Sunday, August 08, 2010

Some Like It Hot: The Hot Five rediscovered

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)

Ah, whip that thing, Miss Lil! Whip it, kid!
Hans Koert

The traditional jazz collector seems to be a human species that becomes extinct - they will be remembered as a group of unworldly, but harmles, as dry as dust, men ( 98% are white and male species), who snoop about record fairs or junk markets with a bunch of black 78s under one arm and two volumes of Rust's discographies under the other. They talk about takes and matrices, about Gennett or Brunswick, about test pressings and stylus. Well - you'll recognize these men - I'm sure. R. Crumb, artist and record collector himself, made some beautiful drawing which illustrates all.
Part of a comic strip: Why I'm Neurotic About My Record Collection by R. Crumb inside the booklet of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Off ( click on the picture to enlarge) ( courtesy: R. Crumb)

They collect the music they heard when they were young - the names of their heroes are Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington or Jelly Roll Morton. These musicians recorded during the second half of the 1920s and this is the music they love to hear. Most collectors of these 78s are now old and grey - the "younger" generations, in its 50s and 60s, collect most 33rpm LPs from the 1950s and 1960s - the music from the post-Parker period - Albums from Milt Jackson and John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis are collectables. For those collectors the breakable black shellac 78rpm records are relics of a long gone episode - unplayable on their modern gramophones...... dated noises - prehistorically artefacts. They are not interested in collecting these old masters, this old rubbish ..............
Cover of the 4CD box The Best of Louis Armstrong. The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings ( Columbia 88697301272)
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. I played it and was surprised by the high standards in music of these almost 85 years old recordings by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and, above all, the great quality of the sound restoration, which makes this box into one of my most valuable sources for the 1920s jazz scene. Almost two years ago I pointed you to another great set restored by Doug Benson on the Off The Record label from the King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band recordings.
Louis Armstrong ( 1901 - 1971)
In King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band Louis Armstrong and his future wife Lil Hardin, Johnny Dodds and his younger brother Baby Dodds played together during the early 1920s; they who would become a few years later members of the Hot Five ( and Hot Seven). In 1924 Louis left Oliver and moved to New York where he was invited to play in the Fletcher Henderson orchestra, which had an engagement to play in the Roseland's Ballroom. In fact, Louis didn't felt at home here, as Fletcher's band was in fact a dance orchestra, in which Louis had to bring some "Jazz" and "Swing". Louis Armstrong left Fletcher Henderson late 1925, due to Lil Armstrong, now Louis' wife, and after a talk with mr. Fearn, the Okeh recording executive, the Hot Five was born, with Louis Armstrong on cornet, Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo and Lil Armstrong at the keys. This Hot Five ( and later the Hot Seven) was, in fact, a studio orchestra for OKeh only - they never played in public. As the Lil's Hot Shots they recorded some sides for Vocalion. The Hot Five made dozens of recordings between 1925 and 1928 - later enlarged with tuba and drums as the Hot Seven.
The Hot Five (1925) ( f.l.t.r.: Louis Armstrong - Johnny St. Cyr, Baby Dodds, Kid Ory and Lil Armstrong. ( photo collection: Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutger University)
These Hot Five recordings are well known by the traditional jazz fans, but jazz cats and collectors of records from the post-Parker period, collectors of bebop and hard bop LPs, seem to be less interested. It is old fashioned; noisy sounds from their grand parents. In fact they learned about these prehistorical recordings thanks to awfully bad transferred LPs on cheap obscure labels, which cleaned the sound by filtering the surface noise and high tones, which makes that listening to the Hot Five recordings was as if you your speakers are hidden under a blanket. And if your "lucky" the mono-tunes were "rechanneled for stereo" ..... Rubbish ! Thanks to modern sounds restoration techniques this belongs to the past .......
Gut Bucket Blues - Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five ( Recorded Chicago 12th of November, 1925) ( Okeh 8261)
These recordings have been reissued on dozens of albums, LPs and CDs, and the tunes Gut Bucket Blues, Cornet Chop Suey, You're Next and Jazz Lips are classics. Enjoy a fragment of Gut Bucket Blues, one of the tunes recorded at the Hot Five's first recording session in Chicago, the 12th of November 1925 in which Louis introduces the members of the band. The second voice is by Kid Ory.

Aw play that thing, Mr. St. Cyr, lawd. You know you can do it. Everybody in New Orleans can realy do that thing. Hey Hey. - Ah, whip that thing, Miss Lil! Whip it, kid! Aw, pick that piano, yea - Ah, blow it, Kid Ory, blow it, kid - Blow that thing, Mr. Johnny Dodds! Ah, toot that clarinet, boy.”

Next time more about these remastered Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings.
Hans Koert

The Night Watch or The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq by the Dutch 17th Century painter Rembrandt or the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda from Leonardo Da Vinci (some people even visit Paris to catch a glimpse of her) belong to the world treasures of arts - no doubt about that. But what about the treasures in Jazz? What bands or tunes should be inside the Hall of Fame? Well, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven records should - No doubt about that. I rediscovered these wonderful played tunes thanks to a 4CD Columbia album entitled The Best of Louis Armstrong: The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings. I was amazed to learn that so many (most contemporary) jazz collectors don't know the beauty of these 85 year old recordings. What a shame ............... Keep swinging loves to introduce you to these forgotten treasures from the 1920s - don't miss it. Ask for its newsletter.

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot for 'shaking the dust bin' and let the hidden pearls thrown away in moments of jazz historic ignorance once again surface and shine. The Hot Five & Hot Seven recordings belong to the core of jazz music, if this word still has a meaning - if not, they'll survive thanks to the artistic quality, no matter the level of the medium that reproduce the sound of the original discs. - It's good to know that modern technology has helped re-creating the original sound of these indispensable recordings. True jazz collectors cannot live long without having these treasures at hand in best audio format, of course.


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