Sunday, October 30, 2022

A holiday gift, delivered 50 years after its creation

A couple of months before his death on July 6, 1971, beloved jazz trumpeter and popular entertainer Louis Armstrong made what turned out to be his final recording. It's never been heard by the public until now

Armstrong turned on the reel-to-reel tape recorded in his home in the Corona section of Queens NY recorded a nostalgic spoken-word version of the classic Samuel Clement Moore poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Nobody is certain of his motivation. As a busy, traveling artist, he never had much time for Christmas merriment.

But this long-neglected recording is now the fitting finale on Armstrong's only Christmas album, which was released this week. Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule was released in digital formats via the Verve label. CD and red vinyl editions will follow on November 11.

The 11-track album includes the Armstrong recitation of Moore's poem, plus most of the holiday-related singles and duets that he recorded over the years into one cohesive holiday project.

They include six Decca singles from the ‘50s, including “Cool Yule,” “Christmas Night in Harlem,” and one of my longtime favorites, “‘Zat You Santa Claus?” The duets team Armstrong with two of his favorite vocal partners. Velma Middleton joins him on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Ella Fitzgerald joins him on “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” Some of these tracks popped up on annual Christmas jazz compilations that many labels produced through the years featuring a variety of artists.

Other tracks include "Christmas in New Orleans,"White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” "Moments to Remember” and Armstrong's signature hit, “What A Wonderful World,"
the orchestral gem arranged and conducted by pianist Tommy Goodman 65 years ago.

The album ends with “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Armstrong's poignant reading is underscored beautifully by New Orleans native Sullivan Fortner's sometimes-whimsical piano accompaniment.

If you're in the mood for some holiday spirit, you can check it out right here.