Studio: Jazz Icons/Reelin’ in the Years DVWW-JILA
Video: 4:3, B&W
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Length: 55 min.
(Artists: Louis Armstrong, trumpet/vocals; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet; Trummy Young, trombone, vocals; Billy Kyle, piano; Mort Herbert, bass; Danny Barcelona, drums; Velma Middleton, vocal)
Jazz Icons has done a valuable service for classic jazz fans by bringing out previously unreleased European video sessions done by American Jazz masters. As jazz DVDs in the past few years have been limited mainly to Norman Granz Pablo releases of American jazz artists also playing in Europe, it is a welcome competition to release videos of other jazz musicians, and to provide extensive liner notes written by noted jazz reviewers, unlike the Pablo-issued material.
Reelin’ in the Years – the distributor of the Jazz Icons series of nine DVDs – has gone first class in their presentation, providing liner notes in extended form as well as rare photos and memorabilia. For the 1959 Belgium Armstrong issue, they have included a 16 page booklet featuring a foreward by Wynton Marsalis, and liner notes by Grammy winning author, Rob Bowman.
Unfortunately, what they have not done with this Armstrong release is to restore the original 16mm film. There is dust on the film and the splices are sloppy. What salvages this DVD is the sound and the rarity of the sesssion. The song selection is classic Armstrong and includes: When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, Basin Street Blues, Tiger Rag, St. Louis Blues, Mack the Knife, and When the Saints Go Marching In, and the mono sound is quite good. No big surprises here, but it is so nice to have 1950s-era film of Armstrong before he became more of a vocalist than the brilliant instrumentalist for which he should be remembered.
[The publicity on the Jazz Icons series says some of these films were shot but never actually broadcast; it would be interesting to know which ones. Still, it’s very satisfying visually to have fairly good quality black & white images instead of the hard-to-watch kinescopes of many other historic jazz videos…Ed.]
– Jeff Krow