Los Angeles – November 29, 2022 – More than 50 years after his passing, the legendary Louis Armstrong is back on the charts with the release of his first-ever Christmas album, Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule (Verve/UMe). The collection debuted in the Top 10 across multiple Billboard charts (dated Nov. 26), including Top Holiday Albums where it bowed at No. 9 and launches in the top 10 on Jazz Albums (No. 4), Traditional Jazz Albums (No. 4), Top Album Sales (No. 7), Top Current Album Sales (No. 6) and Vinyl Albums (No. 7). It debuted at No. 122 on the Billboard 200, becoming Armstrong’s highest charting album since Hello Dolly spent six weeks at No. 1 in 1964.
“Louis Armstrong’s first album of holiday-associated songs is an auspicious aural example of why he was a man for all seasons, singing and playing his Promethean trumpet in the cause of happiness,” said Wynton Marsalis, president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation (LAEF). “Whether you’re seven or 70, these evergreen selections featuring the great composer/arranger Benny Carter, and the incomparable vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Velma Middleton are illuminated by Pops’ down-home vocals. His reading of ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ with my New Orleans homeboy, Sullivan Fortner on piano, is a swinging Crescent City Christmas card. If anybody can bring joy to the world, Louis Armstrong can!”
“Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation is thrilled to see this iconic music from our favorite artist earn a spot on today’s music charts, and we are thankful that Verve chose to share this compilation around the world,” said Jackie Harris, LAEF executive director. “When the Foundation transferred the Armstrong archives to Queens College in 1971, we wanted to put his vast collection of music, papers and memories in a place where they could be easily accessed and presented for the world to enjoy. Just seeing how this holiday record is being embraced is proof positive that LAEF’s archival placement is something to celebrate.”
“It’s been an amazing honor to work with our colleagues at UMe and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation team to get Mr. Armstrong’s first holiday album out to the world,” said Jamie Krents, President, Verve, Impulse and Verve Forecast Records. “Seeing him back on the Top 200 albums chart after almost fifty years is an absolute thrill for all of us at Verve.”
“Louis Armstrong’s timeless holiday tunes are among the best of the season and we’re thrilled to bring them all together for his first-ever Christmas album,” said Bruce Resnikoff, President & CEO of UMe. “It’s an incredible achievement that more than 50 years after his passing, Louis Armstrong is back on the charts. It’s a testament to his remarkable talent and a wonderful early holiday gift for everyone.”
Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule, available digitally, on CD, red vinyl and a limited edition vinyl picture disc, collects nearly the entirety of Armstrong’s holiday output and presents the recordings as a cohesive body of work for the first time, marking his first-ever official Christmas album. The 11-track album features six Decca singles from the ‘50s, including “Cool Yule,” “Christmas Night in Harlem,” and the swinging “‘Zat You Santa Claus?;” duets with two of his favorite vocal partners, Velma Middleton (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) and Ella Fitzgerald (“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”); plus a very special gift to fans: a previously unreleased reading of Samuel Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” popularlyknown as “The Night Before Christmas.” Paired with a newly-recorded musical underbed by New Orleans pianist Sullivan Fortner, the poignant recording marks the first new, non-live Armstrong track in more than 20 years and is notable for being the last recording he ever made. Rounding out the collection is the artist’s signature hit, “What a Wonderful World,” which has become something of a yearlong hymn of hope and celebrates its 65th anniversary this year.
“A Visit From St. Nicholas” has been vividly brought to life with a beautiful animated video to usher in the holiday season. Produced and directed by Tom Readdy and Lucy Dawkins at the award-winning creative house Yes Please Productions, the video was animated in a vintage storybook style by animators Sam Shaw, Jac Clinch and Chris Bowles. Watch “A Visit From St. Nicholas” here: https://louisarmstrong.lnk.to/VisitFromStNicholasMV
Since his passing in 1971, Louis Armstrong’s legacy as one of the most beloved and influential jazz artists of all time has only continued to grow, while his enduring catalog of recordings remains timeless. Born in New Orleans, Armstrong (1901-1971) began his career in the ‘20s, bringing his Dixieland background to Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. By the time he became an internationally-renowned star in the ‘40s, the hardworking singer, bandleader, actor, and trumpet player was spending nearly 300 days on tour every year. One constant throughout these shows, however, was the spirit of Christmas.
As a child, Ricky Riccardi writes in the album’s accompanying liner notes, Armstrong “did not have much time for Christmas… life necessitated that he drop out of school and go to work while still a young boy to help support his mother and sister.” After his marriage to Lucille Wilson, however, the holidays took on a new meaning—particularly when the couple was on the road. Riccardi continues, “With the holidays approaching, Lucille bought a small Christmas tree and set it up in their hotel room. According to Lucille, Louis ‘just looked at it and looked at it and told me, ‘This is the first tree I’ve ever had.’ Louis refused to let Lucille take it down and insisted they take it with them on the rest of the tour. The Armstrongs would continue this tradition, Lucille later remarking that they continued setting up ‘a table tree and holiday fixings in whatever hotel in whatever country we happen to be in.’”
Perhaps, it is that love of Christmas that accounts for Armstrong’s somewhat mysterious reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Captured months before his death, on February 26, 1971, the recording was made by the ailing artist, alone on his home reel-to-reel tape recorder. Whether Satchmo was giving fans one final present, or simply finding comfort in his favorite holiday, it is certain that the recording, and this album, will deliver plenty of Christmas magic.
As one of his many acts of generosity, Louis Armstrong established the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, to, in his words, “give back to the world some of the goodness he received.” Founded and funded by Louis and Lucille Armstrong in 1969, LAEF is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the legacies of Louis and Lucille Armstrong throughout the world. Its mission includes supporting musicians, jazz education, performances and programming. LAEF is a living legacy to Louis Armstrong, the most important creative force in the early development and perpetuation of America’s music, jazz. His influence, as an artist and cultural icon, is universal, unmatched, and very much alive today.