Trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong is perhaps the single most influential artist in the history of jazz. He started out in the "hot" bands of 1920s New Orleans, and was one of the first to introduce solo improvisation into the jazz idiom. Over the next several decades, his style altered little, but his disciples were legion. Armstrong, affectionately known as "Satchmo," was among the most loved figures in American popular music; his prolific recording career, along with the timeless nature of his work, ensures that his legacy will continue.
For much of his life, Louis Armstrong was the embodiment of jazz for millions of people, both a great creative artist and a beloved popular entertainer. Whether playing trumpet or singing, adding his own definitive touch to a ballad or spearheading a hot New Orleans-style band, Armstrong was a uniquely compelling figure. It's hard to compress such a career into a single CD, but this one includes many of the milestones, reaching back to 1923 for "Chime Blues" with Armstrong playing in the band of his mentor, King Oliver. At the opposite end of Armstrong's life is 1967's "What a Wonderful World," which only became famous decades after it was recorded. In between are the creative peaks, including a good sampling of Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven bands from the late 1920s--the most influential of his recordings--and a superb small-group version of "Old Rockin' Chair" from 1947. Armstrong's 1931 version of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" retains its special luster seven decades later, and there's also a good selection of trademark hits from his later career, like "Mack the Knife" and "Hello, Dolly!" --Stuart Broomer
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