Louis Armstrong: Potato Head Blues


Potato Head Blues


Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven


The Hot Fives & Hot Sevens (Columbia 44253)

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Louis Armstrong (trumpet), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Hardin (piano), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Baby Dodds (drums),

John Thomas (trombone), Pete Briggs (tuba)


Composed by Louis Armstrong


Recorded: Chicago, May 10, 1927


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

"Hello Dolly" and "What a Wonderful World" may get the airplay. "West End Blues" might receive more praise in the jazz history books. But, frankly, "Potato Head Blues" encapsulates Louis Armstrong's artistry as well as any recording he made during his half-century long career. The authority of his phrasing and the grandeur of his tone dominate the soundspace, and his stop-time chorus stands out as the most impressive solo of its time. I dare say no other horn player in the Spring of 1927 could have matched this achievement, and one merely need compare Armstrong's performance here with Oliver, Keppard and his other predecessors to see how far he pushed the art form ahead at this critical juncture. This set a new bar for the trumpet but also—and more profoundly—changed the essence of jazz ensemble playing. The collective sound of early New Orleans jazz was now replaced by an emphasis on the individual soloist. Tone and textures no longer signified as much as virtuosity and daring. Only a towering talent could have spurred this transition, one which still shapes jazz music so many decades later. Potato head? What an inadequate name for such a world-changing work, more deserving of commemoration in granite or marble.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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