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Randy Sandke and the New York All-Stars: The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix

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There is triple fascination on trumpeter Randy Sandke’s stimulating The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix : the unearthing of genuinely interesting pieces written by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke that were either not recorded or not released; inventive and resourceful arranging by Sandke; and wonderful playing by a collection of New York’s top musicians.

The most surprising discovery is that “Weather Bird,” recorded in a seminal duet by Armstrong and Earl Hines in 1928, has a third strain that was left out of the recording. Sandke and pianist Dick Hyman restore it. Seven other Armstrong compositions written from 1923 to 1946 get Sandke arrangements ranging in style and spirit from the Armstrong-King Oliver duets through swing band to Armstrong’s mid-’40s All-Stars. There are never more than nine instruments, but Sandke’s voicings make the ensemble seem like a much bigger band. The Beiderbecke selections include two of his compositions and arrangements of five others on which he played on unissued recordings whose masters were destroyed. More complex than Armstrong’s pieces, Beiderbecke’s “Betcha I Getcha” and “Cloudy” are further evidence of his advanced ideas inspired by 20th century classical composers.

The outstanding soloists include Sandke, Hyman, Nicholas Payton, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Barrett, Kenny Davern, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Peter Washington and John-Erik Kellso. How the “lost” music was brought to light is recounted in liner notes by George Avakian, who played a central role in the detective work and deserves credit for his persistence in seeing that it was performed.