Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings re-mastered

Some Like It Hot: The Hot Five Rediscovered (English) De Hot Five en Hot Seven herontdekt: Some Like It Hot (Nederlands) The Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings re-mastered (English) De Hot Five en Hot Seven opnamen heruitgebracht ( Nederlands)

But what fantastic music this is, it's not just a historical curiosity ... (Tom R.)

A few months ago I listened to a 4CD box entitled The best of Louis Armstrong - the Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, released by Columbia, transferred from the "original masters" by a group directed by Phil Schaap. In a previous blog, entitled Some Like It Hot: The Hot Five Rediscovered, I informed you about the high standards in music of these almost 85 years old recordings by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and Seven. Today I love to share with you some of Louis' Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings.

Lil Armstrong ( 1898-1971)

Lil Armstrong, born Hardin, who had married Louis Armstrong, organized a series of concerts with an orchestra at The Dreamland in Chicago in 1925. Thanks to Lil, the Hot Five was born, a group similiar to the Clarence Williams' Blue Five concept, was founded. Thanks to E.A. Fearn, recording executive of Okeh, the band got a contract to record exclusively for Okeh. It wasn't hard to find the musicians for Louis for this studio band: He asked Kid Ory, Johnny St. Cyr and Johnny Dodds to join him - his wife Lil would play the piano.

The Hot Five: f.l.t.r.: Johnny St. Cyr - Johny Dodds - Louis Armstrong - Kid Ory and Lil Armstrong

They started to make a repertoire: I used to sit on the back steps of Lil's house and write five or six songs a day - just lead sheets - Louis remembered later, and Lil would put the other parts to them, cornet, clarinet, trombone etc. Baby Dodds, who was the drummer in some of the Hot Seven recordings remembered how they rehearsed together and everybody could bring in his ideas. We weren't a bunch of fellows to write down anything. That would have made it too mechanical. We would stop and talk it over more than anything else. If there was any writing involved Lil would write down what the musicians were supposed to do. Louis told each other when to take a solo or when not to, and who would come in at different times.

Lil Hardin divorced early 1930s and made her own career in jazz

One of the most virtuosic intro's in Jazz must be the one of the West End Blues? The ultimate test for all trumpet players? Listen to a fragment of this great tune, played by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, recorded in June 1928. What to think about the percussion instrument, probably the cymbals or a woodblock, used by Zutty Singleton?

One of the things I want to share with you today is the great sound quality of the new master recordings released on the 2008 Columbia 4CD set by a team which contained Seth Foster, Ken Robertson, Tom "Curly" Ruff, Phil Schaap, Mark Wilder, Steve Berkowitz and Michael Brooks.

The fragments you hear on this blog, however, are not from the restored 4CD, but fragments available on YouTube - You should listen the original 4CD and then you'll understand how I enjoyed these transfers.

Louis Armstrong ( 1901-1971)

Louis Armstrong's Hot Five played in the so-called New Orleans style, but this musical style, born in the first decades of the twentieth century, had developed, after the move of most New Orleans musicians to Chicago, into a style that was based on the New Orleans routines, these simple but precise head arrangements were combined with forthright improvisation (The Essential Jazz Records (vol. 1) by Max Harrison a.o.). Dozens of books are written about the early Armstrong and his Hot Five recordings and I don't want to write the next article about it, but I love to share with you the sensation listening to the best of Louis Armstrong's recordings: the Hot Five and Hot Seven.

Alligator Blues ( originally released as Alligator Crawl) on a 1936 Dutch reissue. (Hans koert collection)
Two of the Hot Seven recordings, The Alligator Crawl and the Potato Head Blues, I have on a Parlophone R 2185 78rpm record. It's a Dutch record released in the Second New Rhythm Style Series as no. 116, probably released in 1936 (Thanks Han). My copy has Alligator Blues in stead of Alligator Crawl, but the tune is in fact the same. Listen tothe Potato Head Blues, which is said to be one of Louis Armstrong's best .............

The tune A Monday Date is also one of those remarkable records by the Hot Five. The record is from June 1928 when the personnel had changed: Louis Armstrong is, of course, to be heard on trumpet and sings together with Earl Hines, who plays the piano ( Louis' relation and marriage with Lil wasn't very good at that time - they divorced in 1931)) - Fred Robinson plays the trombone, Jimmy Strong on reeds, Mancy Cara on banjo and Zutty Singleton drums.

Earl "Fatha" Hines (1903-1983)
Earl Hines was one of the best piano players of the day and opens his composition A Monday Date. Hey, say, Earl Hines, why don't you let us in on some of that good music, Pops? Armstrong asks Hines. Well, come on, let's get together then. Okay, tune up boys, Armstrong continues. That sounds very good, Hines responds. Yes, "That sounds pretty good" I'll bet that if you had half a pint of Mississippi gin you wouldn't say "That sounds pretty good". Then the tune starts with a great intro by Zutty Singleton on the cymbals: Well anyhow we're gonna play anyway. Say, come on Zutty, whip those cymbals, Pops.

Love to conclude this small homage to Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven re-mastered recordings with one of those terrible traditionals, which melody won't leave your head, but in which Louis plays the theme in a unforgettable way. It seems as if he jokes with the melody - as if he hates this dated tune ( Earl Fuller recorded this 1914 composition with his Rector Novelty Orchestra ten years earlier,( Even Fats Waller hated it !!), but creates one of the best solo's of the tune, if you compare it with John Thomas on the trombone and Johnny Dodds on the clarinet. The hits on the cymbals by Baby Dodds and the sousaphone by Pete Briggs sound great on the re-mastered Columbia reissue.

Try to find these great Hot Five or Hot Seven recordings on this Columbia 4CD box, released in 2008, (or other reissues) and enjoy the masters of the twenties as how they sounded then ........

Hans Koert

A lot of visitors of the Keep Swinging blog sent me their commends regarding the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings ( But what fantastic music this is, it's not just a historical curiosity... ) (quote Tom R.) and this great compilation, released in Europe only. The Sony box, as released in the US, and the JSP-box, have some extra tracks played by the Johnny Dodds Black Bottom Stompers, which is in fact the Hot Seven
If you love to listen to this great tunes again, Keep Swinging has selected some for you. Keep Swinging loves to unearth such old treasures in music - if you don't want to miss it
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Blogger Jo said...

Great stuff, thanks a lot!


9:58 AM  

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