Back in December of 2009 I mentioned a fascinating post on The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong, running through the great man’s history with “SJI.” Well just the other day there was news on WWoLA that the site’s proprietor, author Ricky Riccardi, had learned of another version, possibly the last Armstrong take on the tune to have been recorded.
It’s from a concert in November 1967. By then, Armstrong’s health was up and down, and this affected his playing and singing. But as Riccardi says, this performance was a really strong performance. In fact, I’ll just Riccardi say the rest:
Kills me every time. It’s all about the art of storytelling. His first run-through of the melody is so sober but when the variations follow, his intensity is stunning. Never mind his fantastic vocal; the two trumpet choruses at the end stand up with the best of his 1960s work, especially his post-1965 output. Rhythmically, he’s damned slippery for so late in the game. His blue notes go right through the soul, especially in the last chorus as he holds and shakes the guts out of them. When he digs out the triplets, in a bit of a “12th Street Rag” bag, and soon turns them inside out, I can only shake my head. Top it off with a perfectly poised closing cadenza with a build to a final high note….magical stuff.
Agreed. You can hear it, and read Riccardi’s full explanation/background on concert and its context, here.