Most Louis Armstrong collections start with the cornet and trumpet player's first sessions as a leader, the 1927 sessions with his Hot Five. This exhaustive multi-disc set, however, begins with Armstrong's earliest known recordings, 25 tracks recorded in Richmond, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band between April and October, 1923. Armstrong was not this band's primary soloist, but played second cornet behind Oliver.
However, even as a sideman and occasional soloist, Armstrong's unique and innovative sound is readily apparent, and the presence of later Hot Five members Lil Hardin (piano), Johnny Dodds (clarinet) and Johnny St. Cyr (banjo) adds to the similarity. The sound on this carefully-remastered CD is exemplary, and the exhaustive bilingual booklet contains not only a sessionography and biographical essay, but also extensive musical analysis of each song, with diagrams. This collection is essential for both jazz historians and Armstrong fans.