Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an "inventive" cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly recognizable deep and distinctive gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also greatly skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics). Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong's influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to "cross over", whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation during the Little Rock Crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him socially acceptable access to the upper echelons of American society that were highly restricted for a black man.
A treasure of outstanding jazz was recorded for the U.S. Government during World War II and distributed throughout the world on V-Discs but the single session that stands out is the first one on this record, issued complete and in superb fidelity for the first time. The session began at midnight, December 7, 1944 and ended three hours later. On all but two tracks, Jack Teagarden is not only featured, but turns in some of the most inspired playing of his long career. Louis Armstrong, a surprise visitor to the session was in top form also. This was one of the few opportunities Louis had in more than a decade to record with this kind of group. Here we have a bunch of fine musicians, all performing at the peak of their powers. Shortly after the December 1944 session, Metronome editor George Simon arranged a second midnight V-Disc session; this time at the Vanderbilt Theatre on West 58th St. in New York. The quality of both the music and the sound on these two sessions should please all collectors acquiring this outstanding CD.