My first encounter with the backbeat was the 1958 Louis Armstrong LP “Louis and the Good Book“, which had made it into my father’s rather tiny record collection under at least for me unknown circumstances. I never heard from him when or why that happened. And I never experienced a moment when he listened to that record. It always remained a mystery to me. When my life passed into my youthful phase, I began to feel that the right thing was happening in English language music, but in the early sixties no English songs were played on German radio. So I began to search my surroundings and discovered this musical treasure. For many years, even decades, this record stood somewhere between my many LPs, my father didn’t seem to miss it either, and whenever we met, Louis’ record and I, I wanted to hear it again. It never got boring and never too old-fashioned. But at some point, around the turn of the millennium, after switching to CDs in the second half of the eighties, I decided to pass on the last LPs to interested people because no record player had been in our living room for years.
But I had underestimated the long-term effect of this record, and soon started looking for it in a CD version. At first without success. I didn’t remember the title of this record and in the catalogues I browsed I didn’t find it. It also didn’t show up on the record and CD fairs I regularly visited.
Many years later, it took the development of the Internet, I discovered it by searching for certain songs I remembered. When I finally fished the ordered cd out of the mailbox and unpacked it, I was irritated. I looked at the cover, which was Louis Armstrong in a typical pose, but against a red background. My father’s record, however, had been light blue, and the title had certainly not been “Louis and the Good Book” as the CD cover said. The music, however, was 100% right. So this special music of Louis Armstrong was back in my life. There’s this informal category: I don’t like jazz, but this I like.
These recordings can serve as a prime example. This is played in jazz idiom, but the full concentration is on the song, the message, the drive. No soloistic frippery, but rather short and yet inspired solos, which get to the point immediately, a constant flow of call and response in the vocal parts, which above all preserves and controls the drive of the music at the same time, without drifting into the nirvana of emotional jubilation, as gospel music is normally presented to us. So you could say that Louis Armstrong tries his hand at an impossibility, a contradiction in itself, a kind of gospel that only atheists can produce and that only humanists like Louis Armstrong can sing. Yet this record radiates a warmth of depth. Somewhere I read that Louis Armstrong wasn’t a believer. This wonderful record makes me think this is possible. With it Louis Armstrong does not address himself to a community, but to all people, and one thing can be said for sure. He reached me with his music. Through it I was initiated, a rock, a rhythm & a blues& a soul listener. A true world cultural heritage.
P.S. The mystery of the light blue cover had been solved a few days ago when I first saw the picture in an Ebay offer for the first time in decades. And the title of the record was SWING LOW SWEET SATCHMO. This special record was a release for the German market a few years late, and here nobody could imagine anything like a “Good Book”, so the title had to give way to a new creation. This happy find reminded me that years ago I had already started to write something about this record with four or five sentences. Now I was motivated to finish it.