The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46 (#243)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46 (#243)
"No corpus of jazz recordings carries greater influence than the 169 tracks that make-up this set, documenting the maestro at the peak of his powers when vigor and maturity equally coexisted." - Ted Panken, DownBeat
Limited Edition: 10000 copies

7 CDs -  $119.00


A Big (Band) Change For Armstrong
Led To The Most Popular Music Of His Career.

The year was 1935. Louis Armstrong had recently exhausted his immediate performing opportunities in front of European jazz audiences, having done the circuit and slayed 'em all. Years earlier, he had become the one individual identified with establishing a new way to play hot music - as a soloist, using improvisation to express personal style and unique musical ideas…but he was in a rut.

That year, his life changed in a few significant ways. He re-established ties with Joe Glaser, a former Chicago club manager and he signed with Decca Records, a new company looking to make records fast that could be sold inexpensively and turned into hits. Louis loved all kinds of music and was more than willing to oblige. Refreshed and invigorated, Louis made the biggest change of all - he started making the most popular music of his life; the jazz records that would turn Armstrong into an international sensation.

This is the first-ever major retrospective of this period. For the most part, the recordings represent Louis Armstrong leading the big band. Never had Louis sounded more secure, more hip, or more like a star. His example was an important beacon that popular standards were a legitimate repertoire for significant jazz recording stylists.

Jump into this box set collection and land in a nice, warm bath of Louis' joy. Armstrong, who struggled with lip problems on and off through his career, entered this phase after a significant layoff. Healthy and hearty, his performances as a jazz trumpeter and vocalist are first rate. The big band record performances feature Louis' inimitable approach to many melodies that were soon to become well-known; small-group sessions with Bunny Berigan as a sideman; a 1936 date with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra; the rare 12" medley of hits from "Pennies From Heaven" with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Bing Crosby and Frances Langford; the "Elder Eatmore" sermon session; a reunion with Sidney Bechet and Zutty Singleton; and a slew of great sidemen like Sid Catlett, Dexter Gordon, J.C. Higginbotham, Red Allen and many more.

Some of the performances are among the most significant of his life and a lasting gift to jazz - there isn't a trumpeter since who hasn't marveled at the brilliance of Armstrong's tone, coherence of his soloing, and perfection of his execution on the 1938 "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." It is, plain and simple, a flawless jazz record.

For this Louis Armstrong box set release, we went back to the original record sources - Decca's metal parts and lacquer discs - and lovingly restored and remastered everything to Mosaic's exacting musical standards. Our seven-CD box set delivers 166 tracks, including rare alternate sides. The collection includes our exclusive booklet with a number of rarely-seen session photographs; an essay by noted jazz historian Dan Morgenstern; a complete, corrected discography of the sessions clearing up a number of published errors; and all seven CDs, beautifully packaged in our distinctive Mosaic box set.

Read More About LouisArmstrong:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
Dan Morgenstern has long been a champion of the great Armstrong. He was also a friend of Louis’ and the love of the music as well as the man is clearly brought to life in the essay he has prepared for this set of Decca recordings by “Pops”. When we were given the approval to release this material, there was a unanimous decision to have Dan once again on board to deliver the notes in his inimitable fashion. He has not disappointed, as his insights to the man and the music will delight and educate. As usual with Mosaic sets, our discography has corrected many errors and omissions.

It’s always a crap shoot to see if the original metal parts or lacquer discs will exist in the vaults of any given project. For the Armstrong we were lucky to obtain 1/3 of the music on pristine metal parts. The other 2/3 we were able to transfer mint condition 78s from serious collectors and the Institute of Jazz Studies. Many of these 78s came from Australian, British and French Decca pressings which offered a smoother shellac surface than the American Decca issues of the time. Another caveat of having access to the metal is that we came up with seven previously unissued titles.

Photo Copyright © Protected
Rare photos, some from the original sessions, are included here. Frank Driggs, Duncan Scheidt, the Institute of Jazz Studies and images from the wonderful Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, NY. This landmark was the actual home of Louis’ from the 1940s right on up to his death in 1971. His wife Lucille continued to live there until her death in 1983. Recently, the home has been turned into a museum with hundreds of memorabilia to enjoy and where tours are conducted almost any day of the week. We took advantage of this opportunity to gain access to their photo collection and found a number of great shots to enhance the booklet.

(S) January 12, 1938

We’re still in L.A. two months later—Louis had been making two more movies, as this session commemorates, and enjoying long and very successful bookings, among them four record (and color line) breaking weeks at the Vogue, and a happy return to an old haunt, Sebastian’s Cotton Club in Culver City, where in fact they were closing the very day (or rather, night) of this Decca date. It opens with a refurbished Armstrong classic. Satchel Mouth Swing is the same melody as Coal Cart Blues, a 1925 recording with Clarence Williams’ Blue Five, with updated Swing Era lyrics. The band sounds a bit like Chick Webb’s here—could Edgar Sampson be the arranger, or Van Alexander? The tune lends itself to riffing, and there’s a lot of that. After a nice band setup, Louis delivers a happy vocal loaded with Satchmo references, the name varied as much as if it were a musical phrase. Holmes and Higgy, the latter saying a lot in a few bars, are heard from, and then open Louis takes over, articulating some unusual rips in his opening phrases (when other trumpeters try this, it always sounds corny). We’ll encounter this melody again, in a recreation of the 1924 version.

After this sunny prelude things get serious with Jubilee, introduced by Louis in the Mae West picture Every Day’s A Holiday. In the film, Louis, resplendently attired in a white uniform and plumed helmet, does some fancy stepping as well as horn tooting. He's leading what's supposed to be a street cleaners' parade, part of an election campaign, and the band is a veritable who's who of local black jazzmen, only a few holding their customary instruments. But the record date surrounds him with a better arrangement (probably by Willet) in a longer version of the piece, yet another Carmichael opus designed for Louis. In his notes for a Decca CD reissue, my dear departed friend Dick Sudhalter, author of the definitive Hoagy biography Stardust Melody, and himself a trumpeter, wrote that Jubilee “has never been played or sung better. The wisdom, balance and vision of Louis’ two choruses places them almost beyond musical analysis; placement of phrases, a tip-of-the-fingers knowledge of when to hold back and NOT play; understanding of those moments when one long note will do the expressive work of many short ones.” He also uses the apt phrase “untrammeled joy” in his description of what unquestionably is among the greatest Armstrong recordings. The band does well; this may be Barbarin’s best effort, the Hemphill-led trumpet section, now also including Red Allen, is on target, and Pops Foster’s back.

But Louis isn’t done—creating back-to-back masterpieces was the order of this day. The 1927 Struttin’ With Some Barbecue (not, by the way, a food reference—it means showing off with a pretty girl on your arm) enjoyed iconic stature in the Armstrong discography more than a decade later, but Louis was never burdened by his own history, and while he never paid attention to critics, it may just be that in this first recorded revisit to the Hot Five-Hot Sevens canon, he meant to show them that he was quite capable of surpassing himself. In a discussion set up by Down Beat in the early l960s, Maynard Ferguson and Bobby Hackett—hard to think of more contrasting musical and instrumental aesthetics—agreed that the Decca Barbecue was their favorite Armstrong record. The Willet setting of what surely is Louis’ own composition—Lil claimed it, Glaser wanted to counter-sue, but Louis said, “Let her have it—she needs the money more than I do!”—opens with a trumpet section fanfare, then Louis leads the statement of the buoyant theme, a rising interlude setting up the notorious Madison clarinet solo, marred by an under-pitch E natural— redeemed by a typically well-crafted Holmes effort, ending with a break. The rest is Louis, stating his melody almost straight, but with majestic sound and phrasing, for his first chorus, then on to a triumphant re-casting in his own mature 1938 language (note the lip trills throughout) and a cadenza unlike any other, with unique half-valve ingredients. The alternate take, surely the first, has not been issued before; it was an anonymous gift to the Institute of Jazz Studies. It offers few differences (Bingie may be just a tad better) but clearly there are some, notably in the phrasing of the first solo chorus. But he had that cadenza down!

You’d think Louis would say “enough” after this, but he was an iron man, and since he was about to embark on a long tour with the band, Kapp wanted to make sure there was material on hand—Louis’ records were doing well, and he had made another film appearance, in a Bing Crosby vehicle, Doctor Rhythm. We know that his feature was The Trumpet Player’s Lament. Production stills show him at the helm of a big band, all elegantly attired, and in a two-shot with Bing, who is in a policeman’s uniform, but except for showings in black theaters, his part was omitted from the final cut. There was much speculation in the black press, including interviews with Crosby, but the bottom line had nothing to do with prejudice; there were production disputes, the film was re-cut, female star Beatrice Lillie was given more footage, and Paramount agreed to furnish a version including Armstrong upon demand (we know from Klaus Stratemann’s Louis Armstrong On The Screen that such versions were shown, at least, in New York, Chicago and Baltimore). However, no such prints have survived, nor has any Louis audio from the film been found. What we do know is that his performance was set in a police department benefit show, and that he also had some scenes with Crosby. The record is all we have—union contracts indicate that the instrumentation for the film was the same as Louis’ band, so we can surmise that the arrangements are identical, and if so, by Georgie Stoll. The trumpeter’s lament is that he “must always play hot music/music that’s not music,” which of course becomes ironic as rendered by Louis, but that great actor manages to imbue it with genuine pathos, and gets maximum mileage from the classical references, including Vesti La Giubba, a perfectly pronounced “Mozart,” and a wonderful New Orleans rendering of Jose Iturbi (a then very popular concert pianist, with whom Louis perhaps not incidentally had appeared on the air at this point in time)—it comes out “Itoiby,” rhyming with “derby.” There is a rare growl brass ensemble passage, and the trumpet solo (it’s a minor-key piece, of course) is yet another gem, dramatic and gliss-full, and he’s got enough chops left to make that ending—a high F—not once but twice, the alternate being almost identical, though the vocal bridge cuts the issued one’s.


Click here to write a review

  A Revelation!
Can go on forever about Louis Armstrong as sui generis, as one of the small handful of originals who were present at -- and shaped the creation -- of the music we call jazz. A trailblazing musician, vocalist, and performer. But do want to point out that the quality of these remasterings is a revelation. Pure, clean, vibrant, and virtually noise free. Great job, as ever, by the folks at Mosaic.
  Important era for Louis, indispensible for fans
Everything Louis touched turned to jazz, whether Carry Me Back to Old Virginny or Shes the Daughter of a Planter From Havana or On a Cocoanut Island. The variety of pop tunes here provided Pops with opportunities to stamp his inimitable trumpet and vocal styles on a broad swath of 1930s-40s era music. Purist critics kvetched, but this is glorious stuff that everyone should hear!
  Gabriel Likes Your Music, Louis!
... and if he doesn't, I'm not sure I want to go to heaven! So much music from the man who taught the world to swing -- and sing. I've listened to the whole set straight through at least a dozen times. An essential body of American 20th century music.
  Where's the band - 2
I think it's really unnecessary to speak much about the music, which is among the best of you can ever listen to. But after 1-srar review "Where's the band?" I decided to say a few words about the sound quality of the set. It's undoubtedly great! The voice/trampet and the orchestra souds very full, deep and natural. And there is a perfect ballance between them. Besides, what is the real rear treasure - the sound is very solid and detailed in one time. Having very many good-sounding recordings of that old times, I can say, that this one is on the top. After pushing "play" I really feel their presence as if Louis and cats are all swinging in my room. Mosaic, thank you.
  Philosophy in music
There is as much Weltschmerz as joy or Lebensfreude in his playing. Sometimes you do not know what to feel!
  The Music Goes 'Round and Around
I couldn't be any happier with this wonderful set and I listen to it almost constantly. This music may not represent Louis at his most cutting-edge (as many critics would have it), but it's so full of life and fun that it's almost impossible to resist. Louis is at his most ebullient and this set showcases some of his best recorded vocals. Don't hesistate to pick this up - it's wonderful!
  Where's the band?
I suppose after two dozen Mosaic sets it was inevitable that I would find one that was disappointing. I love Louis' music, and I love the material that's on this set; in fact, I have a lot of it on a mass market Decca release (CDs) from the 1990's. The problem with this set is with Mosaic's remastering. During Louis' vocals and trumpet solos the noise reduction and equalization is so excessive that the band is reduced to a whisper (at best)---And during instrumental passages you can't even hear the drummer tapping time, and the bass is almost completely inaudible---it has been processed/equalized away (though that sonic information is clearly audible on my old 1990s Decca CDs). Yes Louis' voice and trumpet have incredible presence, but it is given to us at the expense of the rest of the music. I really hope Mosaic re-thinks how they are attempting to restore this music for the next release of 78 Era material. The Woody Herman Columbia, Bunny Berigan, Bix Beiderbecke, Venuti-Lang, and Mildred Bailey sets are all light years ahead of this set in sound restoration.
  mosaic ,once again,makes life worth living
if you like your music overflowing with joy,creativity and life,this box of killing Louis is for you--if help!
  Mosaic sets the Gold Standard as usual!
The set shows Louis at the peak of his powers! Buy three! One small quibble: The liner notes describes Louis playing a solo in "Swing that Music" as having "42 C's above high C" and that it took a combination of Jon Faddis and Wynton to reproduce it in the '90's. Faddis probably did the double C's (thanks to not having to deal with the parts that Wynton handled)in the tribute performance, but Louis is just playing high C's. But oh, how he plays 'em!!!!!!
  They fixed it!
I'm the guy who wrote the review titled "Great set with one mistake-please fix it". Well they did! Mosaic is probably the only record company in the world that would do this. I just got my replacement for disc one in the mail a few days ago and all three takes of "Old Man Mose" are on it. Now the set is perfect. This set includes some of Louis' greatest recordings. Just from a trumpet playing standpoint his chops were in peak form as far as range, power & endurance are concerned. And that doesn't address the issue of how much soul he had. You'll be moved to tears. You need to buy this set. What are you waiting for? It'll make you very happy. I just can't say enough about how great this set is. Buy it now!
  Mosaic does it again!!!
Great set! The music ranges from old Louis standards, to Jazz standards of the time, to Hawaian and to lesser known tunes, but Louis puts his own stamp on all of it. My favorites are Dippermouth Blues, Yours and Mine and On a Cocoanut Island, but the great music just keeps coming. This music just makes you feel good and is a great respite from these troubled times. The book is superior, even by Mosaic standards, with an essay by Dan Morgenstern and lots of rare photos.
  Pops is tops
For those who thought the Armstrong period after the Hot Fives and Sevens until the formation of the All-Stars was just marking time for Louis, all I can say is: Listen to this set! All production aspects are fully up to Mosaic standards (which means best in the business), but what makes it truly indispensible is the fire, passion and sheer genius of Louis' playing and singing. It is pure joy. I make take these CDs off my player...someday. Thanks to Mosaic, Dan Morgenstern and all involved for a superb job.
As a longtime fan of Mosaic I just want to thank you guys for this one! The sound quality is terrific and Mr. Morgenstern has written a most informative booklet - this is a magnificent Armstrong collection.
A true beauty: both Satchmo's music, of course, but also the stunning work of remastering and the informations, essay and photos of the booklet. That is a real, thick book.
  Great set with one mistake-please fix it
This set is great. I own over 60 Mosaic sets, and that's not including Mosaic Selects & Singles. I've been waiting for years for Mosaic to do this set. Unfortunately they made a rare goof. They don't have all three takes of "Old Man Mose". They're listed in the discography and Dan Morgenstern comments on all three. There are two takes which begin with a trumpet solo and one at a slower tempo with a band arrangement in place of the trumpet solo, which they put on disc one twice instead of the the second take with a trumpet solo. Mosaic is generally very careful and thorough. Somebody dropped the ball during the mastering process. I hope they re-do disc one and send everybody who bought this set the new copy. Otherwise they did their usual high quality work on all aspects of this set containing some of the greatist recordings by the greatest musician of all time. The mistake is what caused me to rate this set four notes instead of five.
  satchmo the king
get this set plain and simple. great sidemen and sound. no one beats dippermouth.

The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46 (#243)
The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46 (#243)
Limited Edition: 10000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00

Customer Reviews:

"As a longtime fan of Mosaic I just want to thank you guys for this one! The sound quality is terrific and Mr. Morgenstern has written a most informative booklet - this is a magnificent Armstrong collection."
Read More Reviews »

Special Sales
Last Chance Offerings
Noteworthy Jazz News