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4.7 out of 5 stars13
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 30 November 2008
I'm giving this budget-priced CD box 5 stars because it contains some of the most important recordings in the entire history of jazz:
Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens; the foundation on which Armstrong's reputation stands - at least if you ask jazz fans... Satchmo, Johnny Dodds, Earl Hines and company (including the guest Lonnie Johnson on guitar) create some wonderful stuff and additional tracks by same artists in different settings is thrown in to make the cake richer (although some gigs - accompanying inferior singer f.i. - are not very uplifting).

However, although I have listened to this music in various forms for years (first on audio-tapes bought in Canada by my friend's father who sailed big cargo-ships), I must warn buyers who are NOT big jazz fans: the bulk of this recordings is from the 20s, so don't expect any high fidelity there! There's also some hiss that is toned down in other attempts to transfer this treasure to CD (Hot Fives and Sevens )...
Also, I'd like to warn jazz fans that this inexpensive box DOES NOT contain the precise listing of players and dates for each track - not a small fault by the distingue jazz-buff standards... However, I already have another (a bit more expensive) box of basically the same tracks, so I bought this one mostly to compare the remastering of Columbia with the edition I have quoted above... The verdict? As someone has already said it - the remastering is DIFFERENT, but good in both cases. At least on my inexpensive Hi-Fi equipment...
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on 18 August 2013
I notice that JRT Davies' superlative remastering of Armstrong's classic recordings on JSP gets 17 five-star reviews (at the last count), whereas Columbia's 'official' release seems to have received a more lukewarm reception. Columbia have released the full set of recordings to counter the JSP set, and also a single CD which purports to put together a handful of recordings in a 'best of' format, a thankless task when these recording sessions threw up so many gems. I'll attempt to tackle all three sets in this review. There isn't much more that I can add to the other reviews on here regarding the nature of the music itself - unarguably the single greatest set of early recordings in all of jazz, notwithstanding the efforts of jelly roll morton and armstrong's own mentor, the legendary 'king' oliver.

The hot fives were recorded in 1925, the sevens in 1927, and the ensembles involved were about so much more than just armstrong; kid ory defined the jazz trombone for decades afterwards until JJ Johnson brought it into the bebop age, the now-forgotten johnny dodds (clarinet) is more than armstrong's equal here and the feeling I get when listening to their duets is similar to arriving at Karajan's magical 1957 recording of Verdi's Trovatore in eager anticipation of hearing Maria Callas at her searing peak, only to forget her presence when Fedora Barbieri opened her mouth to sing. Throw in one of the most elegant pianists in the history of jazz, earl hines, who makes his appearance in the later recordings, and you have quite some ensemble. Much has been said about how they defined and laid out a blueprint for small-group jazz ensembles everywhere, and it needs no elaboration.

As to the merits of JSP vs Columbia, the sound is perhaps a tiny tad better on JSP but in all honesty there's not much in it. Columbia's set is vastly better aesthetically which reflects in the price. Either set will do. The single 'best of' columbia CD is a handy introduction to this music at a very affordable price - people will argue about the exclusion of this or that track but there isn't much purchase in that argument; there is simply too much good music for it all to fit on a best of CD, and the tracks columbia have chosen give a decent overview and include some of the best playing, from the much-referenced potato-head blues through the ever-popular st. james' infirmary and on to the heady heights of beau koo jack, tight like this and basin street blues. The Penguin reviewers mention their envy at those listeners encountering these legendary recordings for the first time; I can only agree.
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on 7 September 2013
Louis is a master of improvisation, not sure whether or not i agree he is the best jazz musician of all time, but he's certainly up there. There's alot to be said about the historical value of this set, anyone interested in the history and evolution of jazz will find this set extremely valuable, louis invented so much in technique of trumpet, vocal, arrangement and many other fields. Having said this, those interested in the historical value (and audiophiles) should get their hands on the complete fives and sevens but from the same label (it is the best sound quality in my opinion). If you're interested in the fives and sevens from a studious perspective maybe go for the JSP set but this pack is perfect for the fan who wants a feel for armstrong's best work, potato head blues, weary blues, struttin with some barbecue, west end blues its some incredible stuff. I've yet to find a song that better encapsulates the feeling of joy than potato head blues. I'd reccomend this to anyone who wants some good sound quality but doesn't want to shell out for the whole set only thing i'd say against this pack is it does miss out a couple of big recordings (weather bird, cornet chop suey) and has the strange inclusion of king of the zulus. Only alternative i would say perhaps check out is "the real louis armstrong" pack, it's not much more expensive than this set and seems to have most if not all of the hot fives and sevens however i have not bought the set and cannot vouch for sound quality so proceed to that at one's own caution! a final word would be that if you like this set, the following recordings are great too but if you're not tempted to shell out for more just download his version of "stardust," a really magical recording
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on 17 December 2010
Anyone wondering why Armstrong is held in such high esteem in Jazz should buy this album. Although his distinctive singing and the pop records of his later years are what stick in many peoples minds it was his trumpet work that originally shot him to fame and led to many imitators.

Unlike many other jazz artists of the 1920's Armstrong's playing still has the ability to jump out of the recordings sounding as fresh as it did when they were recorded. His solo's are by turns thoughtful and fiery and have a brilliant improvisatory feel to them. Listening to his playing sometimes make me bemoan the often sterile and un-inspiring soloing that is often heard on many modern jazz recordings.

Some of the other players on the album are perhaps journeymen, with the exception of Earl Hines and Kid Ory, but the groups play well together. The recording quality is what you might expect from something this old but overall it isn't to bad and doesn't detract from the music. The compositions are excellent by turns both catchy and quirky. My favourites being West End Blues and Basin Street Blues which are both just fantastic. But above all it is Armstrong's amazing trumpet work that makes these recordings something special and this album a classic.
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Because of Amazon's confusing practice of cross-posting to what it calls "product groups", let me make it clear that this review relates solely to the Sony BMG 2008 4-CD set, with the green cover. This is a reissue of the first recordings Louis Armstrong made under his own name, plus eleven where his studio group provided the accompaniment to other vocalists. It runs from November 1925 to March 1929, and comprises 77 tracks, one a duplicate.

It's standard practice for such compilations to be ordered chronologically, not just for ease of reference, but also because the listener can trace the artistic development. It's also reasonable to expect a detailed tracklist, and a commentary on the individual recordings. This is the normal approach, which CBS followed in 1988/9, when producing several volumes in their Jazz Masterpieces series. Each volume was accompanied by a booklet which included a discography, setting out titles, personnel, recording dates, matrix nos. and the catalogue number of the original release, accompanied by John Chilton's informed commentary on the recordings.

The first problem with this set is that the chronology is all over the place. In date order, Disc One begins in November 1925 and concludes in November 1926, followed by Disc Three (to track 12, May 1927). We then revert to Disc Two which starts at September 1927, and runs to that December (track 9). Track 10 features a Butterbeans & Susie item from June 1926, and is followed by four Hociel Thomas vocals accompanied by the Hot 4, which date from November 1925. Disc Two concludes with an alternative Cornet Chop Suey (first featured as track 7 0n Disc One). After which the end of Disc Three features Lillie Delk Christian backed by the Hot Four on four numbers recorded on 26th June 1928, and finally Disc Four picks up from the following day and finishes in March 1929.

Such anachronistic treatment would be less of a problem if there were an accompanying booklet to act as a guide, but the gatefold insert comprises a mere eight pages (four backed up). One reproduces the cover and another publicises other releases in the series, and the tracklists, which are confined solely to titles and composers, take up just two pages. The reverse contains a meagre liner note, which deals quite peremptorily with the running order, and touches very briefly on the other vocalists' recordings.

As intimated earlier, two versions of "Cornet Chop Suey", an acoustic recording dating from February 1926, have been included. We're advised that the first version (which clocks in at 2:53) is in the key of F, but it sounds too fast. The second version (which clocks in at 3:13) is said to be in the key E flat ("which many scholars believe must be the likeliest key in which this was played"), but to my unscholarly ears it sounds too slow. The version as issued in the Columbia Jazz Masterworks series clocks in at 3:04, so I can't help feeling somewhat suspicious about the claim that Disc 2 contains the definitive version.

For all of those reasons I can't share the general euphoria that's been generated by this reissue, and my two star rating is directed not at the music, but at the shoddy manner in which it has been presented.
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on 24 August 2012
The remastering on this "official" series is different of the brillant John RT Davis' JSP Box Set, but (matter of tastes here) it should sound great to modern ears anyway. From track 4 on, the mastering is simply fantastic. By the way, nobody noted this, but I think it counts too: the graphics of this series are vastly superior to any other previous edition of Hot 6 & 7's, except maybe the old CBS Masterpieces' LPs.
My main "off" here is the tracks selection, which is not exactly the very best stuff all the way. Why "King of the Zulus"? Where are "Cornet Chop Suey" or "Weather Bird"? "Hotter Than That"? "Savoy Blues"? Well, I suppose you can't have it all in a package, so maybe this one could works as a good intro to the Master at his very best, the late 1920's.
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on 9 December 2011
probably the best ever collection of Louis. The surprise is how far ahead of all other musicians of the time Louis was in the whole field of music. Of course his 'West End Blues' brought many people to Jazz Music.
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on 22 January 2016
Brilliant, Louis at his innovative best. An opportunity to hear his spectacular development from a good cornetist to an accomplished trumpeter and to observe the effect he had on the style of the members of his band, particularly Johnny Dodds.
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on 18 June 2015
A bit hissy and scratchy, but that's to be expected with recordings this old. Very enjoyable, especially St James Infirmary Blues.
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on 3 February 2015
Louis at his greatest .I saw and heard him 'live' which was GREAT but some of his Hot 7 solos are so beautiful they make me cry.
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