COMPOSERS: Louis Armstrong,Various
ALBUM TITLE: Louis Armstrong
PERFORMER: Louis Armstrong (t, v), Johnny Dodds (cl), Kid Ory (tb), Lil Hardin (p), Johnny St Cyr (bj, g), etc
CATALOGUE NO: C4K 63527
The more we learn about Louis Armstrong, the more extraordinary seems the genius which he apparently wore so lightly. The 89 performances in this handsome boxed set, covering the period November 1925 to March 1929, changed and enriched the music world of the 20th century and sound fresh and dangerous in the 21st.
The truth is that underneath his genial persona, Armstrong was a very serious man with a huge capacity for working at his craft and art. There was very little precedent for the absolutely new music emerging in these ground-breaking sessions and the largely chronological track order enables us to witness its dynamic maturing.
In the very first recording, Armstrong’s ‘Gut Bucket Blues’, he calls out the names of the Hot Five musicians as each solos; thus were they introduced to their public. There is great joy and exuberance in much of the music and, both singing and playing, Armstrong takes exhilarating risks, his virtuosity and vaulting imagination ever growing.
‘Cornet Chop Suey’ begins with a dramatic, unaccompanied, fleet and fluid cornet introduction, the marvellously extrovert ‘Struttin’ with Some Barbecue’ ends with a quiet, inward-looking coda, and the ecstatic ‘Hotter than That’ has Armstrong singing 12 bars of 3/4 over nine bars of 4/4, and never losing his place.
Towards the end of the third CD, the great pianist Earl Hines begins his brilliantly fruitful collaborations with Armstrong, and the music rises to unprecedented levels culminating in the subtle and stately grandeur of ‘West End Blues’, one of the masterworks of 20th-century music.