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The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, Vol. 3

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Album Review

The final volume of Louis Armstrong's Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings features 25 tracks. These recordings reveal how deeply and broadly Armstrong had begun to use improvisation as it played into the heart of the blues, as well as how complex the arrangements had gotten while still remaining accessible as music to be listened to and danced to. They also represent the final three recordings Lil Hardin Armstrong made with the band, as she and Louis were divorced in early 1928 (with no less than Lonnie Johnson on guitar — check his solo on "I'm Not Rough"). Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, and Johnny St. Cyr, all original members, also departed. Earl Hines enters the picture with the next Hot Five, as does Fred Robinson on trombone, Jimmy Strong on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Zutty Singleton on drums, and Mancy Cara on banjo. Armstrong and Hines both sang in this formation, which accounts for the vast majority of the material found here, beginning in June of 1928 with the OKeh single "Fireworks" and including the famous "Basin Street Blues" as well as "Sugar Foot Strut," "West End Blues," and Hardin's classic "Don't Jive Me," among others. The band changed names and some members later in the year. Hines and Robinson remained, but the great Don Redman joined on clarinet and alto and became the arranger, as did Dave Wilborn on banjo and guitar. This faction, known as Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five, recorded such monstrously successful cuts as Armstrong's "Muggles" (before the creator of Harry Potter was a thought in her grandmother's mind), "Weather Bird," and Redman's amazing "Save It, Pretty Mama." On the 12th of December, a week after this session, the Savoy Ballroom Five actually included seven members, with Mancy Cara and Jimmy Strong being added back into the fold for new treatments of "St. James Infirmary," "Tight Like This," and "Hear Me Talkin' to Ya." Throughout, what is heard is a tightening of arrangements by Redman, whose musicality and sense of harmonic unity is as keen as Duke Ellington's in this period, and the fact that improvisation played a role that was as central as that of a bridge in a pop song later in the century. As with the other two volumes, this is indispensable.


Born: August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

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...
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