Louis Armstrong helped create the rich musical tradition we now know as jazz and was one of the most revered jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Adoringly remastered, this Rough Guide explores his enduring legacy, from an innovative soloist on cornet and trumpet, to a distinctive and expressive vocalist with the most gravely tones you ever heard.
One should always be cautious when bandying around words such as 'greatest' and 'mostest'. But with Louis Armstrong such caution can surely be thrown to the wind. Few would argue that he was the greatest and most influential jazz musician of the twentieth century.
On this compilation we concentrate on the unforgettably hot jazz music he made over four prolific decades between the 1920s and 1950s, and which justifiably earned him a reputation as one of the world's best-loved entertainers.
A precociously accomplished player, Louis Armstrong's reputation had exploded in Chicago by the early 1920s. By the end of 1924 he was in New York City, expanding his musical vocabulary with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and accompanying the leading 'blues mamas' of the time such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Trixie Smith and Alberta Hunter on some classic recordings, and recording some fine sides with Clarence Williams' Blue Five.
Back in Chicago the following year, he began recording under his own name for Okeh Records, cutting brilliant sides such as 'West End Blues' (featured on this compilation) with a small jazz combo. His warm, effervescent personality busted out all over these recordings, as he jived delightful ad libs to his musicians ('whip that thing, Miss Lil!') or scatted wordlessly and brilliantly on hits such as 'Heebie Jeebies' (also featured here), one of the first recordings in the style.
Once back in New York again, Armstrong formed a new group, Louis Armstrong And The Stompers, one of the highlights of which was his rendition of 'Ain't Misbehavin'', which is also featured here.
By the early 1940s he had settled in Queens, New York. But jazz tastes were changing again as the swing era faded and small groups came back into vogue in place of the big bands. By 1947 he had dissolved his touring big band and, at a New York Town Hall concert, unveiled a new six-piece group, Louis Armstrong And His All Stars, featuring Earl 'Fatha' Hines and Jack Teagarden, among others.
The late 1940s and 1950s found him recording a series of brilliant duets with a number of other singers, among them Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Louis Jordan and Fats Domino, all of whom are featured on the bonus disc of this compilation. He also recorded with the pianist Oscar Peterson and enjoyed a huge hit with a thrilling version of 'Mack The Knife' in 1955 (again featured here).
In his final years, Louis Armstrong enjoyed considerable pop success, and remained a tireless musical ambassador, crisscrossing the globe to entertain.