September 8, 2008
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A RADIO GIG?:
Louis Armstrong: Home and Away (WILL FRIEDWALD | September 8, 2008, NY Sun)
At first glance, the two discs that make up "Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Show & Louis' Home-Recorded Tapes" may seem like two batches of material thrown together for no apparent reason, other than that both feature previously unissued private recordings excavated from Louis Armstrong's own collection. Either disc, particularly the one with live radio performances from 1937, could be described as the most important Armstrong discovery to be released since his death in 1971. Yet taken together, they form an especially vivid picture of Louis Armstrong the man, musician, and mensch.Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2008 1:14 PM
The double-disc set was issued by Jazz Heritage not long after the 107th anniversary of Armstrong's birth last month and just in time to announce the start of a festival celebrating the instrument that he taught the world to play. It includes a recording of Armstrong on NBC's "Fleischmann's Yeast" radio show in 1937 and a batch of home-recorded tapes that have never been heard. On Sunday, the Sixth Annual Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) will begins with a special three-horn salute to Satchmo staged at the man's own house in Corona, Queens.
First of all, the radio performances from 1937 constitute one of the most significant jazz finds imaginable — on a par with Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie or Bird and Dizzy at Town Hall — because there's precious little live Armstrong from the (comparatively) early years. Notably, the Fleischmann's radio treasure trove owes its existence to, of all unlikely individuals, Rudy Vallee. Remembered fondly as a pioneering crooner, bandleader, movie comic, and early broadcast icon, Vallee, who also played saxophone, wasn't exactly regarded as a major force in jazz. However, when he took a vacation from April to July of 1937 (he was invited to the coronation of the king of England), he temporarily relinquished the reins of his extremely popular Fleischmann's Yeast-sponsored radio series to Armstrong. It was the first known example of a black musician hosting and starring in a major prime-time variety series.