Ever since he listened to “St. Louis Blues” on Louis Armstrong’s “16 Most Requested Songs” CD, Ricky Riccardi has been obsessed with Pops. Less than a decade after he graduated from Rutgers Newark University with a master’s degree in Jazz History and Research in 2005, he landed his dream job at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, NY.
Prior to working with the Armstrong Museum, Riccardi created the Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong blog in 2007 (dippermouth.blogspot.com), through which he connected with other serious Armstrong collectors around the world. His quest for collecting and sharing Armstrong’s music only intensified when he got settled into his new position as archivist at the Queens College Louis Armstrong House Museum. Ricky, along with his colleagues, continued to dig like an archaeologist, unearthing lost and mostly unheard gems from the largest music and memorabilia collection of any jazz musician in the world. Jazz fans have been rewarded by his treasure hunt which has excavated a gold mine of Satchmo’s music.
Because of his extensive knowledge of Pops, Riccardi, the author of “What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years” (Pantheon 2011), was tapped to write the liner notes and suggested some of the track selections for the CDs in the 2011 “Satchmo: Louis Armstrong, Ambassador of Jazz” CD collection (Universal), packaged in a unique replica of a vintage suitcase filled with reproduction sheet music and a 200 page book written by Richard Havers. Some previously unreleased material was featured on one of the discs.
His latest project is on Mosaic, a specialty record label known for issuing limited edition box sets of jazz music, launched in 1983. This new CD box set was released on May 20, 2014, and co-produced by Riccardi and Scott Wentzel, a Mosaic Records Company producer. “The Columbia and RCA Victor Live Recordings of Louis Armstrong and The All Stars” (#257) is a limited edition of 5000 copies, containing over 160 tracks of interviews and announcements, some of which were previously unissued. The Live Recordings set marks the point when Armstrong pared down his big band, and initially under the musical direction of cornetist Bobby Hackett, led a smaller ensemble.
Many of the recordings on this set were originally produced by longtime Columbia Records producer George Avakian. Some of the tracks have been edited down to the essential performances for a new listening experience, eliminating some of the applause that Avakian dubbed in for the original releases. Co-producer Riccardi wrote comprehensive notes published in a beautiful album sized booklet included with the set, detailing the entire CD collection. It serves as a road map to every track and interview on the 9 CDs, and can be used as a guide to enhance listening pleasure and knowledge of one of the world’s most famous musicians.
This set is a (chrono)logical follow-up to Mosaic’s “The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-46 (#243) released in 1993. It includes 1947 – 1958 live concert recordings and studio sessions with Louis Armstrong and his All Stars.
Among the highlights of this new release is the pivotal NYC Town Hall concert recording from 1947 that featured Louis Armstrong with his newly formed band, a downsizing that lasted for the rest of his career.
Also included are tracks from a concert in Amsterdam that have never been released, the 1947 Carnegie Hall Concert recording of the early All Stars that sat mislabeled in a vault until now, and multiple takes of a late night recording session in Milan, Italy, that has producer George Avakian's added applause stripped away for this CD collection so the All Stars unaltered recording can be heard.
There are previously unissued tracks from Ghana and London's Empress Hall, alternate takes from a recording session in L.A., and the out of print Great Chicago Concert of 1956.
Never released rehearsal takes of the famous 1956 Lewisohn Stadium Concert where Louis Armstrong played St. Louis Blues with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor Leonard Bernstein are found here, revealing that the epic rendition of St. Louis Blues previously released on “Satchmo the Great” was performed three times that day for recording purposes. Armstrong’s Newport Jazz Festival concerts of 1956 and 1958 with previously unissued songs are added treats.
Ricky Riccardi, and Scott Wentzel will be featured at the Opening Reception and Keynote address (Thursday, July 31), and the seminars during the Satchmo Summer Fest (August 1 – 3).
The new Mosaic Set will be available during the festival.