Louis Armstrong in Prague
My ears pricked up recently when a guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs selected as one of the songs he’d like to be stranded with a track by Louis Armstrong – recorded live in Prague. The LP Louis Armstrong in Prague: Lucerna 1965 was extremely familiar from the racks of the city’s secondhand shops. But I had never picked up a copy.
Otherwise, frankly, the LP is by no means a classic. Satchmo (from Satchel Mouth) was already an elder statesman in his mid 60s, and this was after the phase in which he did smoother re-recordings of several of his greatest numbers. But still, it is an exciting document of what must have been one of the events of the decade for local music fans.
Armstrong was here for an entire week and it has to have been a gigantic deal to have such a much-loved megastar and musical originator in town. This was after the darkest period of Communist rule, though the Prague Spring was still a few years into the future.
The most charming moment of the show comes at the very end, when Louis Armstrong thanks the people of Prague for their hospitality and praises the city’s jazz clubs. Prague, he says, in that amazing, rich speaking voice, will remain in the band's hearts for as long as they live.
Speaking of similar voices, I was struck by a familiar sound when I was walking across Old Town Square the other day and came upon a small Dixieland band entertaining tourists.