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Louis Armstrong: Fleischmann’s Yeast Show & Louis’ Home-Recorded Tapes

One of Louis Armstrong’s favorite hobbies was taping things that interested him, including his own performances, his thoughts and sometimes historic events and the music of others. When he died in 1971, Armstrong left behind an extensive collection of tapes, nearly all of which still remain unissued. The release of the two-CD set Fleischmann’s Yeast Show & Louis’ Home-Recorded Tapes by the Jazz Heritage Society is a major event.

The first disc features the Louis Armstrong Orchestra during six radio broadcasts from April and May 1937 that are drawn from the groundbreaking Fleischmann’s Yeast Show series. The recording quality is remarkably good, Armstrong performs some numbers that he did not commercially record during the era (including “After You’ve Gone,” “Memories of You,” “Ida,” “Washington and Lee Swing” and “I Know That You Know”), the big band sounds much better than it is usually rated, and Satch is in superb form. But the second disc is especially remarkable for it is drawn from Armstrong’s private tapes dating from the early 1950s to 1970. He reminisces with honesty about the past (including how he did not like playing with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra), praises Lil Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and Sid Catlett, gives advice to some young trumpeters, tells jokes and plays along with a few records. To hear Armstrong (probably from the late 1950s) jamming with the 1923 recording of “Tears,” which featured him with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, is spine-tingling.

Originally Published