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Dec 19

Louis Armstrong: “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?”


I’m not a trumpet guy, so maybe it’s a holiday type of thing to do, but why is Louis in the middle of removing a valve?

Few performers have ever embodied the spirit of Christmas, year-round, the way that Louis Armstrong did. His seemingly eternal good nature and ever-present smile seem to beam holiday cheer, no matter the season. Granted, Louis couldn’t truly have been that happy all the time, but he certainly gave the impression of making the best of the bad and finding the fun where he could. His voice, no matter how gravelly (but always on key), conveyed warmth in ways that few other singers have ever been able to. He wasn’t just one of the greatest jazz voices, but one of the all-time greats, period, and in the merry songs of Christmas he found the perfect material for his unique tones.

So who better to sing the cool and jazzy “‘Zat You, Santa Clause?” in its inaugural recording than Armstrong? He released it in time for the 1953 Christmas season, and it appears on a number of holiday collections — I have it on Louis Armstrong & Friends: What a Wonderful Christmas — but I can find very little information about its songwriter, Jack Fox. I half suspect that name is a pseudonym for someone better known under another guise who wanted to keep their ability to write jazzy ditties on the down low for some reason. After Googling various configurations of the song data, I’ve found nothing else by (or information about) a “Jack Fox” from that era. Maybe it’s really just Louis Armstrong himself? All I know is that despite having been covered by numerous bands and performers who fancy themselves hip enough to do the song jingle-bell justice, it’s hard to imagine that anyone has come close to the flair with which Louis did it.

Merry Christmas!



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