Rifftides reader Marc Myers writes from New York City about the Louis Armstrong video mentioned yesterday:
Fabulous clip of Pops in the 1930s! Pure joy. Two observations: The band appears to be integrated, which is strange if this is indeed the early 1930s. In addition, none of the musicians is reading music. Was this for the sake of filming or simply for added novelty? Clearly, Louis must have rehearsed this group to death to execute
perfectly without charts.
The film was shot during a 1933-34 Armstrong European tour in which he augmented his band with local musicians. I’m fairly certain that “Dinah” and “I Cover the Waterfront” were filmed in Sweden. As for reading music, the arrangements, which were simple background riffs, hardly required it once the musicians had played them a couple of times. Here’s a second installment.
And, since the maestro is on our minds, we may as well take a look at a segment from the 1956 film Satchmo the Great. The narrator is Edward R. Murrow.