One of the most famous works of jazz music of all time is Louis Armstrong’s iconic song, “West End Blues.” This recording is said to have taken the jazz world by storm. Despite its age and popularity, I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever listened to it from start to finish, which is why I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago.
“West End Blues” was originally composed bandleader and cornet player King Oliver, who originally recorded the song on June 11, 1928. Two and a half weeks later, on June 28, 1928, the 26-year-old Armstrong and his band, the Hot Five, made the most famous recording of the song for the Okeh record label in Chicago. For a song so famous, it’s relatively short, coming in at just over three minutes long.
I was interested to learn that Armstrong isn’t the only performer on the record. While Armstrong plays the trumpet and sings some, at least two other performers helped record the song on June 28, 1928 – piano player Earl Hines and drummer Zutty Singleton. Compared to Armstrong, Hines and Singleton play secondary roles in the performance.
I listened to “West End Blues” from start to finish for the first time on Sunday, and I thought it was great. For an older-style song, I still found it entertaining, and I honestly couldn’t say that I remember ever even hearing part of it. The song also seemed to clip along so fast that it didn’t feel like it took as long as three minutes to listen to.
If you’d like to listen to “West End Blues” for yourself, it’s easy, just do what I did. I went to YouTube and typed in “West End Blues, Louis Armstrong,” and the results brought up a whole page of recordings. I watched three or four of them back-to-back, in effect listening to the song over and over again.
Interestingly, I didn’t find “West End Blues” on many “best of” lists. I think this is because of its age and because it’s from the jazz genre. If it were considered “rock and roll,” it would probably be on all sorts of recommended listening lists.
Of course, now that I’ve listed to “West End Blues,” I’m left wanting to listen to some of Armstrong’s other hit songs. Some of his other hits include “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “Star Dust,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “We Have All the Time in the World,” “What a Wonderful World,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “You Rascal You.” Of these, his recording of “What a Wonderful World” is probably the best known.
In the end, how many of you have listened to “West End Blues”? What did you think about it? What other songs or albums by Louis Armstrong would you recommend? What other great Jazz works would you recommend listening to? Let us know in the comments section below.