In the fall of 2022, Verve Records released the first-ever official Christmas album from Louis Armstrong, “Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule.” While Armstrong’s holiday recordings have become standard yuletide fare, he never released a Christmas album during his lifetime. As a gift to fans, the album closes with an unreleased archival recording of Armstrong reciting the classic holiday poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”
As the hero video released in conjunction with the album, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” played an essential part in achieving our primary goal: establishing Louis Armstrong, a Santa-like figure himself, as an artist synonymous with Christmas.
The video was to help us travel through time. While not marketed as a “lost” album, the goal was to give the impression “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and the album itself had always existed. Louis Armstrong is a timeless figure and the project visuals needed to strongly reinforce this.
Finally, the goal of establishing a direct emotional connection with the viewer. By setting the video in the two locations most important to Armstrong - his childhood home of New Orleans and his beloved home in Corona, Queens - and featuring the neighborhood children he considered family, his love for the season shines through. Whether Satchmo was giving fans one final present or simply finding comfort in his favorite holiday, it is certain that “A Visit From St. Nicholas” will deliver plenty of Christmas magic for generations to come.
Months before his passing, an ailing Louis Armstrong somewhat mysteriously recorded his recitation of Samuel Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” on his home reel-to-reel tape recorder. It would prove to be his final recording.
Our first challenge was turning Armstrong’s home recording into a product suitable for commercial release. While the recording itself captured Armstrong’s effortless charm, audio restoration work was necessary. In addition, jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner was commissioned to record a new piano accompaniment to pair with Armstrong’s original vocal. The two New Orleans legends improvised across space and time, and the result was transcendent.
Our next challenge was commissioning a long-form video worthy of the recording itself. At over six minutes in length, Armstrong’s final recording merited an ambitious treatment. Since the album’s other performances originated from the 1950s and 1960s, and to further the impression the video and album had always existed, we took inspiration from the televised cartoon revolution of the 1960s. Chuck Jones’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” was an obvious touchstone but Jay Ward, the pioneering work of United Productions of America (UPA), and David Stone Martin’s album cover designs for Verve Records were all invaluable inspirations.
In the London-based Yes Please Productions, we found the ideal partner to bring this vision to life: a new piece that is warmly familiar, infused with Armstrong’s sweetness and humor, with the feeling it could be contemporary with the original narration. Working with the Louis Armstrong House Museum, extreme care was taken to ensure Armstrong, the Corona, Queens house and the neighborhood children were depicted accurately. Ambient sound effects were recorded on-site in Corona, Queens, adding to the piece’s authenticity. Was this a new animation or a classic TV holiday special? Based on hundreds of user comments, the issue hasn’t been settled.
As our visual calling card for the album release, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was a hit, garnering over 4.5M views across Facebook and YouTube and over 1M post engagements. It helped make possible extraordinary press coverage for the project, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News, Associated Press, The Times of London, and NPR. All this led to Louis Armstrong’s highest charting album since “Hello Dolly” was released in 1964. A children’s book based on “A Visit From St. Nicholas” animation cells is in discussion for holiday 2023. Most importantly, this timeless video now exists for generations to come – Armstrong’s final gift to his fans.
Fill out the form below and we'll work on connecting you to the entry creator!