Recorded live in Hamburg in 1995, this is an affectionate tribute to Louis Armstrong by an octet led by Randy Sandke. Most of the trumpet solos are played with skill and sympathy by Sandke, who was also responsible for the arrangements, more or less in chronological order, in the well-chosen program. Direct imitation is not the rule here, but the spirit is recaptured with considerable fidelity and Byron Stripling’s warm, powerful choruses bring the great man to life very vividly. Mark Shane’s lucid piano contributions are always effective, but the most distinguished work is by clarinetist Kenny Davern, whose taste is exemplary in both solos and ensembles. His command in all registers is striking, and he seems to have distilled a very personal style from all that is best in jazz clarinet. Following his emotional “If I Could Be With You,” there’s a good example of the importance Armstrong attached to swinging melodies in a union of “Mack the Knife” with “The Happy Hussar.”
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