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Hot Fives & Sevens Vol 1
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Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1 ___________________________________________________

JSP Records CD 312

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: Louis Armstrong c, v-1; Kid Ory tb; Johnny Dodds cl; Lil Armstrong p; Johnny St. Cyr bj.

Chicago – November 12, 1925

1. 9484-A My Heart
2. 9485-A Yes! I’m In The Barrel
3. 9486-A Gut Bucket Blues – 1

As above, except Dodds doubles on alt – 2
Chicago – February 22, 1926

4. 9503-A Come Back, Sweet Papa – 2

As above, except Lil Armstrong v – 3
Chicago – February 26, 1926

5. 9533-A Georgia Grind 1, 3
6. 9534-A Heebie Jeebies – 1
7. 9535-A Comet Chop Suey
8. 9536-A Oriental Strut
9. 9537-A You’re Next
10. 9538-A Muskrat Ramble

As above, except Louis Armstrong doubles on slide-whistle – 4
Chicago – June 16, 1926

11. 9729-A Don’t Forget To Mess Around – 1, 2
12. 9730-A I’m Gonna Gitcha – 1
13. 9731-A Dropping Shucks – 1
14. 9732-A Who’ sit – 4

Butterbeans And Susie (Joe and Susie Edwards), vocals duet acc by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: Louie Armstrong c; Ory tb; Dodds cl; Lil Armstrong p; Johnny St. Cyr bj.
Chicago – circa June 18 - , 1926

15. 9750-A He Likes It Slow

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: As before, except Clarence Babcock speech – 5
Chicago – June 23, 1926

16. 9776-A The King of the Zulus – 1, 3, 5
17. 9777-A Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa – 1, 5
18. 9778-A Lonesome Blues – 1
19. 9779-A Sweet Little Papa

As before, except May Alix v – 6
Chicago – November 16, 1926

20. 9890-A Jazz Lips
21. 9891-A Skid-Dat-De-Dat – 1
22. 9892-A Big Butter and Egg Man from the West – 1, 6
23. 9893-A Sunset Café Stomp – 6

As before, except that Hy Clark (tb) probably replaces Ory.
Chicago – November 27, 1926

24. 9980-A You Made Me Love You – 1
25. 9981-A Irish Black Bottom – 1

Remastered by John R. T. Davies
Photography courtesy of Max Jones


Few jazz records can have had so drastic an impact as the series Louis Armstrong began making in Chicago during the autumn of 1925. Three years earlier he had caught the train from New Orleans to Chicago to join King Oliver's band on second cornet. In 1923 that band's pianist, Lil Hardin, became his second wife and promptly began planning a career for her husband. It was she who persuaded him to hand in his notice to Oliver, then to accept an offer to work in the big band that Fletcher Henderson was leading at New York's Roseland Ballroom. At the first rehearsal Henderson's musicians were skeptical about this cornet player from out of town who looked like a simple country boy ("He was big and fat and wore high-top shoes with hooks in them, and long underwear down to his socks" was how Don Redman, Henderson's arranger, recalled that original encounter). But Armstrong brought with him a rhythmic sophistication and a boldness of imagination that was a revelation to even the most hardened of New York professionals.

A year later – in the first week of November, 1925 – Louis Armstrong returned to Chicago and immediately set about performing in the cabarets and theatres which catered for black audiences. Lil had organized a band to feature him at the Dreamland Cafe on South State Street. The following month he also began working with Erskine Tate's twenty-piece "Little Symphony" Orchestra at the nearby Vendome Theatre. At both venues he played in a style that was noticeably more advanced than what his contemporaries were up to. And within a week of arriving back in Chicago he had begun making records with the group he called his Hot Five, records which at the beginning, anyway – used the collective improvising typical of New Orleans bands and were aimed at the vast numbers of Southern blacks who had moved northward during and just after World War I.

Four members of the Hot Five – Armstrong, his wife Lil, Johnny Dodds and Johnny St Cyr – had worked alongside one another in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band; Armstrong had played the cornet with Kid Ory's band in New Orleans not long before leaving for Chicago and Ory was now playing with him nightly at the Dreamland Cafe. So the musicians knew one another well enough to be relaxed. Indeed, every recording by the Hot five was a "first take" with no worrying out fluffs or missed cues or other occasional streaky moments. The first session was something of a warm-up, a preparation for a more ambitious future. Even the tune titles had a homely flavour. Yes, I'm In The Barrel was slang for being without money (in other words, if you couldn't afford clothes you wore a barrel instead). In Gut Bucket Blues (a gut bucket collected the drippings from wine and beer barrels in barrel houses) Armstrong introduced everybody in the band. It is noticeable, in fact, that Armstrong's voice came to be heard regularly on his own records (he had, he declared later, resented Fletcher Henderson's reluctance to allow him to sing). In February 1926 he could be said to have popularized scat singing by his gravelly improvising on Heebie Jeebies. It was not the first scat to get on to record (that honour seems to belong to Don Redman on Fletcher Henderson's 1924 version of My Papa Doesn't Two-Time No Time) but it certainly became the most influential.

Heebie Jeebies was Armstrong's first hit record, selling 40,000 copies with a few weeks. But fellow cornet players were overwhelmed by another recording made at that session, one that seems lucky to have been released (a test pressing found many years later had "Recommended for rejection" scribbled on its label). That was Cornet Chop Suey, full of exciting stop-time solo work and demonstrating how Armstrong was breaking away from the tradition of New Orleans ensemble playing, turning instead into an individual virtuoso. That session also saw the first recording of Muskrat Ramble, destined to become one of the most enduring of all Dixieland-style tunes. Martin Williams (in "Jazz Masters of New Orleans") has outlined the conflict of evidence about its composition. Kid Ory claimed to have written it in 1921 while working at a taxi dance-hall in Los Angeles ("It had no name then", he recalled, "Lil Armstrong gave it that title at the record session". On the other hand, Louis Armstrong, interviewed by 'Down Beat', also claimed that he wrote the tune ("Ory named it, he gets the royalties," he said, "I don't talk abut it"). Meanwhile Sidney Bechet maintained that at least part of theme had come from an old folksong, The Old Cow died and the Old Man Cried.

The Hot Five performed together in public on only two occasions. Both took place – the first on February 27,1926, the second on June 12 – at the Coliseum Theatre. Both were organized by the Okeh Record Company in association with the local black musicians' union. Bands taking part included those of King Oliver, Charlie Elgar, Bennie Moten and Erskine Tate as well as the Hot Five, while among the singers were Lonnie Johnson, Sara Martin, Chippie Hall, Sippie Wallace and the duo of Butterbeans and Susie. Perhaps that occasion prompted Okeh to use the Hot Five to accompany the last-named two performers on He Likes It Slow, recorded about a week after the concert. Jody ("Butterbeans") Edwards came from Georgia, his wife Susie from Florida. They had been, respectively, fifteen and fourteen when they were married – on-stage – in 1916. They remained favourites; on the black vaudeville circuit for decade after decade, recording for the last time only a short while before their deaths in the early 1960s.

A couple of days earlier. Armstrong's Hot Five recorded a set of pieces that reflected the pop-song patterns of 1926. Just as he had done in the earlier Come Back Sweet Papa. Johnny Dodds played alto saxophone In Don't Forget To Mess Around, while Who' sit had Armstrong taking a chorus on the Swanee (or slide) whistle, a popular novelty Instrument of the day. The session that took place on June 23 allowed Clarence Babcock to earn a tiny niche in history by acting as master of ceremonies in Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa, and, more memorably, as the intrusive West Indian character offering to play “one o’ me matove jazz tunes" in The King Of The Zulus (subtitled "A Chit'lin' Rag"). The reference here was to the  Zulu Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the organisations which takes a prominent part in the annual Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans. By a pleasing twist of history, Armstrong himself was in 1949 to be crowned King of the Zulus - and to ride in the parade.

Five months later the Hot Five came up with two of their very finest performances. In both his singing and playing on Skid·Dat-De-Dat Armstrong began exploring a melancholy ambience & bringing to it his own mixture of the poignant and the majestic. A different kind of eloquence, exuberant rather than introspective, emerged in his solo on Big Butter and Egg Man. That was one of several pieces devised by Percy Venable, who produced the floor/shows at the Sunset Club where Armstrong was currently featured with Carroll Dickerson's Orchestra, May Alix, who sings on both that track and Sunset Cafe Stomp, was part of that floor show and most renowned for a running split which had her sliding halfway across the clubs' small stage. Venable also collaborated with Armstrong on You Made Me Love You When I Saw You Cry – not to be confused with James V. Monaco's more famous You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It), published in 1913 ... and Irish Black Bottom ("I was born in Ireland" may be the most unlikely line Armstrong was ever called upon to sing.

Kid Ory had to miss the Hot Five’s final session in 1926. Otherwise the personnel had remained unchanged throughout the preceding twelve months. It was a period which saw Louis Armstrong's emergence as a blazing new presence in jazz cornet player who elbowed his way out of the ensemble to become the music's first great soloist.

During the following year he not only consolidated that reputation but with his expanded group, the Hot Seven, took jazz to even greater heights of virtuosity and expressiveness.


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