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Wynton Marsalis plays Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens

Recorded in the 1920s, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens sides are still hailed as some of the greatest and most influential jazz sessions ever captured; musicians obsess over their warmth, wit, and joy to this day. A new live recording by Wynton Marsalis — another acclaimed New Orleans trumpeter— reimagines classics from those sessions like “Basin Street Blues,” “St. James Infirmary,” and “Heebie Jeebies” for a whole new generation of audiences.
Performed in 2006, Wynton Marsalis Plays Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens assembles an all-star band of Marsalis collaborators (like trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and pianist Jon Batiste) who, together, recreate the magic of Armstrong’s seminal ensembles. There are perhaps no better interpreters of Armstrong’s legacy than Marsalis and his fellow musicians; and, through transposing the timeless music of the 1920s to the 21st century, these expert players deliver technically flawless performances and prove Marsalis’ assertion that all eras of jazz are integrated.

Wynton Marsalis plays Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens

Album Info

Ensemble Wynton Marsalis with members of JLCO
Release Date August 4th, 2023
Recording Date September 30, 2006
Record Label Blue Engine Records
Catalogue Number BE0041
Formats Digital Download
Genre Jazz at Lincoln Center Recordings, Jazz Recordings
Digital Booklet Download (pdf, 1 MB)

Track Listing

Track Length Preview
Potato Head Blues 4:48 Play
Twelfth Street Rag 4:01 Play
Skid-Dat-De-Dat 5:48 Play
Jazz Lips 4:00 Play
St. James Infirmary 6:31 Play
Weary Blues 3:56 Play
Melancholy Blues 4:07 Play
Heebie Jeebies 5:52 Play
Once in a While 6:11 Play
Ory’s Creole Trombone 4:05 Play
Basin Street Blues 7:58 Play
Savoy Blues 6:33 Play
Cornet Chop Suey 3:59 Play
Fireworks 5:46 Play

Liner Notes

On this recording, Wynton Marsalis addresses some of the most influential, yet often overlooked, repertoire in jazz history: Louis Armstrong’s mid to late 1920s recordings. Among the great ironies in music is that Armstrong remains among the best-known entertainers in the world for lighter, less jazz-based, mainly vocal songs, like Hello Dolly and What a Wonderful World recorded in the 1960s. Less known among the general public is when Armstrong was at the height of his youthful creative powers and recorded over four dozen songs with his recording groups under Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 or Hot 7 between 1925 and 1928.

Armstrong and his musicians demonstrated excellent New Orleans-style ensemble playing on these monumental songs and forged new directions and possibilities for jazz improvisation that opened the door for future players, composers, arrangers, and styles. Despite the great solo and ensemble work of the other players like clarinetist Johnny Dodds and trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory, Armstrong rises above to display a previously unheard level of phrasing, swinging rhythms, tonal variety, and deep feeling that firmly place the emphasis of jazz on extended creative solo improvisation. In addition to pointing the direction of jazz towards improvised solos, Armstrong also influenced later jazz and popular music singers with his off-beat vocal phrasing and his uses of wordless vocals known as “scat singing.”

The fourteen selections here are from live concerts called Wynton and Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5s, performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall between September 28 and 30, 2006. The repertoire included several better-known Hot 5 and 7 classics, like Cornet Chop Suey and Potato Head Blues, and a couple of songs that Armstrong made traditional jazz band standards, Basin Street Blues and St. James Infirmary. Rather than faithfully copying Armstrong’s classic recordings note for note or using the same arrangements, Marsalis wisely chose to do like Armstrong did and not exactly what he did. While Armstrong’s Hot 7 had the typical New Orleans jazz band instrumentation, with trumpet, clarinet trombone, banjo, piano, bass, and drums. The Hot 5 recorded without bass or drums, Marsalis uses nine musicians to great effect.

The ensemble breathes new life and meaning into the Armstrong songs through expanded roles for each of the technically competent musicians. Breaks, additional solos, added introductions and endings, and innovative vocals add to the artistic range and enjoyment of Armstrong’s classics. Appropriately, the concert audiences respond enthusiastically to the new and creative explorations of horn players, like trombonist Vincent Gardner, clarinetist Victor Goins, and saxophonist Walter Blanding. In addition to performing ably on the trombone and tuba, Wycliff Gordon expands the scat style vocal that Armstrong originally popularized on Heebie Jeebies. With Don Vappie on banjo, bassist Carlos Henriquez, and drummer Ali Jackson, the rhythm section lays down a steady traditional swinging foundation on several songs. On others, the rhythm moves toward a more modern jazz conception. A pleasant contributor to the rhythm section’s exciting drive is a young Jonathan Batiste, who delivers creative piano solos and a driving stride style with complete mastery and joyful exuberance.

In the same way that Louis Armstrong dominated on the original Hot 5 and 7 recordings, Wynton Marsalis rises above the ensemble with solid lead lines, masterful melodic creativity, hotter than hot breaks, and expansive solos to make this a trumpeter’s recording. Like Armstrong, Marsalis is a preacher presiding over the proceedings with a powerful, authoritative voice and deep blues feeling. By “doing like Armstrong,” Marsalis leads the ensemble with his own compelling “singing” trumpet tone and technically expansive phrasing that extends and respectfully updates Armstrong’s 1920s style while avoiding bland imitation. Marsalis leads this ensemble with a joy and spirit that is not above adding a few playful vocals and tonal variances.

The musicians on this recording have more than ably met the challenge of creating a valid, swinging, and artistically sound approach to early jazz in a way that is both respectful and uninhibitedly creative. On these recordings, Wynton Marsalis proves that no one is better to continue along and expand the great musical path forged by his trumpet king and fellow New Orleanian predecessor, Louis Armstrong. Marsalis and his musicians performed this tribute to the early jazz master with fire, taste, creative expansion, excitement, and swing that would make Armstrong proud.

Dr. Michael White


Track Listing

1. Potato Head Blues
Composed by Louis Armstrong – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Don Vappie, edited by Chuck Israels

2. Twelfth Street Rag
Composed by Euday L. Bowman
Transcription by Dan Block

3. Skid-Dat-De-Dat
Composed by Lil Hardin – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Daniel Nielsen

4. Jazz Lips
Composed by Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Wycliffe Gordon

5. St. James Infirmary
Transcription by Randy Sandke

6. Weary Blues
Composed by Artie Matthews
Transcription by Tom Roberts

7. Melancholy Blues
Composed by Walter Melrose and Marty Bloom
Transcription by Brad Shigeta

8. Heebie Jeebies
Composed by Boyd Atkins – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Rob Bargad

9. Once in a While
Composed by William H Butler – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Dan Block

10. Ory’s Creole Trombone
Composed by Edward “Kid” Ory
Transcription by Don Vappie

11. Basin Street Blues
Composed by Spencer Williams – Edwin H Morris and Co. Inc. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Edward Anderson

12. Savoy Blues
Composed by Edward “Kid” Ory – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Vincent Gardner

13. Cornet Chop Suey
Composed by Louis Armstrong – Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Randy Sandke

14. Fireworks
Composed by Spencer Williams – Edwin H Morris and Co. Inc. (ASCAP)
Transcription by Don Vappie

Wynton Marsalis – Trumpet & Vocals
Wycliffe Gordon – Tuba, Trombone, Bass & Vocals
Vincent Gardner – Trombone
Victor Goines – Clarinet
Walter Blanding –Tenor & Soprano Saxophones
“Papa” Don Vappie – Banjo & Guitar
Jonathan Batiste – Piano
Carlos Henriquez – Bass
Ali Jackson – Drums

Executive Producer: Wynton Marsalis

Front of House Engineer: David Robinson
Recording Engineer: Saundra Palmer-Grassi
Recording Assistant: Jeff Rothman
Mixing Engineer: Todd Whitelock at Amplified Art and Sound
Editor: Gloria Kaba
Production Assistant: Wes Whitelock
Mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC 2021

Label Head and A&R: Gabrielle Armand
Label Manager: Jake Cohen
Product Manager: Benjamin Korman
Product and Marketing Associate: Alexa Ford
Director of Public Relations and External Communications: Zooey T. Jones
Public Relations Manager: Madelyn Gardner
Music Administration: Kay Wolff
Music Copyists: Geoff Burke, Jonathan Kelly
Audio Archivists: Omar Little
Concert Producer: André Guess
Concert Line Producer: Eric D. Wright
Stage Manager: Billy Banks
Production Manager: Mike Kemp
Art Direction & Design: Brian Welesko
Legal: Daphnée Saget Woodley and Suhaydee Tejeda
Liner Notes: Dr. Michael White

Recorded live on September 30, 2006 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Leadership support for Blue Engine Records is provided in part by the Arnhold Family and Jay Pritzker Foundation.
Generous support is provided by Helen and Robert Appel, Diana and Joseph DiMenna, Leonard and Louise Riggio, and Lisa Schiff.
The mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to entertain, enrich, and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education, and advocacy.

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