During the long cold winter of 1931-1932, Louis Armstrong stationed himself in Chicago, where he spun out the last of his OKeh recordings. This volume of vintage jazz opens with 16 of these marvelous sides. Backed by nine resilient players, the trumpeter sings on each and every track, handling light novelties and romantic ballads with relative ease. He makes "Lazy River" sound like he wrote it himself. "Chinatown" has a magnificent spoken intro and vocal by the leader, followed by what he describes as "a little argument between the saxophones and the trumpet," culminating of course in a dazzling display of Armstrong's unsurpassed virtuosity. Brimming with humorous commentary and theatrical patter, "The Lonesome Road" represents a special subgenre of sanctified church burlesques. After Armstrong asks aloud "What kind of church is this?," someone can't resist interjecting a flippant salute to "you vipers." Apparently limbered up and in the mood for conversation, Armstrong introduces his musicians with relish all throughout a fine version of "I Got Rhythm." His handling of "Kickin' the Gong Around" is less theatrical but swings more solidly than Cab Calloway's hyperventilated version. Always ready to outdo even himself, Armstrong recorded a sequel to his "Tiger Rag" with someone loudly counting off the number of choruses as he blew them. What appears to have been his last OKeh record, "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" backed with "Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long," was recorded in Chicago on March 11, 1932, and given the serial number 41560. His next opportunity to record in front of his own band occurred in Camden, NJ, on December 8th. Armstrong was now officially working for the Victor record company. His 11-piece band included trombone legend Big Charlie Green, reedman and composer Edgar Sampson, and percussion wizard Chick Webb, who provided amazing locomotive effects on his snare drum on "Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train." Mezz Mezzrow is said to have been responsible for ringing the bells on this track. This excellent segment of the Louis Armstrong chronology ends with a four-and-a-half-minute "Medley of Armstrong Hits," with a nine-piece Victor studio band backing him every step of the way.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf