It can easily be argued that Louis Armstrong was at his most advanced during the 1928 recordings that featured him with the Savoy Ballroom Five. Constantly challenged by the equally adventurous pianist Earl Hines, Armstrong is consistently remarkable throughout the 18 selections that are on this CD. First there are three tracks with big bands during 1927-1928 ("Chicago Breakdown," "Symphonic Raps," and "Savoyagers' Stomp") that also include Hines; then the chronology picks up where Vol. 3 left off. The startling "West End Blues" (with its classic trumpet cadenza) was always Armstrong's personal favorite recording, "Weather Bird" is a hair-raising duet with Hines, and other highlights include "Sugar Foot Strut," "Beau Koo Jack," and the earliest recorded versions of "Basin Street Blues" and "St. James Infirmary." Although the other musicians in the Savoy Ballroom Five (trombonist Fred Robinson, Jimmy Strong on clarinet and tenor, banjoist Mancy Cara, and, for some selections, Don Redman on clarinet and alto) is excellent, it is the interplay between Hines, drummer Zutty Singleton, and Satch that really makes the music classic. The first four volumes in this series are essential for all serious jazz collections.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow