Best of the Complete RCA Victor Recordings
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This CD is drawn from the four-CD set of Louis Armstrong's Complete RCA Victor Recordings, and it shows Armstrong in two distinct phases of his career. The first eight tracks are big band recordings from 1932 and '33 when Armstrong's ebullient personality was combining with his brilliant musicianship to make him one of the world's most popular entertainers. He was already able to record a medley of past hits, combining the high-spirited and the sentimental for maximum audience effect, but his trumpet and voice keep emerging in all their original glory on renditions of "I've Got the World on a String" and "St. Louis Blues." The later tracks come from 1946 and '47 when Armstrong had departed the big band format for his All Stars, returning to the improvised counterpoint of the '20s with as fine a band as he ever led. Clarinetist Barney Bigard and trombonist Jack Teagarden stand out, but it's Armstrong's magical presence that makes this music soar with joy. Also included are two meetings with other musical icons, Armstrong providing bluesy trumpet accompaniment to country singer Jimmie Rodgers on a rendition of "Blue Yodel No. 9" and meeting Duke Ellington on record for the first time on "Long, Long Journey." --Stuart Broomer
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