The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia & RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946 - 66

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia & RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946 - 66
“Whatever it is, can’t nobody do what I do,” Louis Armstrong told an interviewer in London in 1959. “How many modern trumpet players could play my solos?” he asked Gilbert Millstein in 1960. “You’d have to carry ‘em out on stretchers.”

This set is now in stock and we are shipping all preorders. The warehouse is a little slow due to Covid but any new orders should start shipping by about April 17.
Limited Edition: 3,500 copies

7 CDs -  $119.00


An Unprecedented Look at a Genius at Work

Nearly 50 years after his passing, Louis Armstrong's achievements as a trumpeter, vocalist, actor, author, Civil Rights advocate, and humanitarian remain unparalleled. He left behind a timeless body of work with hit records in every decade, including seminal albums such as Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy, Satch Plays Fats and The Real Ambassadors. The opportunity to go behind the scenes to hear how Armstrong created these masterworks in the studio has never been possible-until now.

Mosaic Records is excited to announce the release of Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong 1946-1966, a 7-CD boxed set that will take listeners into the studio with Armstrong in a way never previously imaginable.

The story begins in 1946 with Armstrong still toting a big band across the country on an endless series of one-nighters. After signing a new contract with RCA Victor, Armstrong immediately made his first recordings with Duke Ellington as part of an "Esquire All-American 1946 Award Winners" date overseen by Leonard Feather. RCA gave Armstrong the opportunity to record his regular working band, but also showcased the trumpeter in a small group setting thanks to the filming of New Orleans in the fall of 1946. With the writing on the wall, Armstrong recorded four sensational sides with small group featuring Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden in June 1947, eventually leading to the formation of his popular small group, the All Stars. All 29 of Armstrong's 1946-1947 RCA recordings are being presented here in superb fidelity, transferred from the original metal parts.

Louis Armstrong & George Avakian: A Perfect Match

Armstrong spent the next several years recording popular hits for Decca Records, elevating his popularity but hurting his reputation with some in the jazz world. George Avakian relished the opportunity to record his longtime friend in a more jazz-centric setting but couldn't get through Decca's ironclad contract. When he finally got the opportunity to make a one-off album in July 1954, Avakian made the most of it.

The result was Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy, long regarded as the finest long-playing album of Armstrong's entire career. Armstrong's All Stars, featuring Trummy Young, Barney Bigard, Billy Kyle, Arvell Shaw, Barrett Deems, and Velma Middleton, were in top form on a series of compositions by the "Father of the Blues," W. C. Handy. Avakian was known for his copious postproduction work, splicing the best portions of each take in order to present the optimal listening experience. The result was a critical and commercial smash. "They're perfect-they're my tops," Armstrong said of the final album.

Armstrong's manager Joe Glaser couldn't argue with the results and allowed Avakian to record a follow up in 1955, this time featuring the compositions of Armstrong's old friend, Fats Waller. The resulting album, Satch Plays Fats, was another masterpiece, featuring emotional readings of "Blue Turning Grey Over You" and "Black and Blue" and romps on Waller favorites such as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose."

For his next idea, Avakian eschewed the works of Handy and Waller and instead turned to Kurt Weill in having Armstrong record "A Theme from a Threepenny Opera," soon to become better known as the monster hit, "Mack the Knife." Avakian's remarkable run of Armstrong recordings ended the following year but the general consensus has always been that no other producer captured Armstrong better in his 1950s late period prime on Handy, Fats, and "Mack the Knife" (not to mention Ambassador Satch, already covered in now out-of-print 2014 Mosaic Records set).

Who's' The Real Ambassdor

In September 1957, Armstrong put his entire career on the line to speak out against injustice in Little Rock, Arkansas, disgusted by Governor Oval Faubus sending in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from integrating Little Rock Central High School. "The way they're treating my people in the south, the government can go to hell," Armstrong told reporters, making headlines around the world. No one else in the jazz world spoke up at that time but two figures were deeply moved by Armstrong's courageous stance: Dave and Iola Brubeck.

The Brubecks immediately began writing what they envisioned as a lavish Broadway musical based around the notion that the "Jazz Ambassadors" the State Department was sending around the world were more important than the political ambassadors, even though many of those same musicians were fighting for their rights in their homeland. The work was originally titled World, Take a Holiday in 1959 and was written to star Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae and the vocal trio of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Unable to get their work off the ground on Broadway, Brubeck used his post-"Take Five" clout to have Columbia record selections from the score of their work, now titled The Real Ambassadors, in 1961.

Armstrong was 60 years old, still recovering from a heart attack, and had recently returned from a grueling State Department tour of Africa that found his mere presence enough to temporary halt a civil war in the Congo. With a lifetime of wisdom at his disposal and mortality now staring him in the eyes, Armstrong brought a gravitas to his work on The Real Ambassadors, whether summoning up deep nostalgia on the touching "Summer Song" or singing with tears in his eyes on "They Say I Look Like God." The result was years ahead of its time, but both Brubeck and Armstrong remained especially proud of it until the end of their respective lives.

Mosaic Records Uncovers Hours of Bonus Material

While assembling this set, the producers were greeted by dozens of surprises on the original session tapes. Because Avakian relied so much on editing and splicing, his albums contained very few complete, unedited takes. This set will make up for that, with over three hours of bonus material, including unissued takes, rehearsals and even studio discussions, creating the most intimate portrait of Armstrong, the All Stars, and Avakian at work in the studios.

And as a tribute to Avakian, we are also including newly remastered transfers of the original albums in their original sequence, giving listeners the rare opportunity to hear the beloved master takes side-by-side with their unedited counterparts.

As with the 1950s material, Mosaic Records is thrilled to present over 75 minutes of material not found on the original album, including previously unissued alternate takes of each one of Armstrong's features, including multiple takes of both "Summer Song" and "They Say I Look Like God," two of the highpoints of not just the album, but Armstrong's entire career.

More Than Just Music

Mosaic Records has long been known for its extraordinary packaging, but this set has gone above and beyond in telling the stories behind the making of the music, including an extremely in-depth 30,000 word essay from Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi and over 40 photos from the collections of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the great majority of which have never been published.

Whether you've listened to this music for 60 years or it is your first time, Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong 1946-1966 is an essential purchase for anyone interested in Satchmo the Great. Like all Mosaic releases, this will be a limited edition set and is guaranteed to be one of our most popular releases so act fast and don't miss out on this definitive document of why Pops will always remain tops.

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

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
The liner notes for this set comes from Ricky Riccardi, the man who is considered one of the leading authorities on Louis Armstrong. Without his encyclopedic knowledge of Armstrong’s life and music, this set would’ve been riddled with errors and void of little known facts and figures. Riccardi has written two best selling books on the life of Armstrong in addition to a number of liner notes including our last Armstrong set (live performances on Columbia and RCA) which can be considered a companion piece to this set. His conversational manner is a compelling read and a perfect compliment to the music.

No need to worry about the audio quality. Via Sony’s archives we were able to get the original RCA Victor metal parts and test pressings of the pre tape material and for the Columbia sessions we had access to all of the reel to reel tapes which were lovingly transferred by Matt Cavaluzzo of Battery Studios. For the Columbia LPs, we kept the order in which they appeared on the original LPs and as for the alternate takes we had our restoration engineer Andreas Meyer restore previous edits and splices.

Photo Copyright © Protected
With clearance from the Louis Armstrong Foundation we have secured a number of never before seen photos that are currently maintained at the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Many of the photographs are from the collection of Jack Bradley, one of Armstrong’s closest confidants and include: Actual photos of the Esquire All American session, big band dates and small group sessions recorded for RCA Victor; photos from the W.C. Handy dates (with some photos taken by bassist Arvell Shaw) as well as the “Satch Plays Fats” LP; and session shots from the Columbia Masterworks LP, “The Real Ambassadors” with quite a number of them actually taken by Bradley.


Click here to write a review

  I dont have this set yet, but
I know my Satch and I know exactly whats on this set!!! I ordered it even though I have all the original recordings both on LP and on CD In the case of Satch Plays Fats & Plays W.C. Handy I even got 2 CDs of each. I bought it because I know and trust both Ricky and Mosaic to surprise me with unissued material and looking at the discography of this set, they did VERY well...
  Daughter and friend of TRUE jazz lovers
This is solely in response to the first review. As Charlies daughter, I can assure you there are no truer jazz lovers than the gentlemen at Mosaic. To suggest otherwise is foolish, at the very least, and insulting to many.
  meanwhile, here on earth....
those of us who are Armstrong fanatics are truly, deeply grateful for the extraordinary team of Ricky Riccardi and Mosaic records.....there is nothing better than this sublime music, in the most glorious sound, with liner and other notes by the most dedicated, beautiful, and all-knowing Pops scholar among all carbon-based life forms, Ricky R!!!! We should all be thankful that we get to exist during a time when folks are willing to give sweat and blood to the cause of preserving and promulgating the pure joyous creations of Pops. We are the beneficiaries of Louis art, and the hard work of Riccardi and Mosaic. Bravo and thank you.
Opinions are like rejected takes. Some of them are rejected for good reason. Sir, please consider reality: Mosaic is not a charity established to gratify your every whim. It is a company that needs to make a profit to survive. Had they issued EVERY note, EVERY scrap, my guess is that the set would have contained double the CDs, at least, double the price, and fewer people would have purchased it. And then Mosaic would have gone out of business, and YOU could blame them for diverging from your imperial decree. And I am not associated with the company in any way except as a loyal purchaser. We should all be BETRAYED as Mosaic has done, Sir. Bless them for their sustained wisdom and generosity.
I want to take this opportunity to apologize for my previous review, by which I mean my stupid, stupid comments about Mosaic betraying Louis Armstrong. Id been pondering my sad existence and my tiny ANYHOW I had a lot of pent-up anger, and sadly, I took it out on this stunning, hi-fidelity limited edition collection. Im going to take some time to reflect on the deep sadness inside of me, and in future I will behave like a true music fan and not like a sad sack of poop. Again, my apologies, in particular to the esteemed Rikki Ricarddi, and please: everybody buy this collection. Get two copies, in case one is stolen by jass-burglars. Thank you for this second chance, and good day to you all.
Some material remains unissued from these sessions since they are similar to either a master or alternate take. Why doesnt Mosaic issue them and let us decide to listen to them or not ? This was the same in the previous Armstrong set. Those who dont like the complete will be bored by this set, those like me whod like to have all recodings of a session will be frustrated. Shame on Mosaic Who do you think you are to decide : this we will include, those will be forever leftovers ? Does Mosaic consider they know better than Satchmo ? All Im expected from Mosaic now is their proud annoucement of an almost 100% non-jazz set to come. May be its time to shut up shop and let place to other TRUE JAZZ LOVERS.

The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia & RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946 - 66
The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia & RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946 - 66
Limited Edition: 3,500 copies
7 CDs - $119.00

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