Louis Armstrong

Gut Bucket Blues

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The first title in the History label's 15-CD box set Louis Armstrong and in the Past Perfect label's ten-CD box set Portrait (both imprints are part of the German firm the International Music Company), Gut Bucket Blues contains the first 20 tracks Louis Armstrong recorded under his own name as part of the Hot Five in 1925 and 1926. In these celebrated recordings, Armstrong's cornet (which he trades in for a trumpet halfway through), vocals, and, on "Who's It," slide whistle are accompanied by Kid Ory on trombone and vocals, Johnny Dodds on clarinet and alto saxophone, Lillian Hardin Armstrong on piano and vocals, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, and, on two tracks, Clarence Babcock on vocals. Among the classic tracks are "Heebie Jeebies," the first major example of Armstrong's scat singing, his composition "Cornet Chop Suey," and his first hit, "Muskrat Ramble," but all the material is impressive, and these recordings are treasured by jazz fans. What sounds like considerable sound processing has resulted in a hiss- and crackle-free sound that misses the highs as a result. Although this material is in the public domain in Europe, making packages like this possible, it is claimed by Sony Music in the U.S.; nevertheless, the two box sets are readily available at a modest price domestically through mail order. Columbia/Legacy's 2000 four-CD box set The Complete Hot Five and Seven Recordings contains these recordings in better fidelity and with far superior annotations, and so is recommended over this barebones collection, which cuts off arbitrarily after 20 tracks, or in the middle of the November 16, 1926, Hot Five recording session. But this one is also far less expensive.

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