Bigger than Elvis

Louis ArmstrongSome might think 95% of pop artists are irredeemable philistines but Elvis Costello put in a good word for Louis Armstrong last month. He no doubt knows the man and his music, not least because he came from a jazz household, his father a former modern jazz trumpeter who became a singer with the Joe Loss Orchestra of the early 60s. That gig brought a stream of promotional albums into Costello's hands, including Peggy Lee, Nat Cole, Stan Kenton, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Anyway, taking umbrage at the price Universal were asking for a multi-media set of his work - £212 - Costello recommended prospective buyers instead buy the Louis Armstrong set The Ambassador Of Jazz, featured handsomely in our October edition. Costello's website ( says: "If you want to buy something special for your loved one at this time of seasonal giving, we suggest, 'Ambassador Of Jazz' - a cute little imitation suitcase containing ten re-mastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived – Louis Armstrong. The box should be available for under one hundred and fifty American dollars and includes a number of other tricks and treats. Frankly the music is vastly superior."

Mark Gilbert

Your Comments:

Posted by Esler Crawford, 22 December 2011, 16:57 (1 of 5)

I have just bought the 110 Universal set on Louis Armstrong and, frankly, I am a wee bit disappointed. The Sidney Bechet collection "The Complete American Masters 1931-53" is much better value and beautifully annotated. And, have I missed something and just being stupid, but is there no discography included with the Armstrong opus?
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 22 December 2011, 17:13 (2 of 5)

Esler, I think the Armstrong might have been directed at a more generalist market, which might explain lighter annotation etc, and I think it may have been a Universal UK rather than European production. In my experience, European productions have always tended to be more exacting in terms of discography and annotation, perhaps because jazz has always been taken more seriously in Europe. Most of the French productions we see at JJ of, e.g., Django Reinhardt, are exhaustive, scholarly works.
Posted by Esler Crawford, 22 December 2011, 17:16 (3 of 5)

I bought this rather expensive item precisely on Steve Voce's critique in JJ! The article also somewhat obliquely referred to the Armstrong Mosaic collection but I've been having some trouble tracing that - is there any reason for this? There are some great value jazz items now available - for example, I have just bought "The Complete Felsted Mainstream Collection" and it is fantastic value. I don't think the Armstrong Universal thing is good value. Also a great 4-album set of Herb Ellis on Avid. By the way, although I can't play a note, my jazz record collection goes back to 1955 when, as a result of listening to a Brian Rust radio programme, I bought a record of Kid Ory's Muskrat Ramble on 10" vinyl. Still have it somewhere.
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 22 December 2011, 17:23 (4 of 5)

Esler, Mosaic's website currently lists The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46. It may also be available through local dealers such as Crazy Jazz and Music Inn. I think Steve may respond regarding his recommendation.
Posted by Steve Voce, 23 December 2011, 13:17 (5 of 5)

Hello Esler - no, the personnels weren't given. We tried to type them out for the magazine but it rapidly became obvious that they would fill most of the issue. I thought it was a wonderful set, as I've said. A brilliant cross sample of Louis's work, beautifully presented. Most reviews echoed that view. Obviously I don't agree with you. I'd love to give my opinion on the Bechet set if you'd care to send me one. Best wishes, Steve Voce
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