Louis Armstrong (featuring Lonnie Johnson): Hotter Than That
Hotter Than That
Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five
The Hot Fives And Hot Sevens, Volume III (Columbia 44422)
Composed by Lil Hardin.
Recorded: Chicago, IL, December 13, 1927
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings are fundamental documents in the history of American music. By emphasizing a featured soloist, rather than the ensemble band music of New Orleans, they served as a foundation for the entire superstructure of jazz to come. For this particular edition, the Hot Fives became in effect the Hot Six, thanks to the inspired addition of virtuoso jazz and blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson.
In "Hotter Than That," Armstrong continues to develop his historic instrumental power and expressiveness. He also revives the scat singing (nonsense syllables delivered in a rhythmic vocal style) that he first put on record in the previous year's "Heebie Jeebies." Here he scats in a marvelous call-&-response dialogue with Johnson's guitar, which sometimes echoes—or saucily mimics—the scat line and sometimes complements or comments on it. As the distinguished music scholar and composer Gunther Schuller says in Early Jazz, "Lonnie Johnson's swinging, rhythmic backing and his remarkable two-bar exchanges with Armstrong are certainly one of the highlights of classic jazz." Special punch and poignancy come when the exchanges culminate in four dramatic stop-time effects, with an Armstrong wail followed by Johnson's perfectly attuned, punctuated guitar response. These two masters brought out the best in each other.
Johnny Dodds also contributes a scintillating clarinet solo, with a fine blues feel, evoking the original New Orleans jazz milieu, as does Kid Ory's classic tailgate trombone.
Reviewer: Dean Alger