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Category:    Home > Reviews > Vocal > Jazz > Standards > Showtunes > Musical > Documentary > Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops (1957)/Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Cheek To Cheek - The Complete Duet Sessions (1946 - 1957/Universal/Verve CD Sets)/Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense (200

Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops (1957)/Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Cheek To Cheek - The Complete Duet Sessions (1946 - 1957/Universal/Verve CD Sets)/Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense (2009/IndiePix DVD)/Oscar Peterson Plays (1952 - 1954/Universal/Verve CD Set)



DVD Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: B-/B-/B/C- Main Programs: B/B+/B/B+



Now for a much-needed dose of Jazz and vocals...



We start with Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops (1957), featuring four albums he made for the great Verve Records label... in one month! Yes, not just a single album, but four of them. It goes without saying that Armstrong is one of the greatest musicians and singers in music history and certainly in all music ever produced in the United States. He was also way ahead of his time in wanting the sonic quality of his work to be the best it could possibly be at a time when many were happy they could get a recording done just well enough to be complete. The contents of the albums are as follows, including outtakes and a fourth album (one of the first of its kind) that is made of outtakes and alternate cuts and is STILL is a remarkable listen, as a master and genius in music who loves music shows his grasp, understanding and command of the artform like no one else of his time or generation, the greatness of the standards and being as intimate as possible in delivering them...


CD1 - I've Got The World On A String

  1. When Your Love Has Gone

  2. You're The Top

  3. You Turned The Tables On Me

  4. Don't Get Around Much Anymore

  5. Little Girl Blue

  6. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

  7. We'll Be Together Again

  8. I've Got The World On A String

  9. Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me

  10. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues

  11. You Turned The Tables On Me stereo master take

  12. Little Girl Blue stereo master take

  13. You Turned The Tables On Me alternate take (1) w/false start

  14. You Turned The Tables On Me partial alternate take (3)

  15. You Turned The Tables On Me inserts & rehearsal

  16. I've Got the World On A String false start/alternate take (2)

  17. I Gotta Rig


CD2 - Louis Under the Stars

  1. Top Hat, White Tie and Tails

  2. Have You Met Miss Jones?

  3. I Only Have Eyes For You

  4. Stormy Weather

  5. Home (When Shadows Fall)

  6. East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)

  7. You're Blase

  8. Body And Soul

  9. East Of The Sun (and West of the Moon) stereo master take

  10. Body And Soul stereo master take

  11. Stormy Weather breakdown/alternate take (2)

  12. Stormy Weather alternate take (3)

  13. Stormy Weather breakdown (4)

  14. Stormy Weather breakdown, insert take (5)


CD3 - Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson

  1. That Old Feeling

  2. Let's Fall In Love

  3. I'll Never Be The Same

  4. Blues In The Night (My Momma Done Told Me)

  5. How Long Has This Been Going On?

  6. I Was Doing All Right

  7. What's New?

  8. Moon Song

  9. Just One Of Those Things

  10. There's No You

  11. You Go To My Head

  12. Sweet Lorraine

  13. Blues In The Night rehearsal (1)

  14. Let's Fall In Love alternate take (1)

  15. Let's Fall In Love alternate take (2)



CD4 - A Day With Satchmo

  1. Makin' Whoopee breakdown

  2. Makin' Whoopee alternate take (1)

  3. Makin' Whoopee alternate take (2)

  4. Makin' Whoopee breakdown (3)

  5. Makin' Whoopee master take (4)

  6. I Get A Kick Out Of You

  7. I Get A Kick Out Of You breakdown and studio chatter

  8. I Get A Kick Out Of You alternate take (4)

  9. I Get A Kick Out Of You breakdown (5)

  10. I Get A Kick Out Of You false start (6)

  11. I Get A Kick Out Of You false start (7)

  12. I Get A Kick Out Of You master take (8)

  13. I Get A Kick Out Of You breakdowns and false starts (9-12)

  14. I Get A Kick Out Of You alternate take (13)

  15. Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) breakdowns (1 and 2)

  16. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) alternate take

  17. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) master take (4)

  18. Willow Weep For Me false start (1)

  19. Willow Weep For Me alternate take (2)

  20. Willow Weep For Me breakdown and false start (3)

  21. Willow Weep For Me alternate take (4)

  22. Willow Weep For Me false start (5)

  23. Willow Weep For Me breakdown (6)

  24. Willow Weep For Me master take (7)



Track 2 on CD 1, 4 on CD 2 (with alternates), and 4, 5 & 7 on CD 3 are particularly striking as they are personal favorites I like by other artists and classics, yet Armstrong finds a way to make them his own in a way that is as about as definitive as they could be, though being classics and standards, never always get to be the definitive song of one (though Lena Horne and 'Stormy Weather' are permanently associated with each other and rightly so, Armstrong is still aware of that doing such great work here.


Even of you like some songs more than others, this is all top rate and a great collection for those who are huge fans or only know him from a few songs. This all holds up remarkably well and some of it is just timeless.



The same can be said for our next CD set that also includes Armstrong and revisits some of his work we covered before. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Cheek To Cheek - The Complete Duet Sessions (1946 - 1957) also comes from the Verve catalog and shows off on of the greatest series of music and vocal collaborations in music history. This great set includes...


Disc 1

The Decca Singles
1. You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)
2. The Frim Fram Sauce
3. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
4. Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No!)
5. Necessary Evil
6. Oops!
7. Who Walks In When I Walk Out
8. Would You Like To Take A Walk (Sump'n Good'll Come From That)

Ella and Louis
9. Can't We Be Friends
10. Isn't This A Lovely Day
11. Moonlight In Vermont
12. They Can't Take That Away From Me
13. Under A Blanket Of Blue
14. Tenderly
15. A Foggy Day
16. Stars Fell On Alabama
17. Cheek to Cheek
18. The Nearness of You
19. April In Paris


Disc 2

Ella and Louis Again
1. Don't Be That Way
2. Makin' Whoopee
3. They All Laughed
4. Comes Love
5. Autumn In New York
6. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)
7. Stompin' At The Savoy
8. I Won't Dance
9. Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You
10. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
11. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)
12. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
13. Willow Weep For Me
14. I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
15. A Fine Romance
16. Ill Wind
17. Love Is Here To Stay


Disc 3

Ella and Louis Again (continued)
1. I Get A Kick Out Of You
2. Learnin' The Blues


Porgy And Bess
3. Overture
4. Summertime
5. I Wants To Stay Here
6. My Man's Gone Now
7. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'
8. The Buzzard Song
9. Bess, You Is My Woman Now
10. It Ain't Necessarily So
11. What You Want Wid Bess?
12. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing
13. Oh, Doctor Jesus
14. Medley: Here Come Da Honey Man/Crab Man/Oh, Dey's So Fresh And Fine
15. There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York
16. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess?
17. Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way


Disc 4: Bonus Tracks

Ella and Louis Live
1. The Memphis Blues (Live from The Chesterfield Show) with Bing Crosby *
2. You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart) (Live at the Hollywood Bowl)
3. Undecided (Live at the Hollywood Bowl)

Decca Extras
4. You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart) false start and breakdown
5. The Frim Fram Sauce false starts/takes 1 and 2 *
6. The Frim Fram Sauce alternate take

Ella and Louis Again Extras
7. Makin' Whoopee take 1
8. Makin' Whoopee take 2
9. I Get A Kick Out Of You take 2 (run-through) and take 3 (breakdown)
10. I Get A Kick Out Of You take 4
11. I Get A Kick Out Of You take 13
12. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) take 3
13. Willow Weep For Me take 4

Porgy And Bess Extras
14. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' (mono master)
15. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing (mono master)
16. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? takes 5 and 6
17. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? take 7
18. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? take 8 *
19. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? take 9 *
20. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? insert for take 9 *
21. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? take 10 *
22. Red-Headed Woman instrumental *
* Previously unreleased


For your reference, we covered a later album that combined tracks from the two studio duet albums here in the superior Super Audio CD format with my thoughts at the time, which I still back 100%...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10100/Ella+Fitzgerald+&+Louis+Armstrong+%E2%80%93


Besides more classics and standards to enjoy by two of the best in the history of the business, the chemistry is just incredible on every single track. The controversy here would now be how politically incorrect or possible racist Porgy and Bess is now deemed to be (feature film included), but singers like Barbra Streisand has more than once liberated the songs from that over her career (not even trying to sound 'black' or the like, bringing out how strong some of the songs are) and in particular, I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' and Summertime more than stand out on their own as classics that exceed any issues with the original work.


We'll cover the technical performance of these sets after we look at this Jazz DVD and one more relevant CD set...



Perhaps the ultimate Jazz documentary, or at least one of the better ones that I've seen in recent years, is Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense (2009). The documentary puts you into the minds of several very talented jazz musicians, all of which have their own unique style and unbelievable musical talent.


Featuring interviews with 75 jazz musicians, artists, writers, and others, archival footage, and live recordings culled from 25 hours of concerts, Icons Among Us is a great watch for musicians AND music fans that will entertain and likely enlighten you as these artists attempt to define what Jazz is.


The film stars Brian Blade, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Paul De Barros, Herbie Hancock (see the new River: The Joni Letters CD set elsewhere on this site), and many others.


Presented in anamorphically enhanced standard definition with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio mix, the film looks and sounds fine for DVD but could obviously be improved on Blu-ray. The film is interestingly made and directed by Michael Rividira, Lars Larson, and Peter J. Voigt.


Special Features include...


Live Performances


Icons' First Frames: Living Daylights Mardi Gras Party February 9, 2002


Profiles on JazzReach, Earshot Jazz, and Jazz Foundation of America


Production Slideshow



So last but absolutely not least is Oscar Peterson Plays (1952 - 1954) that also comes form the Verve catalog and worthy of Armstrong's output above (Peterson worked on one of those albums above), has the all-time legendary pianist recording TEN albums in only THREE years! Each are singularly focused on one composer and offers track-by-track, Peterson's classy, beautiful, smooth, instrumental interpretations of some of the most important music ever written. The bonus is that some of the albums of of composers who need rediscovery quickly. These amazing albums, which became staples of Jazz and Adult Contemporary radio for decades, include...


Disc: 1

Oscar Peterson Plays Cole Porter

1. What Is This Thing Called Love?
2. Begin The Beguine
3. I've Got You Under My Skin
4. Love For Sale
5. Let's Do It
6. I Love You
7. So Near And Yet So Far
8. Just One Of Those Things
9. In The Still Of The Night
10. Night And Day
11. Every Time We Say Goodbye
12. Anything Goes


Oscar Peterson Plays Irving Berlin
13. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
14. Isn't This A Lovely Day
15. Easter Parade
16. How Deep Is The Ocean (How High Is The Sky)
17. Remember
18. The Song Is Ended
19. Blue Skies
20. If I Had You
21. Cheek To Cheek
22. Alexander's Ragtime Band
23. Say It Isn't So
24. Always


Disc: 2

Oscar Peterson Plays George Gershwin

1. The Man I Love
2. Fascinating Rhythm
3. It Ain't Necessarily So
4. Somebody Loves Me
5. Strike Up The Band
6. I've Got A Crush On You
7. I Was Doing All Right
8. 'S Wonderful - The Oscar Peterson Trio
9. Oh Lady Be Good
10. I Got Rhythm
11. A Foggy Day
12. Love Walked In


Oscar Peterson Plays Duke Ellington

13. John Hardy's Wife
14. Sophisticated Lady
15. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
16. Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin'
17. In A Mellow Tone
18. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)
19. Prelude To A Kiss
20. Cotton Tail
21. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
22. Take The "A" Train
23. Rockin' In Rhythm
24. Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me


Disc: 3

Oscar Peterson Plays Jerome Kern

1. The Way You Look Tonight
2. Pick Yourself Up

3. Yesterdays
4. I Won't Dance
5. Long Ago And Far Away
6. Lovely To Look At
7. A Fine Romance
8. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
9. Ol Man River
10. Bill
11. The Song Is You
12. Can't Help Loving That Man


Oscar Peterson Plays Richard Rodgers

13. This Can't Be Love
14. It Might As Well Be Spring
15. Bewitched
16. Johnny One Note
17. Surrey With The Fringe On Top
18. The Lady Is A Tramp
19. Blue Moon
20. Thou Swell
21. Isn't It Romantic
22. Manhattan
23. Lover


Disc: 4

Oscar Peterson Plays Vincent Youmans

1. Tea For Two
2. Time On My Hands
3. I Know That You Know
4. Sometimes I'm Happy
5. Great Day
6. More Than You Know
7. Hallelujah!
8. Carioca
9. Without A Song

10. I Want To Be Happy


Oscar Peterson Plays Harry Warren

11. Nagasaki
12. Serenade In Blue
13. Lullaby Of Broadway
14. I Found A Million Dollar Baby In A Five And Ten Cent Store
15. Would You Like To Take A Walk
16. I'll String Along With You
17. I Only Have Eyes For You
18. You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
19. You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me
20. Chattanooga Choo Choo
21. You're My Everything


Disc: 5

Oscar Peterson Plays Harold Arlen
1. As Long As I Live
2. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
3. Come Rain Or Come Shine
4. Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive
5. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
6. I've Got The World On A String
7. It's Only A Paper Moon
8. That Old Black Magic
9. Let's Fall In Love
10. Stormy Weather
11. Blues In The Night
12. Over the Rainbow


Oscar Peterson Plays Jimmy McHugh

  1. When My Sugar Walks Down The Street

  2. I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me

  3. On The Sunny Side Of The Street

  4. Don't Blame Me

  5. I'm In The Mood For Love

  6. I Can't Give You Anything But Love

  7. I Couldn't Sleep A Wink Last Night

  8. Digga Digga Do

  9. You're A Sweetheart



All amazing and not even his entire output, but then Jazz was always seen as American music, the next great music after Classical (world music notwithstanding) and with complexity and nuance Pop, Rock and Soul supposedly did not have. That's part of another series of debates that will not fit in any review, but that was the way it was first seen and felt.


I am thrilled all three of these sets arrived in print, are must-hear releases for all serious music fans and everyone should hear all of this material at least once because it really is that important.


As for playback quality, all three CDs are, of course, PCM 16/44.1 2.0 releases usually with monophonic tracks, but the stereophonic tracks are noted on each list above. In a move that will make purists happy, background tape hiss has not been removed, but in all three cases, it makes the recordings sound older than they need to. I can understand the monophonic tracks only sounding so good due to age, but the previous SA-CD of Fitzgerald/Armstrong duets (despite minor compression issues) sounded much better as the remaster gets rid of the hiss and brings their vocals forward. Many of the mono tracks are harsh at the upper edge of the sound range (not an issue on the SA-CD we covered) and even some outtakes can have that issue. On the other hand, the stereophonic tracks and outtakes (possibly because they are newer transfers than the original album tracks?) can sound amazing, incredible, fresh and deliver surprising fidelity that will impress even audiophiles.


Vinyl fans notwithstanding, as the harsher tracks might sound better on those platters to some extent, Universal Music actually issued three audiophile-grade discs of the Fitzgerald/Armstrong duets we would still like to hear at some point. Ella and Louis was issued in the SA-CD format in both the U.S. and Japan, while both that album and Ella and Louis Again were issued on a single all-audio Blu-ray that Universal inexplicably discontinued a little while ago and that is a big mistake, unless they intend a new remaster of both albums or the latter.


We look forward to catching up to those and other titles from both singers down the line, but these CD sets are fine and all three have their extra tracks as noted above, plus nicely illustrated booklets with original liner notes for each.


That will give fans and music lovers plenty to cover.



- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Icons)

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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