Trying to capture Louis Armstrong's best on a single CD is a hopeless task. Even a brief perusal of the many "best of" collections on the market shows that Armstrong had too many sides to pin down with a few tracks. There is Armstrong, the cornet virtuoso, playing with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens; there's Armstrong, the gruff-voiced singer, who could turn a throwaway lyric into poetry; there is Armstrong, the pop star, fronting a big band; and there is Armstrong, the "Ambassador of Goodwill," performing with his touring All-Stars.
Despite a cover photo from much later, Intersound's BEST OF wisely sticks to a single period of Armstrong's career-namely his early days fronting small groups. The booklet provides little information about the particular recordings, but they are primarily taken from the Hot Fives and Sevens of the late 1920s. These are the performances that made Armstrong a star-"Mahogany Hall Stomp," "Cornet Chop Suey," and "Heebie Jeebies," his first foray into scat. Digital remastering has rendered these songs in a slightly different light, punching up the sound while adding a "modern" touch of reverb. In any event, these recordings are required listening for every red-blooded American.