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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



Louis Armstrong

Columbia/Legacy 508605 2


  1. West End Blues
  2. Basin St Blues
  3. St James Infirmary
  4. Tight Like This
  5. St Louis Blues
  6. Black and blue
  7. Dallas Blues
  8. Blue, Turning Grey Over You
  9. Memories of You
  10. Blue Again
  11. When Your lover Has Gone
  12. Lawd! You Made the Night Too long
  13. Hesitation Blues
  14. The Memphis Blues (Or Mr Crump)
  15. Beale St Blues
  16. Yellow Dog Blues
Tracks 1&2 Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (1928)
Tracks 3&4 Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five (1928)
Tracks 5,6,7&8 Louis Armstrong 7 His Orchestra (1929)
Track 9 Louis Armstrong & His Cotton Club Orchestra (1930)
Tracks 10,11&12 Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra (1931)
Tracks 13,14,15&16 Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (1955)

Louis Armstrong’s contribution to jazz can never be overrated, although he did not always please the purists, he defined the style which ever since has been known as traditional jazz and his vocalising influenced many that followed. The title of this selection of his work is a little mystifying, because many of the items are not in the ‘blues’ format, but make no mistake this music is all worth another hearing, especially in the way that the older recordings have been re-mastered and the sound significantly improved.

The album also charts the progress of Armstrong’s reputation as an entertainer; the Hot Five sessions were probably the most definitive of early jazz recordings. Many later day trumpet players have tried to reproduce them and found to the cost of their reputation, that they are much more difficult to play than you would think, a measure of Armstrong’s expertise as a trumpet player. The band names are a give away for the top entertainment spots where the band was employed, the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club were the best jobs in those days, they were the gigs everyone aspired to get. I have always suspected that the larger bands Armstrong used were due to market forces more than his desire to play with big bands. The advantage that Louis Armstrong had over and above all the other outstanding musicians of this era, was that he was also a superb entertainer and therefore able to make jazz significantly more inclusive. Would that there would be more people about today who could spread the message so successfully!

Lionel Hampton’s first recording session on vibes was with Louis on track 9 Memories of You, though no doubt his main purpose in the band at that time was to play the drums.

My personal favourites apart from the Hot Fives are the 1955 All Stars tracks, by this time Louis had tried everything available and could see clearly the format that worked for him. There is an undocumented vocal by Velma Middleton on track 13 Hesitation Blues and although it is under-recorded, I am sure I can hear a piano in the background, Billy Kyle? The band is in superb form on these four W C Handy tunes. The empathy between Trummy Young on Trombone, Barney Bigard on Clarinet and Louis himself, balanced against the fine bass playing of Arvell Shaw and Barrett Deems excellent drumming make these tracks as near to perfection as you can get.

If your introduction to jazz came from a different era, I highly commend this album as help in understanding the roots of our great music. If you are from an older generation, just enjoy!
Four Stars
Don Mather
1 October 2002


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