WTF: Louis Armstrong Sings Pharaoh Sanders

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong and his Friends
Flying Dutchman :  1970

LA, vocals; Leon Thomas, vocals, percussion; James Spaulding, flute; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Sam Brown, guitar; Frank Owens, piano; Richard Davis, bass; George Duvivier, bass; Gene Golden, congas; Bernard Purdie, drums, plus strings.

Satch plays Fats, sure — but Satch sings Sanders?!?!

Following our previous Pharaoh Sander’s post, we couldn’t resist posting this outrageous oddity: Louis Armstrong singing Pharaoh’s freak hit “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” He even duets with Leon Thomas. Check your calendars: This ain’t no April Fool’s!

We tend to think of Armstrong and Sanders as inhabiting entirely different universes, but one of the interesting things about the late 60s and early 70s was the generational overlap of so many key jazz figures. But rarely have worlds collided in more unexpected and almost hallucinatory ways.

The mere concept of this track smacks of the most clueless sort of commercial pandering. For some reason, it brings to mind Jackie Gleason’s LSD trip in Skidoo (check out the Youtube clip here). Did Louis really need this so late in his career? Initially, we wondered if producer Bob Thiele didn’t foist this track on Armstrong at gunpoint.

But… but… but… the surprising thing is that the music isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s an interesting concoction. There’s a solid arrangement by Oliver Nelson and check out the list of stellar musicians above. And to his credit, Louis doesn’t seem nearly as out of place as you might imagine. Hell, it’s only four minutes – listen for yourself and tell us your reactions.

While you’re contemplating unlikely Armstrong exploits, take a look at this recent book of Louis’s fascinating collage artwork.

A tip of the hat to the Jazz Supreme site for spotlighting this track.

What are some of your cherished WTF jazz moments?

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