An entry in Union Square's Metro Doubles series, The Essential Louis Armstrong is a 45-track, two-CD set that chronicles Satchmo's career from 1923 to 1949. This begins with sides that Armstrong cut as part of King Oliver's band, then goes to the sessions he cut with Fletcher Henderson and Sidney Bechet before it hits his classic Hot Five and Hot Seven bands. All this is featured on the first disc, while the second runs through highlights from the '30s and '40s. Armstrong cut a bunch of brilliant material during this three decades, so there are inevitably some great songs missing, but what here is not only great, it is representative, so this -- combined with Neil Kellas' excellent liner notes -- makes Essential a good introductory overview of Armstrong's crucial years.
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