News — April 21, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Only known footage of Louis Armstrong in studio turns up in storage locker


Maybe those trash reality TV shows aren’t completely full of BS after all? In an unbelievable find, a video has emerged of jazz great Louis Armstrong, the only known film of him in a recording studio, and it was discovered in a storage facility. louis-armstrong

The 13-minutee film, shot in 16mm format, shows footage of Armstrong recording his 1959 album, Satchmo Plays King Oliver in Los Angeles.


According to The Guardian, the record’s producer Sid Frey had the film professionally shot but neglected to do anything with the footage, or even telling anyone. In fact, according to Michael Cogswell, the New York City museum’s executive director, “not even the most diligent Armstrong researchers knew it existed.”


The film’s recording session was made just after Armstrong appeared on Bing Crosby’s television special. It shows a relaxed Armstrong in a short-sleeved plaid shirt and shorts blowing his trumpet and singing with his All Stars band. He looks healthy despite a heart attack a few months earlier.



Frey’s daughter, Andrea Bass, who helped the museum acquire the film, said she first learned about its existence in a chatroom discussion of her father’s company. Frey died in 1968. Bass said that after their mother died in 2005, her sister placed the Audio Fidelity tapes, films, albums and personal family items in a storage facility – unbeknownst to her.


“People were always asking me where the masters were,” said Bass, a former marketing director. “I went on one of these message boards about Audio Fidelity and someone said: ‘I have the masters.’” It turned out to be a person who buys the contents of abandoned storage facilities.


Bass said she was unable at that time to purchase the Louis Armstrong material, but the man contacted her again six months ago, and this time they struck a deal.


Discussions with the museum were initiated and they agreed to take the piece of history off her hands. Cogswell called the find a “groundbreaking discovery before announcing the acquisition on Wednesday. In addition to the tape, the museum also acquired Frey’s master reel-to-reel tapes for Louie and the Dukes of Dixieland, which Armstrong recorded in 1960 for Audio Fidelity at Webster Hall in New York City.


The museum will make one song available on its website and has plans to make the full film publicly available at a later date. housed in Corona, Queens, in the modest brick building where Armstrong lived for 28 years and died in 1971. It has the largest publicly held archival collection devoted to a jazz musician in the world.