the Swing era and big band Jazz. The so-called Dixieland Jazz revival was just beginning and Be Bop was also starting to challenge the status quo in the Jazz world. The Louis Armstrong Orchestra was beginning to look tired and concert and record sales were declining. Critics complained that Armstrong was becoming too commercial. So, in 1947 Glaser fired the orchestra and replaced them with a small group that became one of the greatest and most popular bands in Jazz history. The group was called the Louis Armstrong Allstars and over the years featured exceptional musicians like Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Sidney ‘Big Sid’ Catlett , vocalist Vilma Middleton, and Earl Hines. The band went through a number of personnel changes over the years but remained extremely popular worldwide. They toured extensively travelling to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America for the next twenty years until Louis’ failing health caused them to disband. Armstrong became known as America’s Ambassador. In 1963 Armstrong scored a huge international hit with his version of “Hello Dolly”. This number one single even knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts. In 1968 he recorded another number one hit with the touchingly optimistic “What A Wonderful World”. Armstrong’s health began to fail him and he was hospitalized several times over the remaining three years of his life, but he continued playing and recording. On July 6th 1971 the world’s greatest Jazz musician died in his sleep at his home in Queens, New York.

Thanks to Mary Devito for her help with this page.

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven
Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five
Louis Armstrong and his Stompers Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra
Louis Armstrong with the Polynesians Louis Armstrong With Andy Iona And His Islanders
Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers Louis Armstrong With Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Elder Eatmore’s Sermon On Generosity
8-11-1938 New York, New York Decca
Elder Eatmore’s Sermon On Throwing Stones
8-11-1938 New York, New York Decca

Title Director Year
Ex-Flame Victor Halperin 1930
I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You Dave Fleischer 1930
A Rhapsody in Black and Blue Aubrey Scotto 1932
Pennies from Heaven Norman Z. McLeod 1936
Artists & Models Raoul Walsh 1937
Every Day’s a Holiday A. Edward Sutherland 1937
Dr. Rhythm Frank Tuttle 1938
Going Places Ray Enright 1938
Cabin In The Sky Vincente Minnelli & Busby Berkeley 1943
Show Business at War Louis De Rochemont 1943
Jam Session Charles Barton 1944
Atlantic City Ray McCarey 1944
Pillow to Post Vincent Sherman 1945
New Orleans Arthur Lubin 1947
A Song Is Born Howard Hawks 1948
Botta e risposta Mario Soldati 1949
Young Man with a Horn Michael Curtiz 1950
Here Comes the Groom Frank Capra 1951
The Strip László Kardos 1951
Glory Alley Raoul Walsh 1952
The Glenn Miller Story Anthony Mann 1953
High Society Charles Walters 1956
Satchmo the Great 1957
Die Nacht vor der Premiere Georg Jacoby 1959
The Beat Generation Charles F. Haas 1959
La Paloma Paul Martin 1959
Kærlighedens melodi Bent Christensen 1959
Jazz On A Summer’s Day Bert Stern 1959
The Five Pennies Melville Shavelson 1959
The Five Pennies Melville Shavelson 1959
Paris Blues Martin Ritt 1961
Auf Wiedersehen Harald Philipp 1961
When the Boys Meet the Girls Alvin Ganzer 1965
A Man Called Adam Leo Penn 1966
Hello, Dolly! Gene Kelly 1969
On the Road with Duke Ellington Robert Drew 1974

My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong, Da Capo Press, 1954
Swing That Music by Louis Armstrong, Da Capo Press, 1936
Louis Armstrong by Hughes Panassie Da Capo Press, 1971
Louis by Max Jones & John Clinton, Da Capo Press, 1971
Louis Armstrong : An Extravagant Life by Laurence Bergreen, Broadway Books, 1997
Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans by Thomas Brothers, W.W. Norton and Company, 2006

From Red Hot Jazz