Though Louis Armstrong was a memorable presence in films, on radio and on television, it was the recording studio where he made his most lasting–and influential art. Any survey of Armstrong’s discography must start with his innovative Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of the 1920s, music that changed the course of American popular music for good. Armstrong’s 1928 recordings with Earl “Fatha” Hines–including “West End Blues,” “Weather Bird” and many others–are worth singling out.
Big Band Artist
But one should not stop listening to Armstrong’s recordings in 1928. He began fronting big bands in 1929, making standards out of songs such as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “When You’re Smiling,” and countless others. In 1935, he began recording for Decca, a wonderful, underappreciated run of music that lasted until 1946.
THE ALL STARS
In 1947, Armstrong began fronting a sextet, the All Stars, but he continued challenging himself in the recording studio. The final 24 years of his career found him recording with the All Stars, with big bands, with strings, with vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and jazz legends such as Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. These were also the years of his biggest hits–”Hello, Dolly!,” “Mack the Knife,” “What a Wonderful World,” and more.
Louis Armstrong made thousands of recordings and most have been reissued and repackaged many times over the years. This roughly chronological discography will give you recommendations from the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
Keep in mind that Louis’s recorded career stretched from 1923 until 1971. Some of the earlier recordings were made during a time when recording technology was in its infancy. If you are used to digital, “clean as a whistle” recordings, you may at first be disappointed by the sound quality, and if you haven’t heard much early jazz, you may be surprised by the style. But listen a little closer and you’ll hear why these recordings have stayed in print for almost a century and still thrill audiences today.