This is the only Jubilee I’ll be celebrating this weekend:
…Though I have a horrible feeling that Louis himself (like Duke Ellington) would have been only to pleased to honour Her Maj…
Anyway, here’s what the late Dick Sudhalter wrote (in his book ‘Stardust Melody’) about Louis’ performance of Hoagy’s song on a highly productive day in the studio; read it as you listen:
Armstrong recorded “Jubilee” for Decca on January 12, 1938, backed by Luis Russell’s orchestra, and his performance stands out for a great jazzman’s ability to ennoble an otherwise pedestrian song through majesty of conception and execution. After making short (if enjoyable) work of Adams’s generic “let’s all have a good time” lyric, Louis points his Selmer trumpet at the heavens and, lofted atop by Paul Barbarin’s drumming, rides ‘Jubilee’ into high orbit.
He spends one chorus paraphrasing the melody over band riffs, then intones complementary replies as Russell’s horns punch out the melody in the second. Taking over at the bridge, he works to a final, soaring, transcendent high concert F. The balance and wisdom of these seventy-four bars defy explanation or analysis: what divine intuition dictated that he hold the concert G in bar 26 of the final chorus (corresponding to the word “of” in the phrase “carnival of joy”) for three and one half beats, rather than the gone-in-a-blink eighth note assigned to it by the lyric, before landing emphatically on the F for “joy?” Only a a peerless aesthetic sense could have understood the effect of that move, one among many, on the emotional density of its phrase. The word “genius,” so devalued in this age of inflated superlatives, surely finds its rightful application in such details…
Sudhalter also wrote (in his notes to the American Decca CD Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra: Heart Full Of Rhythm):
Of Jubilee little need be said. The Carmichael tune has never been played or sung better. The wisdom, balance and vision of Louis’s two choruses places them almost beyond musical analysis: placement of phrases, a tip-of-the fingers knowledge of when to hold back and not play; understanding of those moments when one long note will do the expressive work of many short ones.”