Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz)

Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz)

Brian Harker

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0195388402

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For jazz historians, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings mark the first revolution in the history of a music riven by upheaval. Yet few traces of this revolution can be found in the historical record of the late 1920s, when the discs were made. Even black newspapers covered Armstrong as just one name among many, and descriptions of his playing, while laudatory, bear little resemblance to those of today. Through a careful analysis of seven seminal recordings in this compact and engaging book, author Brian Harker recaptures the perspective of Armstrong's original audience without abandoning that of today's listeners. The world of vaudeville and show business provide crucial context to his readings, revealing how the demands of making a living in a competitive environment catalyzed Armstrong's unique artistic gifts. Invoking a breadth of influences ranging from New Orleans clarinet style to Guy Lombardo, and from tap dancing to classical music, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings offers bold insights, fresh anecdotes, and, ultimately, a new interpretation of Louis Armstrong and his most influential body of work.













unsyncopated figure (emphasizing downbeats)”—together with a razzle-dazzle clarinet-style break in the middle of the chorus.13 In this solo two rhymes are at work, one connecting the odd measures and another the even (example 2.3). In contrast to the predictability in “Chimes Blues,” however, the repeating motives in “Go ’Long, Mule” sparkle with variational interest. EXAMPLE 2.3 Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra, “Go ’Long Mule,” Louis Armstrong’s solo. Despite the obvious effectiveness of

Armstrong dominated his field at the cost of nearly destroying his career. After an especially gruesome blowout in late 1933, he was forced into a prolonged semiretirement while his lip healed. When he finally resumed his regular performing schedule in 1935, it was with an apparently chastened perspective. Twelve years later he made his statement about temptation during a Down Beat roundtable. One wonders if he recognized himself in his pious rebuke of the rising generation: “All the young cats

the mouth before placing the mouthpiece, and to broaden the smile as the notes got higher. It was thought that stretching the lips created more rapid vibrations; as the vibrations sped up, the pitch would rise as well. The theory overlooked the byproduct of a thinner sound as the lips were stretched. A complementary theory, born around 1910, compounded the problem. In reaction against earlier teachings to press the instrument against the lips to ascend, a vast movement devoted to “nonpressure”

pitch-bending, blue-note tributes to Oliver and his generation, and would continue to do so throughout his life. But another blues language had coalesced from the various harmonic ideas that emerged in his previous recordings. This language emerges full-blown in “Savoy Blues.” “SAVOY BLUES” After making the Hot Seven recordings, Armstrong returned to the studio with his Hot Five in September and December 1927. During this period the band recorded nine sides over four sessions, including “Put

26 Meryman, “An Authentic American Genius,” 112; Jones and Chilton, Louis, 237. 27 John Lawrence McCann, “A History of Trumpet and Cornet Pedagogy in the United States, 1840–1942” (PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1989), 24, quote on p. 31. 28 Louis Armstrong, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1954; reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1986), 213–14. 29 For more on this subject, see Kenney, Chicago Jazz, 42–43. 30 McCann, “A History of Trumpet and Cornet Pedagogy,” 70. 31

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