The Louis Armstrong Discography: The Hot Fives/Sevens (1925 - 1928)

The Louis Armstrong Discography: The Hot Fives/Sevens (1925 - 1928)

After dazzling New York with a swinging style bred in New Orleans and honed in the jazz hotbed of Chicago, Armstrong was "encouraged" to return to the Windy City by his wife, Lillian, who hustled to keep her husband busy in clubs throughout the city. Immediately, a talented line-up was corralled to create The Hot Five, a combo that -- though it was basically an all-star studio aggregation that only played two small promotional performances -- produced a series of recordings that stand as the Rosetta Stone of jazz.

With Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, Lil Armstrong herself on piano, and Louis Armstrong fronting on cornet, The Hot Five was a virtual all-star band. With this group, Louis rose to the very pinnacle of the jazz world, gathering universal recognition with his groundbreaking horn solos and steadily gaining strength as a singer.

There is some question about whether Armstrong played cornet or trumpet on many of the Hot Five sessions. The session info given on the JSP box set of Hot Fives/Sevens (remastered by John R.T. Davies with liner notes by Charles Fox) indicates that Armstrong played cornet on the early Hot Five sessions and moved to trumpet in June of 1928 after Lil Armstrong was replaced by Earl Hines. However, historian Rainer Blum believes that Armstrong made a largely permanent switch when he joined the Fletcher Henderson band in September 1924 and points to the widely disseminated promo photo of the Hot Five (with Lil Armstrong) where he is clearly holding a trumpet. However, it is entirely possible that Armstrong chose different instruments for different situations and in the absence of more definitive documentation, the info here defers to the JSP liner notes.

The personnel of the Hot Five fluctuated throughout it's brief existence. The occasional addition of drums made it a Hot Six and a bass made it a Hot Seven. Armstrong also stayed busy recording in similar small groups behind a number of blues singers during this period. Along with the fact that the groups recorded under a number of different names for different labels, deciding what constitutes a legitimate Hot Whatever record can be an abstract endeavor in some situations.

As the 20's reached their closure, Louis and Lil became more distanced; she was finally replaced by the great Earl Hines on piano and there was little reason for Armstrong to remain in Chicago. In 1929, Armstrong returned to New York, this time with his reputation as the world's pre-eminent jazzman secured. As the stock market crashed and the nation careened toward Depression, Louis Armstrong rose to become the ebony champion of the pop music arena.

Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five
November 12, 1925: Chicago, Illinois

A new era in the young history of jazz begins with this, the first session of the Hot Fives. For the next three years, the face of American music will be wiped clean and re-formed in the shape of Armstrong's New Orleans/New York/Chicago hybrid of jazz/pop -- all starting here with this historic session. Two Armstrong-written tunes make their way onto the first Hot Five record; the third number, by Mrs. Armstrong, is held in reserve for the next session -- following a three-month delay in recordings. To form this seminal combo, Lil and Louis raid a rich cache of former King Oliver mates to snag Dodds and St. Cyr.

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Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five
February 22, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

Another track held back briefly for release. A furious resumption of recording after a three-month hiatus, with six sessions in a matter of two weeks.

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Bertha "Chippie" Hill
February 23-24, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Baby Mack
February 23, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Hociel Thomas
February 24, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

Hill and Thomas again benefit from collaboration with Louis.

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Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five
February 26, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

This set of great recordings includes Louis' first genuine vocal performances on GEORGIA GRIND and HEEBIE JEEBIES. Wife Lil also does vocal work on GEORGIA GRIND. Following this day's work, four two-sided discs are ready for release. ORIENTAL STRUT/YOU'RE NEXT and MUSKRAT RAMBLE/HEEBIE JEEBIES are given consecutive release numbers by OKeh; GEORGIA GRIND is paired with COME BACK, SWEET PAPA (from February 22); and CORNET CHOP SUEY finds its mate with MY HEART, recorded back in November. This group of songs includes some truly landmark recordings, especially Kid Ory's MUSKRAT RAMBLE, which immediately takes its place as a jazz standard.

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Sippie Wallace
March 1-3, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Sippie Wallace
March 3, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Lillian Armstrong's Serenaders
April 20, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

A rejected session for Vocalion, that will be redone a month later as "Lill's Hot Shots". The personnel listed for this session is speculative.

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Erskine Tate's Vendrome Orchestra
May 28, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Lill's Hot Shots
May 28, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

Louis has a vocal on GEORGIA BO BO

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Nolan Welsh
June 16, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 16, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Butterbeans and Susie
June 18, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 23, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

Armstrong has vocals on BIG FAT MA and LONESOME BLUES, and speech on KING OF THE ZULUS. Clarence Babcock has speech on KING OF THE ZULUS and BIG FAT MA

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
November 16, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
November 16, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Bertha "Chippie" Hill
November 23-26, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Bertha "Chippie" Hill
November 26, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
November 27, 1926: Chicago, Illinois

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Jimmy Bertrand's Washboard Wizards
April 21, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Johnny Dodd's Black Bottom Stompers
April 22, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Sippie Wallace
May 6, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 7, 1927: Chicago, IL

Nearly half a year after their last "Hot Five" session, Louis Armstrong's combo makes a triumphal return to the OKeh studio, where 11 numbers will be cut in the course of a week. With the addition of a tuba and drums, the Hot Five become the Hot Seven. Baby Dodds, another King Oliver alumnus, makes his Hot Seven debut. Armstrong's recordings from this point forward also have considerably better fidelity than the 1926 Hot Five recordings. Supposedly, all of the Hot Five recordings were recorded using the new, higher-fidelity electronic process rather than the old acoustic process that mars recordings prior to the mid 1920s. However, the noticable improvement in quality from this point forward suggests that perhaps OKeh adopted the electronic process in late 1926 after the initial set of Hot Fives were recorded.

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Louis Armstrong and His Stompers
May 9, 1927: Chicago, IL

The first Armstrong big band.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 10, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 11, 1927: Chicago, IL

With the addition of a tuba and drums, the Hot Five become the Hot Seven. This is the first of four sessions finish off the set of recordings begun on May 7, and also represent the extent of the "Hot Seven" records: WILD MAN BLUES/GULLY LOW BLUES, WILLIE THE WEEPER/ALLIGATOR CRAWL, MELANCHOLY/KEYHOLE BLUES, POTATO HEAD BLUES/PUT 'EM DOWN BLUES (recorded 9/2/27), and WEARY BLUES/THAT'S WHEN I'LL COME BACK TO YOU. The other two numbers -- S.O.L. BLUES and TWELFTH STREET RAG -- were filed away until their eventual Columbia release in 1940.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 13, 1927: Chicago, IL

Dick Baker notes that the exact authorship of Keyhole Blues is a matter of some debate. Rick Riccardi asserts the song was written by Wesley Wilson, who had worked with Armstrong in Fletcher Henderson's band and who also made a recording of a Keyhole Blues the following year that bears almost no resemblance to the Armstrong recording. The OKeh and Vocalion releases list no writer and the Columbia 20028 release credits "W. Wilson." The Columbia Hot Fives/Sevens CD set credits "N. Wilson." The ASCAP database cites Wesley Wilson as the author with Armstrong as the sole associated performer, although Baker made a search of the Library of Congress copyright books for 1926-1929 and could not find confirmation that the song was ever copywritten. But as was so often the case, regardless of the original writer, Armstrong and his merry band made every recording a unique and distinctive creation.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 14, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
May 14, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
September 2, 1927: Chicago, IL

Back to the Hot Five ensemble.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
September 6, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
December 9, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
December 10, 1927: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
December 13, 1927: Chicago, IL

This is the final recording session with the "classic" Hot Five lineup (plus Lonnie Johnson). Hereafter, the "Hot Five" would be whoever Armstrong happened to be recording with.

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Lillie Delk Christian with Louis Armstrong and His Hot Four
June 26, 1928: Chicago, IL

A dry run for the new Hot Five ensemble, which will enjoy their own first session the following day.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 27, 1928: Chicago, IL

Louis moves forward on his own without wife Lil -- whose presence is still ironically strong, with three compositions on the docket. An entirely new alignment appears on these discs, with the Hot Five being reality a Hot Six. OKeh ends up with no fewer than four records from these sessions: FIREWORKS/WEST END BLUES; A MONDAY DATE/SUGAR FOOT STOMP; SKIP THE GUTTER/KNEE DROPS; and TWO DEUCES/SQUEEZE ME.

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 28, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 29, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
June 29, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
July 5, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Carroll Dickerson's Savoyagers
July 5, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
December 4, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
December 4, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
December 5, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
December 5, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong
December 5, 1928: Chicago, IL

Armstrong's first recording released under just his name

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Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
December 7, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Lillie Delk Christian with Louis Armstrong & His Hot Four
December 11, 1928: Chicago, IL

See http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2007/12/december-11-19281948.html

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Lillie Delk Christian with Louis Armstrong & His Hot Four
December 12, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
December 12, 1928: Chicago, IL

Armstrong bids farewell to Chicago with this final trio of sides.

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
December 12, 1928: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
March 5, 1929: New York, NY

Louis is back in the Big Apple. Ironically, although this is Armstrong's first recorded work with Jack Teagarden, it is also the last of what are considered the classic Hot Five / Hot Seven recordings. Aside from a few isolated dates, Armstrong would not regularly record with a small group again until economics and changing tastes forced the dissolusion of his orchestra in 1947 and the formation of the "All Stars", of which Teagarden would be a founding member.

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
March 5, 1929, New York City: New York, NY

This is obviously an orchestra session (not a Hot Five), but the three tracks from this date accepted by OKeh were paired with three Chicago numbers on release: I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE/NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU; MAHOGANY HALL STOMP/BEAU KOO JACK; and KNOCKIN' A JUG/MUGGLES.

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Louis Armstrong And His Savoy Ballroom Five
March 5, 1929, New York City: New York, NY

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