How strange that the Soundies catalogue chooses to describe Louis Armstrong as “Old Satchmo.” Louis was in his early 40s, appears far younger on screen, and performs with a youthful vigor and clarity. While this Soundie is not a feature for Louis’s trumpet, his brief solo work is majestic, and “Old Sathmo” just doesn’t work here!
Louis took his orchestra – it was actually Luis Russell’s band, fronted by Satch – into the Fine Arts recording studio on April 20, 1942 where he and the band waxed four titles. “Swingin’ On Nothing” was a Sy Oliver arrangement written in collaboration with Billy Moore, Jr. While it is a swinging piece, it is somewhat uncharacteristic of the band in that the vocal is presented by George Washington, a trombonist in the band, and Vhelma Middleton. The band swings, driven by a particularly fine rhythm section. In addition to Russell at the piano, the section includes Lawrence Lucie, guitar; Johnny Simmons, string bass; and the great Sid Catlett on drums.
Louis’s trumpet is on better display in other Soundies in the series, which is why this is the least-known of the four. On the other hand, Satch’s presence on screen, and the sound of his horn, are compelling. This is a Soundie worth revisiting.