The Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York has acquired the only known film of the great Satchmo in a recording studio.
According the the museum’s website, it is a 33-minute, 16 mm film from September 30th and October 2nd, 1959, capturing Armstrong in Los Angeles, California. He was recording the album, Satchmo Plays King Oliver, for Audio Fidelity Records. Producer Sid Frey, had the film professionally shot, but then didn’t do anything with it. In fact, he didn’t even tell anyone about it.
For almost 50 years, the film was in private hands. Frey himself died in 1968, and when his wife passed in 2005, one of their children placed the film and various other tapes, albums and family treasures in a storage unit. Another daughter, Andrea Bass, was constantly being asked about the masters, but she had no idea where they were, or if they existed.
One day, Bass was on an Audio Fidelity internet message board, when someone posted, “I have the masters.” It turned out to be a person who buys the contents of abandoned storage units. After lengthy negotiations, Bass was able to strike a deal for the purchase of the items. She turned them over to the museum, along with 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.
Frey’s film captures a relaxed Armstrong at work with the All Stars including jazz luminaries Trummy Young, trombone, Peanuts Hucko, clarinet, Billy Kyle, piano, Mort Herbert, bass and Danny Barcelona, drums.
Museum director, Michael Cogswell, called it “a groundbreaking discovery.” He said, “The film has spent the past six decades in private hands or in a storage locker. Not even the most diligent Armstrong researchers knew it existed.”
For now, the museum, located in the house where Armstrong lived for 28 years, and died in 1971, has released one complete song on its website and social media. Here is the studio recording of “I Ain’t Got Nobody.”