“Hotter Than That” - Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five
Many people have a favorite Louis Armstrong recording and most likely they would tell you it’s “What a Wonderful World,” or “La Vie En Rose.” I definitely have a favorite Louis Armstrong recording and mine would be “Hotter Than That” from the 1928 recordings with his Hot Five group.
This recording shows just how far ahead of his time Louis Armstrong was. His rhythmic concept was phenomenal. He “outswung” everybody and even when he played with the time in his solo by playing elongated triplet figures, his timing was impeccable.
His virtuosity is apparent as he takes the first solo and with clarity plays arpeggios that are not only in tune but are full-bodied in their sound. I forgot the reference but it was said that during those early days of recording and due to the technology limitations, Armstrong had to stand in another room because his sound was so loud that it would overpower the other instruments.
My favorite moment is when he begins to scat over the changes after the clarinet solo and displays his amazing creativity. He seems to pull ideas out of the air all while slowing down his phrasing and then speeding back up again. Many vocalists back then and even today don’t have that rhythm complexity in their singing.
I would say my second favorite moment is when he comes back in with his trumpet after an a tempo call and response with the guitar. Playing a full measure crescendo line, he escorts the whole band back in to a rousing chorus and punctuates horn blasts over the collective improvisation till the end of the song where he trades again with the guitar to bring the tune to a close.