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The story goes that when young Louis Armstrong arrived in Chicago from New Orleans to join King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, he was so intimidated after hearing the group rehearse for the first time that he tried to flee town for fear that he couldn't hold his own with them. Just a few months later, Armstrong had so overcome his initial shyness and become such a dominant member of the band that for their first recording date, while his colleagues huddled around the primitive recording equipment, he was banished to the far corner of the room so that his horn playing did not sound too overpowering.
Although widely available in other packages, these legendary sessions, made in April and October of 1923 at Gennett studios in Richmond, Indiana, have been reissued in a new, digitally remastered edition from Tradition Records. And they have never sounded so clear or so crisp. Mind you, these are still 75-year old tapes (!), so don't expect miracles. And the music, for all its historical importance and foreshadowing of what was to come, still sounds quaint and old fashioned at times. AND this CD runs a bit short (at just 30 minutes).
But much of what is here is simply remarkable. Armstrong is already playing at a tremendously high level and beginning to introduce his original brand of soloing into the Dixieland ensemble framework. The interplay between Armstrong and his hero Joe Oliver is especially dazzling. If you don't already have a version of Louis Armstrong's very first recordings in your collection, or if you wish to trade up to the definitive sounding version, you'll want to pick up this disc.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.