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"That Bop." With his present six-man outfit, the All-Stars, and 267-lb. Singer Velma Middleton, he was playing to dine & dance audiences of 1,000 a night last week in Vancouver, B.C. Most of his band, like Armstrong, had been musically famous for more than two decades, though they were only in their early 405; Trombonist Jack Teagarden, Pianist Earl ("Father") Hines, Clarinetist Barney Bigard and Drummer Sidney ("Big Sid") Catlett. The only youngster, 25-year-old Arvell Shaw played bass fiddle. When Louis and his All-Stars swung into West End Blues, Confessin' or Rockin' Chair, it was hard for oldtimers to believe that Louis or jazz were ever better.
Louis gives the back of his hand to the latest variety of jazz, bebop (or bop). The boppers, who know the way he feels, tend to speak of him in the past tense. "Nowadays," says Negro Bop Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, "we try to work out different rhythms and things that they didn't think about when Louis Armstrong blew. In his day all he did was play strictly from the souljust strictly from his heart. You got to go forward and progress. We study."
Louis likes playing from the soul. Says he: "That bop is nice to listen to for a while but not all night. It's not jazzall them variationsit's more an exercise. You've got to have that lead, too . . ."
"Just a Synopsis." With his present (and fourth) wife, pretty onetime show girl Lucille ("Brown Sugar") Wilson, Satchmo makes his "regular home" in a twelve-room house in a mixed white-and-colored neighborhood in Corona, borough of Queens, New York City.
No sophisticate, he shows signs of becoming a big-city hypochondriac, although he denies it. His dressing table is littered with a weird assortment of pills, salves, balms and medicines with which he experiments constantly. But the big-city preoccupation with racial problems is not in his key. He says: "I know where the discrimination is, so I avoid those cities. Anyone who goes huntin' for discrimination is a glutton for punishment." A simple man whose main life is his music, he has occasional fits of sullenness and sometimes falls into a temperamental rage, but usually he is gay, good-humored and gabby about small things.
He is meticulously neat, and says, "Ever since I was a kid, I've spent my last nickels to keep my shirts clean. Musicians are lazy, don't seem to care how they look. Some of them are dirty. I don't hold with that." Last week in Vancouver, he had 16 $150 suits hanging in his hotel-room closet.
On the road, his schedule has long ago hardened into routine. After the show, which is usually over between 2 and 4 a.m., he goes out for a "snack," accompanied by Brown Sugar, his valet, "Doctor" Pugh, and whatever old friends and acquaintances want to join the party. The snack usually comes to a huge portion of ham & eggs, with potatoes, hot biscuits, hominy grits and coffee on the side. When complimented on his appetite, Satchmo replies: "Man, that's just a synopsis."