Legacy has seen fit -- and rightfully so -- to issue the complete recordings of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven as individual volumes instead of just a box set. This is a solid way to go for collectors trying to fill holes. It's also the best way for a beginner, not only with Armstrong's music but that of early-recorded jazz, to become acquainted with the development of improvisation in the music. Volume 1 concentrates on the Hot Five material from 1925 and 1926. The first band included Armstrong, Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, pianist Lil Hardin, and banjo boss Johnny St. Cyr. These 20 recordings were made for the Okeh label. The blues model on which all of these tunes were based is extrapolated upon and remade in the image of first the ensemble and then in the image of the soloist. From "My Heart" and the amazing "Oriental Strut" to "Lonesome Blues," to "Come Back Sweet Papa," to the introduction of scat singing in Lil Hardin's "Skid-Dat-De Dat," the exuberance and professionalism just drip from these tunes. But notions of harmonic invention are also present, places where the soloist slips outside the changes and moves toward reaching a musical unity with the ensemble by whatever means necessary as long as it swung. The sound here is as good as it gets for the time, and after one or two listens, the hiss is barely recognizable. What's important is the fidelity of the music, and it's excellent.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek