The Qobuz Standard
Between November 1926 and December 1928, Louis Armstrong recorded about 67 titles as leader, sideman, and accompanist. Vol. 4 in Fremeaux's exhaustively complete Louis Armstrong series follows his footsteps as he recorded for OKeh, Vocalion, Brunswick, Columbia, and Odeon, leading his Hot Four, Five, and Seven as well as his Stompers and his Savoy Ballroom Five. Armstrong's resilient diversity is prominently displayed in high relief as he is heard sitting in with Jimmy Bertrand's Washboard Wizards, Johnny Dodds' Black Bottom Stompers, and Carroll Dickerson's Orchestra, or providing artful and passionate accompaniments for Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Sippie Wallace, Lillie Delk Christian, and Hociel Thomas, whose November 1925 recording of "Sunshine Baby" was chucked into this volume in order to correct a previous omission in the series, prompting the producers to apologize for a "muddled chronology" that jumps all over the place anyway in order to stack 11 Hot Seven recordings at the beginning of disc two. The inclusion of Chippie, Sippie, Lillie, and Hociel makes this a special treat for those who want to contemplate Armstrong's fascinating abilities as an improvising partner for vocalists. Chippie's punchiest number is "Mess, Katie, Mess" and Sippie is heard at her most relaxed and powerful on "Lazy Man Blues." The other two singers have been criticized, ridiculed, belittled, and even reviled by critics and historians who really ought to place their refined egos on mothballs and listen to these women with courtesy and open-mindedness. Hociel Thomas was the daughter of pianist and composer George Washington Thomas, Jr. and the niece of both pianist Hersal Thomas and the aforementioned Sippie Wallace (née Beulah Thomas). Rather than harping about whether or not she had perfect pitch, one ought to listen with the heart and get onto Hociel's wonderful organic wavelength. Because Lillie Delk Christian sang in a sweet and often delicate and sentimental manner, certain boorish commentators sling mud at her memory, including David Nevers, who in his otherwise helpful liner notes cruelly describes her as "abominable and bleating." Sympathetic ears will accept her as a pop singer who sang pretty songs with superb accompaniments by Louis Armstrong, who clearly appreciated her voice and did everything in his power to support it.
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