This 16-track collection distills a four-disc set down to one, spotlighting this generally unsung period of Armstrong's career. This period, basically 1932-1947, finds him moving from fronting a big band to forming the first versions of the smaller All-Star groups that would carry him the rest of his career. If the bands are a bit stodgy and not up to his standards of brilliance on these sides, you certainly can't fault Armstrong's performances; he's simply at the peak of his powers, blowing with an invention that didn't surface in later years. As a singer, his vocals are effusive and full of spark. Although not as well known as his early and later material, these RCA sides capture some important Armstrong, and here's a nice distillation of a peak period.
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AllMusic Review by Cub Koda