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June 24, 2009

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Hot Sevens

Your musical education and collection would be incomplete until you listen to these recordings. In fact, your life will be sorely lacking if you do not fully indulge in these pieces of polyphonic euphoria. As an amazonian customer said, "This is some of the most joyous music in the history of mankind, a freewheeling evocation of a lost world bursting at the seams with thrill and rebellion and sweat and booze and love and melody, with horns swirling and speaking and singing over and around each other while pianos twinkle drunkenly beneath."

Particularly impressive to me is the barely controlled chaos that runs on the cusp of everything, light the entire show explode if everybody's playing wasn't so incredibly tight and right and one the mark. This music proves that anarchy can work if everybody's just a genius, sweating and playing their jaws off and having fun. It's like, freedom, man. And lots of reefer, you can be sure.

Biography by William Ruhlmann

Louis Armstrong was the first important soloist to emerge in jazz, and he became the most influential musician in the music's history. As a trumpet virtuoso, his playing, beginning with the 1920s studio recordings made with his Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles, charted a future for jazz in highly imaginative, emotionally charged improvisation. For this, he is revered by jazz fans. But Armstrong also became an enduring figure in popular music, due to his distinctively phrased bass singing and engaging personality, which were on display in a series of vocal recordings and film roles.

Armstrong had a difficult childhood. William Armstrong, his father, was a factory worker who abandoned the family soon after the boy's birth. Armstrong was brought up by his mother, Mary (Albert) Armstrong, and his maternal grandmother. He showed an early interest in music, and a junk dealer for whom he worked as a grade-school student helped him buy a cornet, which he taught himself to play. He dropped out of school at 11 to join an informal group, but on December 31, 1912, he fired a gun during a New Year's Eve celebration, for which he was sent to reform school. He studied music there and played cornet and bugle in the school band, eventually becoming its leader. He was released on June 16, 1914, and did manual labor while trying to establish himself as a musician. He was taken under the wing of cornetist Joe "King" Oliver, and when Oliver moved to Chicago in June 1918, he replaced him in the Kid Ory Band. He moved to the Fate Marable band in the spring of 1919, staying with Marable until the fall of 1921.

Armstrong moved to Chicago to join Oliver's band in August 1922 and made his first recordings as a member of the group in the spring of 1923. He married Lillian Harden, the pianist in the Oliver band, on February 5, 1924. (She was the second of his four wives.) On her encouragement, he left Oliver and joined Fletcher Henderson's band in New York, staying for a year and then going back to Chicago in November 1925 to join the Dreamland Syncopators, his wife's group. During this period, he switched from cornet to trumpet.

Armstrong had gained sufficient individual notice to make his recording debut as a leader on November 12, 1925. Contracted to OKeh Records, he began to make a series of recordings with studio-only groups called the Hot Fives or the Hot Sevens. For live dates, he appeared with the orchestras led by Erskine Tate and Carroll Dickerson. The Hot Fives' recording of "Muskrat Ramble" gave Armstrong a Top Ten hit in July 1926, the band for the track featuring Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lillian Harden Armstrong on piano, and Johnny St. Cyr on banjo.

By February 1927, Armstrong was well-enough known to front his own group, Louis Armstrong & His Stompers, at the Sunset Café in Chicago. (Armstrong did not function as a bandleader in the usual sense, but instead typically lent his name to established groups.) In April, he reached the charts with his first vocal recording, "Big Butter and Egg Man," a duet with May Alix. He took a position as star soloist in Carroll Dickerson's band at the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago in March 1928, later taking over as the band's frontman. "Hotter than That" was in the Top Ten in May 1928, followed in September by "West End Blues," which later became one of the first recordings named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Armstrong returned to New York with his band for an engagement at Connie's Inn in Harlem in May 1929. He also began appearing in the orchestra of Hot Chocolates, a Broadway revue, given a featured spot singing "Ain't Misbehavin'." In September, his recording of the song entered the charts, becoming a Top Ten hit.

The Music of the Hot Five and the Hot Seven is considered by most critics to be among the finest recordings in Jazz history. On November 12th, 1925 Louis Armstrong made his first records that bore his name as bandleader. The songs on the Okeh 78 rpm record were "My Heart", and Cornet Chop Suey. The band was made up mostly of musicians from King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. The first version of the band featured Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo and Louis's wife, Lil Hardin-Armstrong on piano. These were informal settings that all concerned remember as a good time. Louis picked all the musicians that he wanted to play on the sessions and the record company generally left them alone to do what they wanted. The song "Heebie Jeebies" is generally the first recorded example of scat singing, although there are several examples on records that predate this recording. On the December of 1927 sides Lonnie Johnson joins the band for three tracks, "I'm Not Rough", "Hotter Than That", and "Savoy Blues". Earl Hines plays piano on all of the 1928 sessions, and the beautiful celeste parts on "Basin Street Blues".

West End Blues: Song Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

King Oliver's "West End Blues" is one of the keystones of jazz and, therefore, American popular music, but even more than that, Louis Armstrong's 1928 version, cut with his Hot Five, is a towering achievement. Not only is it the version that cemented the tune in popular consciousness, it helped define what jazz could be. Armstrong started his professional career in King Oliver's band, and he never lost sight of what he learned from Oliver, which, after all, was at the foundation of his very style. Nevertheless, Armstrong's reading of "West End Blues" still must have come as quite a shock, since it begins with a multi-layered, complex solo introduction from "Satchmo" that essentially set the standard for jazz musicians. Not just for trumpeters, either, although many strived to emulate what he achieved here. No, the lyrical phrases that Armstrong played were so wildly influential, fiercely musical, and technically devastating that it remains a hallmark for jazz musicians of all stripes. That's because it's not just a dazzling display of technique, although that's certainly part of it. It's because he applies his technique in tremendously innovative ways -- long phrases give way to furious bursts of notes, invigorating syncopations, startling high notes, and, ultimately, the slow melodic shuffle of Oliver's basic tune. Oliver's song itself is a classic New Orleans jazz piece, but it's become impossible to separate it from Armstrong's astonishing opening solo -- a solo that has defined the song as much as the melody itself.

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Hot Sevens

Year: 1998/1999
Label: JSP review
Between 1925 and 1929, Louis Armstrong created one of the first great bodies of work in jazz. While he worked regularly as a soloist with big bands, he began his career as a leader with the first all-star studio group in jazz, the Hot Five. The other four musicians were Armstrong's wife, Lil Hardin Armstrong, on piano; Johnny Dodds on clarinet; Kid Ory on trombone; and Johnny St. Cyr on banjo. The music's first great soloist, Armstrong was reshaping jazz by sheer improvisational magic, gradually diminishing the role of the traditional New Orleans ensemble with the clarion brilliance of his trumpet. Possessing an uncanny blend of exuberance and creativity, he combined virtuosic declarations with a talent for the subtlest shifts in phrasing and melodic variation, creating rich emotional statements that could hint at loss in the midst of joy or the promise of better things in the most sorrowful blues. The band expands here, to the Hot Seven and larger ensembles, and it gains soloists who applied Armstrong's lessons to their own instruments--musicians such as pianist Earl Hines and trombonist Jack Teagarden--but all come under the imprint of Armstrong's flowering genius, as both trumpeter and singer.

It's almost impossible to overrate this material. It may be the most influential music in jazz history, establishing standards for originality and sustained invention that have rarely been matched. The JSP set is a superb reissue of Armstrong's essential work. The remastering is by John R.T. Davies, widely acknowledged as the dean of engineers in the field of early jazz, and the resultant sound is simply the best this work has ever enjoyed. There are alternate takes of the later material on Columbia Legacy (including Louis in New York and St. Louis Blues), so collectors will want both. But this recording is superior listening, at a price that also makes it an ideal introduction to one of the few titans of jazz. --Stuart Broomer

and a customer said:
This four disc set is indispensable to any serious jazz collection. It includes all Armstrong's classic Hot Five performances with Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Johnny St. Cyr and Lil Armstrong, his Hot Seven recordings, and his magnificent partnership with Earl Hines. This is some of the most important and influential jazz every recorded, marking the way ahead away from New Orleans style polyphony to the future dominance of the soloist. The last of these discs is the least essential, as Armstrong returned to commercial big band recordings, where he is often head and shoulders above both his colleagues and his material.

There is so much to savour on these discs: Louis is superlative throughout this set - hear "Cornet Chop Suey" "Potato Head Blues" and "West End Blues", in particular. Johnny Dodds is superb, incredibly impassioned on "Got No Blues" and elsewhere. The Hot Five swings like crazy on tunes like "Once in a While", and listen to "Skip the Gutter", "Muggles" and "Weatherbird" to hear one of the finest partnerships in jazz history, Armstrong and Hines. Hear also Lonnie Johnson's marvellous guitar playing at the end of the second disc. Louis' singing is heard regularly (and his slide - whistle playing once).

These CDs are also highly recommendable because of the quality of the remastering. The sound quality on the first disc in particular is better than in any other issue of these works, putting larger companies to shame.

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1

Recording Date: Nov 12, 1925-Nov 27, 1926

Review by Stephen Cook
With superior transfers by British music engineer John R.T. Davies, this JSP reissue of the first 25 sides by Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens is a first-choice disc for newcomers, while also being a very worthwhile purchase for the discriminating fan. Columbia's more high-profile, yet poorly remastered early Armstrong releases are muddy and limp sounding in comparison. Studio discrepancies aside, these records represent one of highest achievements in jazz and all of music for that matter. Armstrong's brash and advanced trumpet playing transformed jazz from the somewhat stilted ensemble polyphony of New Orleans to the fluid art of the improvising soloist, paving the way for the advances of swing and bebop and sparking the equally bold conceptions of future jazz luminaries Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker. And although these Chicago recordings (1925-1926) do not include later milestones like "West End Blues" and "Weather Bird," there's plenty here in the way of Armstrong's innovations: his stop-time solo on "Cornet Chop Suey" and the early scat singing on "Heebie Jeebies." And beyond textbook considerations, there's Armstrong's infectious spoken commentary and vocals on "Gut Bucket Blues" and "Big Butter and Egg Man From the West," not to mention his joyous trumpet exclamations on "Yes, I'm in the Barrel" and "Muskrat Rumble." Topped off with fine contributions by Hot Five regulars clarinetist Johnny Dodds, trombonist Kid Ory, pianist and wife at the time Lil Armstrong, and banjo player Johnny St. Cyr, this Armstrong release is not to be missed. Essential music for any record collection.

1 My Heart - Armstrong - 2:27
2 Yes! I'm in the Barrel - Armstrong - 2:40
3 Gut Bucket Blues - Armstrong - 2:45
4 Come Back Sweet Papa - Barbarin, Russell - 2:32
5 Georgia Grind - Williams - 2:36
6 Heebie Jeebies - Atkins, Stothart - 2:56
7 Cornet Chop Suey - Armstrong - 3:19
8 Oriental Strut - Saint Cyr - 3:03
9 You're Next - Armstrong - 3:17
10 Muskrat Ramble - Gilbert, Ory - 2:34
11 Don't Forget to Mess Around - Armstrong, Barbarin - 3:04
12 I'm Gonna Gitcha - Hardin - 2:46
13 Droppin' Shucks - Hardin - 2:54
14 Who' Sit - 2:47
15 He Likes It Slow - Edwards - 2:44
16 The King of the Zulus - Armstrong - 3:07
17 Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa - Jones - 3:02
18 Lonesome Blues - Hardin - 3:05
19 Sweet Little Papa - Ory - 2:47
20 Jazz Lips - Hardin - 3:03
21 Skid-Dat-De-Dat - Hardin - 3:07
22 Big Butter and Egg Man - Armstrong, Venable - 3:01
23 Sunset Cafe Stomp - Armstrong, Venable - 2:47
24 You Made Me Love You - Armstrong, Venable - 2:54
25 Irish Black Bottom - Armstrong, Venable - 2:37

the black sheep moans.
mp3 >256 vbr | w/ cover | 126mb

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Hot Sevens, Vol. 2

Recording Date: May 9, 1927-Dec 13, 1929

Review by arwulf arwulf
For affordability and sound quality, JSP outshines Columbia and most other labels with its high protein four-disc Hot Fives & Sevens collection. Volume two of this set documents an especially fine segment of the Louis Armstrong story with 21 classic sides waxed in Chicago between May and December 1927. These are some of the best records Louis Armstrong ever made. They also rate among the most important jazz recordings of all time. "Willie the Weeper," for example, defines the artist, the genre and the entire human condition. Armstrong's Hot Seven swelled to ten pieces at the sessions held from May 9-14; pianist Earl Hines came aboard for these exciting dates and Carroll Dickerson acted as bandleader. All of the essential Armstrong components are here in concentrated form; "Alligator Crawl" and "Potato Head Blues" are unparalleled masterworks, and "That's When I'll Come Back to You" is a distillation of the great Afro-American vaudeville tradition. Here Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong align themselves with Butterbeans & Susie and their contemporaries Coot Grant and Kid Wilson. During the autumn of 1927 Louis Armstrong pared his ensemble back down to the original quintet. Highlights from this period include "Ory's Creole Trombone" (first recorded by Kid Ory in 1922) and Lil Armstrong's magnum opus "Struttin' with Some Barbecue." The sessions which took place on December 10 and 13 featured guitarist Lonnie Johnson, an exceptionally fine improviser who brought yet another level of artistic eloquence to this already sublimely endowed jazz band.

1 Willie the Weeper - Bloom, Melrose, Rymal - 3:10
2 Wild Man Blues - Armstrong, Morton - 3:13
3 Chicago Breakdown - Morton - 3:21
4 Alligator Crawl - Davis, Razaf, Waller - 3:04
5 Potato Head Blues - Armstrong - 2:58
6 Melancholy - Bloom, Melrose - 3:05
7 Weary Blues - Matthews - 3:01
8 Twelfth Street Rag - Bowman - 3:06
9 Keyhole Blues - Wilson - 3:29
10 S.O.L. Blues - Armstrong - 2:55
11 Gully Low Blues - Armstrong - 3:18
12 That's When I'll Come Back to You - Biggs - 2:58
13 Put 'Em Down Blues - Bennett - 3:17
14 Ory's Creole Trombone - Ory - 3:07
15 The Last Time - Ewing, Martin - 3:32
16 Struttin' with Some Barbecue - Hardin, Raye - 3:06
17 Got No Blues - Hardin - 3:26
18 Once in a While - Butler - 3:19
19 I'm Not Rough - Armstrong, Hardin - 3:05
20 Hotter Than That - Armstrong, Hardin - 3:05
21 Savoy Blues - Ory - 3:28

i'm not smooth either.
mp3 >256 vbr | w/ cover | 119mb

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 3

Recording Date: Jun 27, 1928-Mar 5, 1929

Review by arwulf arwulf
From the popping of Zutty Singleton's cymbals and Earl Hines' sparkling piano riffs on "Fireworks" to Kaiser Marshall's brushwork behind Lonnie Johnson's guitar solo on "Knockin' a Jug," Volume 3 of JSP's Louis Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens contains 22 classic jazz sides that include some of the very best recordings that Louis Armstrong ever made. The perky humor of "A Monday Date," the beautiful vocal harmonies on "Squeeze Me," the intimate duet "Weather Bird," and the undiluted majesty of the "West End Blues" make this an excellent choice that could suffice (for a while at least) if one were to own only one Louis Armstrong compilation. Get the whole four-CD set and you'll find yourself holding one of the cornerstones of the jazz tradition.

1 Fireworks - Williams, Williams - 3:09
2 Skip the Gutter - Williams - 3:10
3 A Monday Date - Hines, Robin - 3:15
4 Don't Jive Me - Hardin - 2:50
5 West End Blues - King Oliver, Williams - 3:21
6 Sugar Foot Strut - Pierce - 3:23
7 Two Deuces - Hardin - 2:58
8 Squeeze Me - Waller, Williams - 3:26
9 Knee Drops - Hardin - 3:28
10 Symphonic Raps - Abrahams, B. - 3:15
11 Savoyager's Stomp - Armstrong, Hines - 3:13
12 No (No, Papa, No) - Spivey - 2:54
13 Basin Street Blues - Williams - 3:16
14 No One Else But You - Redman - 3:24
15 Beau Koo Jack - Armstrong, Hill, Melrose - 3:01
16 Save It, Pretty Mama - Davis, Denniker, Redman - 3:19
17 Weather Bird - Armstrong - 2:42
18 Muggles - Armstrong, Hines - 2:52
19 Hear Me Talkin' to Ya? - Armstrong, Redman - 3:17
20 St. James Infirmary - Primrose, Traditional - 3:14
21 Tight Like This - Armstrong, Curl - 3:12
22 Knockin' a Jug - Armstrong, Condon - 3:15

squeezin' me in the knees
mp3 >256 vbr | w/ cover | 121mb

Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 4

Recording Date: Mar 5, 1929-Apr 5, 1930

Review by arwulf arwulf
The fourth and last volume in JSP's Louis Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens set diligently follows the Armstrong discography from March 5, 1929 through April 5, 1930, with a couple of alternate takes tacked onto the end like marzipan truffles. Decidedly different from the preceding volumes, this disc mostly features ensembles of nine and ten players, with even the Savoy Ballroom Five weighing in as a ten-piece big band. These marvelous Okeh sides paved the way for the smoother dance and swing band sounds of the 1930s. Armstrong handles five melodies composed by his pal Fats Waller, sings a duet with Hoagy Carmichael on "Rockin' Chair" and ushers in the Great Depression with charming renditions of "When You're Smiling" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

1 I Can't Give You Anything But Love - Fields, McHugh - 3:26
2 Mahogany Hall Stomp - Williams - 3:18
3 Ain't Misbehavin' - Brooks, Razaf, Waller - 3:16
4 Black and Blue - Brooks, Razaf, Waller - 3:03
5 That Rhythm Man - Brooks, Razaf, Waller - 3:05
6 Sweet Savannah Sue - Brooks, Razaf, Waller - 3:09
8 Some of These Days - Brooks - 3:07
9 When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) - Fisher, Goodwin, Shay - 2:53
10 When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) - Fisher, Goodwin, Shay - 3:25
11 After You've Gone - Creamer, Layton - 3:17
12 I Ain't Got Nobody - Graham, Peyton, Williams - 2:41
13 Dallas Blues - Garrett, Wand - 3:11
14 St. Louis Blues - Handy - 2:58
15 Rockin' Chair - Carmichael - 3:17
16 Song of the Islands - King - 3:32
17 Bessie Couldn't Help It - Bayha, Richmond, Warner - 3:24
18 Blue Turning Grey over You - Razaf, Waller - 3:31
19 Dear Old Southland - Creamer, Layton - 3:21
20 Rockin' Chair - Carmichael - 3:16
21 I Can't Give You Anything But Love - Fields, McHugh - 3:27

savin' my love for you.
mp3 >256 vbr | w/ cover & full scans of box set | 125mb

Note: this set was made in England, remastered from 78s which were in the public domain. And no, Columbia doesn't need to milk any more royalties out of this dead genius. So enjoy the freebie! And don't say I never gave you nuthin...


AgustinH said...

Wow! Thanks amigo!

Bombshelter Slim said...

This is ART (with a capital A-R-T) of the highest order. Great post, matey!!

Anonymous said...

great - and thanks a lot

brujo said...

thank you cannot wait to dip into this treasure trove ,your posts are always unique .

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Great choice.