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May 1999

Louis Armstrong
The Best of Louis Armstrong
Vanguard

The title is hyperbolical, although this may well be the "best" Vanguard has. The two discs contain all or most of a 1965 concert at the Palais des Sports in Paris. Both Billy Kyles and Marty Napoleon are listed in the personnel as pianists and Eddie Shuree (better known as Eddie Shu) and Joseph Muranyi as clarinetists, but only the first in each case is audibly present. At the end of the concert, Armstrong names each musician and has him take a bow, but he does not mention Napoleon or Muranyi. In the "original" notes, one Adele Herbst rehashes stale history and says nothing about the concert. Suffering from the defection of Trummy Young and the absence of Buster Bailey, the All Stars were not at their best.

Tyree Glenn, however, was a superior trombonist who was already making his experience count. He knew what to do in support of Satchmo, and he was a capable soloist, as he demonstrates with plunger on "Volare." Kyle is agreeably more prominent than usual, and the rhythm section-completed by Buddy Catlett and Danny Barcelona, both of whom are given solo opportunities-is in good form. The recording is generally satisfactory, although the leader's horn inevitably gets a variable pick-up as he moves around on the stand. The audience response is idolatrous, even to the Jewell Brown vocals. Armstrong could do no wrong in Paris and that a certain amount of corn is the cause of happiness is immediately redeemed by his energetic trumpet solos and vocals.

Originally published in May 1999
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