Thursday, June 17, 2010

Louis Armstrong - The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Columbia, 2000)

There had been jazz on record before cornetist then trumpeter Louis Armstrong convened his studio only bands the Hot Five and Hot Seven, but these records captured the imagination of both the record buying public and contemporary musicians (along with generations of musicians to come) with their audacious mix of technical brilliance and sheer emotional joy. The ultimate American rags-to-riches story, Armstrong grew up on the streets of New Orleans, learning to play the cornet in the Colored Waifs Home before coming under the wing of the legendary bandleader "King" Joe Oliver. Oliver called the young musician to Chicago and a legend was born, first in Oliver's band and then at his wife Lil's urging leading his own bands. The music on this collection was originally recorded for the Okeh label and has been reissued many times since its original recording. In this collection there are four compact discs, containing the recordings by the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens along with attendant recordings done under Lil Armstrong's name, and some early big band and duet recordings. Although there has been some squabbling by collectors over which version of this material sounds better, everything here sounds as good as can be imagined to my untrained ear, considering the age of the material. The music is just pure joy to listen to. I'm not much of an aficionado of early or "hot" jazz, but the rough and ready nature of the music and the clarion call of Armstrong's trumpet and cornet are amazing to listen to. It is really possible to hear history being made and the template for jazz being pressed in tracks like "Cornet Chop Suey" and "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." His incredible technique comes through listening to the extraordinary duet with pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines on "Weatherbird" and Armstrong's rough and raw singing voice is a riot to hear on the likes of "Heebie Jeebies." Columbia pulled out all the stops on this package housing the four discs in a hard bound book, which puts the music into historical context with some excellent essays and historical photographs. The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings -

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