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as of 12/04/2020 (Details)
Everybody knows Louis Armstrong--even if it's just for his heart-pleasing renditions of "Hello Dolly" and "What a Wonderful World." Well, this four-CD box set marking the 100th anniversary of his birth--give or take a year--contains some of his most groundbreaking, historic works. Recorded between 1925 and 1929, the Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings find Armstrong with more than able cohorts, including pianists Earl "Fatha" Hines and Lillian Hardin (Armstrong's second wife), clarinetist-saxophonist Johnny Dodds, and trombonist Kid Ory. Recorded when Armstrong was emerging from the influence of his idol, Joe "King" Oliver, these sides feature the main staples of the Armstrong canon, including "Potato Head Blues," "Big Butter and Egg Man," "Cornet Chop Suey" and the Armstrong-Hines duet "Weather Bird." The jewel of the collection is "West End Blues," with Armstrong's stratospheric, pyramid-structured solo, which ranks as one of the greatest in the history of music. The sessions also mark an important technological breakthrough, with the transition from acoustic to electrical recording. Armstrong's virtuosity on the cornet and trumpet alone would have been enough to ensure his fame. On the 1927 song "Heebie Jeebies," he forgot the lyrics and scatted them and became the first jazz singer, paving the way for Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Betty Carter. All in all, this set shows that Louis Armstrong's heroic talents enabled him to become the alpha and omega of 20th century music. As author Robert O'Meally, who wrote the superb liner notes to this well-packaged collection, puts it, "like Chaucer's poetry, which virtually begins the process of codifying the English language as a medium for sophisticated versification, Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens provide a wide launching pad from which the history of the art of jazz takes flight." --Eugene Holley Jr.
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