Watch the Earliest Known Footage of Louis Armstrong Performing Live in Concert (Copenhagen, 1933)

In Octo­ber of 1933, Louis Arm­strong and his “Harlem Hot Band” arrived in Copen­hagen, Den­mark for a series of eight shows at the Lyric Park the­ater. Thou­sands of fans mobbed the rail­way sta­tion, break­ing through police bar­ri­cades and climb­ing on top of train cars just to get a glimpse of the great jazz trum­peter as he stepped from his train.

Nowa­days the Copen­hagen vis­it is remem­bered because it was the first time Arm­strong was ever filmed in con­cert. The Dan­ish direc­tor Hol­ger Mad­sen recruit­ed Arm­strong to appear in his fea­ture film Køben­havn, Kalund­borg Og -?. Arm­strong had made a cameo appear­ance in a 1931 film called Ex Flame, and on a sound stage the fol­low­ing year in two short films–a Para­mount Pic­tures fea­turette and a Bet­ty Boop car­toon–but the Copen­hagen footage is the ear­li­est of Arm­strong play­ing live with his band.

The per­for­mance was filmed on Octo­ber 21, 1933 at the Lyric Park. There was no audi­ence in the the­ater dur­ing the film­ing. The shots of peo­ple applaud­ing were made at a dif­fer­ent time and spliced into the scene. Arm­strong and his band play three songs: “I Cov­er the Water­front,” “Dinah” and “Tiger Rag.” The nine-man band includes Arm­strong on trum­pet and vocals, Charles D. John­son on trum­pet, Peter DuCon­gé on clar­inet and alto sax­o­phone, Hen­ry Tyree on alto sax­o­phone, Fletch­er Allen on tenor sax­o­phone, Lionel Guimarez on trom­bone, Jus­to Baret­to on piano, Ger­man Arango on bass and Oliv­er Tines on drums.

Arm­strong is bril­liant in the film. His exu­ber­ant show­man­ship and vir­tu­os­i­ty are strik­ing, and his unmis­tak­able genius for phrasing–the way his trum­pet and voice sound like two sides of the same dis­tinc­tive instrument–remind us of why many peo­ple still con­sid­er Arm­strong the great­est jazz musi­cian of all time.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Louis Arm­strong and His All Stars Live in Bel­gium, 1959: The Full Show

New Jazz Archive Fea­tures Rare Audio of Louis Arm­strong and Oth­er Leg­ends Play­ing in San Fran­cis­co

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