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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 would be unable to 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 the sound of his horn did not overwhelm the other musicians.
Although widely available in other packages, these legendary sessions, made in April and October of 1923 at the 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. The music too, for all its historical importance and foreshadowing of what was to come, can sound quaint and old fashioned at times. And the 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 on cornet 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 defintive sounding version, you'll want to pick up this disc.