Home / China / Life

Louis Armstrong's only known film found in storage unit

By Associated Press in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-22 08:07

The Louis Armstrong House Museum has acquired the only known film of the great jazz musician in a recording studio. The footage was discovered in a storage facility.

The 33-minute, 16 mm film captures Armstrong recording his 1959 album Satchmo Plays King Oliver in Los Angeles for Audio Fidelity. The record producer, Sid Frey, had the film professionally shot but wound up not doing anything with it or telling anyone about it.

Michael Cogswell, the New York City museum's executive director, calls it "a groundbreaking discovery". The museum announced the acquisition on Wednesday.

"The film has spent the past six decades in private hands or in a storage locker. Not even the most diligent Armstrong researchers knew it existed," Cogswell says.

Frey's daughter, Andrea Bass, who helped the museum acquire the film, says she first learned about its existence in a chat room discussion of her father's company.

Frey, the founder of Audio Fidelity, was known in the industry as Mr Stereo for being the first to release a commercially distributed stereo recording, she says. He died in 1968.

And, Bass says after their mother died in 2005, her sister placed the Audio Fidelity tapes, films, albums and personal family items in a storage facility - unbeknown to her.

"People were always asking me where the masters were," says Bass, a former marketing director. "I went on one of these message boards about Audio Fidelity and someone said, 'I have the masters.'"

It turned out to be a person who buys the contents of abandoned storage facilities.

The film's recording session was made just after Armstrong appeared on Bing Crosby's television special. It shows a relaxed Armstrong in a short-sleeved plaid shirt and shorts blowing his trumpet and singing with his All Stars band. He looks healthy despite a heart attack a few months earlier.

Much of the film focuses on Armstrong and the All Stars working out a routine for I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll. Armstrong didn't have sheet music for the song so he improvised each take with "a new vocal made up of a mixture of dazzling scat singing", the museum says.

The film ends with a complete take of Jelly Roll Blues, a tribute to jazz composer Jelly Roll Morton.

"Capturing Louis in the act of recording is a unique and welcome discovery augmenting what we know about his artistry in an invaluable manner, proving that he was a leader in the true musical sense of that word," says Dan Morgenstern, a former director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.

For now, the museum will post one complete song on its website and social media.

 Louis Armstrong's only known film found in storage unit

A Louis Armstrong post card is part of an exhibition at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York. AP

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349