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Dan Morgenstern and Louis Armstrong

Dan Morgenstern's relationship with Louis Armstrong

Whether it was a serious lecture at the Library of Congress about Lil and Louis, or a couple hours finishing off a bottle of Slivovitz Plum brandy together, Dan’s special friendship with Louis Armstrong is forever preserved with his intimate portraits of the man.
After florid speeches by the world’s greatest jazz trumpets at the famous Armstrong tribute at Newport, Dan remembers that Dizzy set it all straight with just 5 words, “… without him, … there’s no me.” And while the critics jabbed each other over the “moldy fig” controversies, Dan cleared it up saying that it didn’t exist even among the musicians. Diz and Louis were always the best of friends. 

Dan Morgenstern with Louis Armstrong record


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

"Struttin' With Some Barbecue."   Artist: Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
Released: 1928                 

Dan Morgenstern admiring a 78 record

Louis Armstrong "Rare Items" album cover

  Read Dan Morgenstern's Liner Notes


"Fresh Air" on NPR did a beautiful music review upon this release:

The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-46) 

Published on Mar 23, 2009

Dan discusses Louis Armstrong's recordings with Decca. Dan wrote an essay for the album notes, and received a Grammy for his writing in 2010.

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 records that would turn him into an international sensation.

This is the first-ever major retrospective of this period. For the most part, the recordings represent Louis 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 stylists.

Jump into this treasury 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 trumpeter and vocalist are first rate. The big band 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.

For this release, we went back to the original sources - Decca's metal parts and lacquer discs - and lovingly restored and remastered everything to Mosaic's exacting standards. Our seven-CD 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. 

Dan and Louis enjoy a long Chat with Slivovitz

Louis and Dan w Slivovitz