- A superb sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- Both sides here are incredibly clean, clear, full-bodied and lively with lots of space around all of the players
- “The sextet, including veterans Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and Trummy Young on trombone, relaxes into a perfect New Orleans groove, allowing Armstrong to stretch out to especially good effect on the haunting dirge “St. James Infirmary” ” – All Music
This vintage Audio Fidelity pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Listen For on The Best of Louis Armstrong
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
St. James Infirmary (Gambler’s Blues)
I Want A Big Butter & Egg Man
I Ain’t Got Nobody
Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight
Frankie And Johnny
I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of This Jelly Roll
Drop That Sack
Jelly Roll Blues
Old Kentucky Home
In October 1959, more than four years since his last tribute album (Satch Plays Fats), Louis Armstrong gathered his All-Stars for a session paying homage to King Oliver — his earliest musical hero and the man who enabled two of his breakout gigs (first in 1918, when he took over Oliver’s spot in Kid Ory’s band, and later, in 1922, when Oliver summoned him to Chicago to join his own group). Armstrong selected all the material, which ranges from songs with a direct King Oliver connection — either written by him or played by him — to a few of Armstrong’s period favorites that, he admitted with a sly smile, “Joe [Oliver] might have played.”
The sextet, including veterans Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and Trummy Young on trombone, relaxes into a perfect New Orleans groove, allowing Armstrong to stretch out to especially good effect on the haunting dirge “St. James Infirmary” — barely three minutes in its original incarnation as a 1928 Hot Five session but close to five here. Armstrong clearly enjoys taking vocals on songs like “I Want a Big Butter and Egg Man,” “Frankie and Johnny,” and even “Old Kentucky Home,” while the band does him well on Oliver compositions like “New Orleans Stomp” and “Dr. Jazz.”