Discography

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 by 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.

Louis Armstrong (Ken Burns’s Jazz series)
Columbia/Sony

This is perhaps the best single CD compilation that covers Louis’s five-decade career. Includes everything from “Potato Head Blues” (with the Hot Seven in 1927) to “Star Dust” (with his big band in 1931) to “Mack the Knife” (with the All Stars in 1955) to the much-requested “What a Wonderful World” (1967). If you were going to own only one Armstrong CD (not something that we recommend), this would be a good choice.
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King Oliver, Off the Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings
Archeophone

The definitive reissue of these classic performances of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band featuring young Louis Armstrong. Thirty-seven tracks (“Chimes Blues,” “Snake Rag,” “Canal Street Blues,” “Mabel’s Dream,” etc.) stunningly remastered so that you can hear musical details hidden in all previous reissues. “To hear these astonishing transfers is, in a very real sense, to truly hear this music for the first time.” - Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies.
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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1923-1934
Sony

This four-CD set is a superb collection of some of Louis’s finest work during the first recorded decade of his career. Includes recordings with Louis as a sideman with King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith and others. Also includes outstanding recordings by the Hot Five, the Hot Seven, and the Louis Armstrong Orchestra. Because of the brilliant essay by Dan Morgenstern and the many unique photographs, the accompanying booklet is worth the purchase price alone.
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Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
Columbia/Legacy

The recordings by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five (and Hot Seven), recorded between 1925 and 1929, are widely considered to be some of the most historically significant recordings in jazz history. This set contains every Hot Five and Hot Seven recording. If you seek a brief introduction to the Hot Fives, there are other CDs that may be better for you. But if you consider yourself a serious jazz collector, this set is essential for your collection. Includes four CDs and a beautifully produced, cloth-bound book that contains rare photographs.
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Complete RCA Victor Recordings
RCA

This four-CD compilation includes some of Louis’s best work with his big band in the 1930s, “Blue Yodel No. 9” with Jimmie Rodgers, selections from the famous Town Hall concert of 1947, and several of the earliest recordings by the All Stars (the septet that Louis led from 1947 until 1971). Highlights include “I’ve got the World on a String,” “Basin Street Blues,” “Sleepytime Down South,” two versions of “Laughin’ Louie,” Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Rockin’ Chair” (with Jack Teagarden).
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Louis Armstrong: Volume 1 – 9
Ambassador

These excellent CDs feature Louis Armstrong’s complete chronological recorded work between 1935 and 1949, except for the RCA Victor recordings (see above). Even alternate takes and radio transcriptions are included. Carefully remastered and pitch controlled, these CDs offers spectacular big band performances with remarkable audio quality. Many people who buy one volume eventually end up buying all nine of them—they’re that good!
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Louis Armstrong: The Ultimate Collection
Verve

A wonderful compilation, covering from 1924 to 1968, which includes some of Armstrong’s best recordings originally issued on the Vocalion, Decca, and ABC labels. You won’t find any Hot Fives here (they were recorded for the Okeh label), but you will find such gems as “Copenhagen” (with Fletcher Henderson), “You Can’t Lose a Broken Heart (with Billie Holiday), “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” “Wild Man Blues,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy” (with Ella Fitzgerald), “Hello Dolly,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
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Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography
Verve

This classic recording session from 1956-1957 is now available on CD. The famous producer Milt Gabler brought Louis into the studio to record, using modern technology, many of the tunes that Louis first recorded for 78 rpm discs in the 1920s and 1930s. In some cases, such as “Wild Man Blues,” the modern performances are perhaps even better than the originals. There are some great tunes on this set, including, “Dippermouth Blues,” “High Society,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “Mahogany Hall Stomp.” Each track is preceded by a spoken word introduction by Louis. A three-CD set, with a wonderful booklet.
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Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
Sony

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars perform classic compositions by W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues.” Considered by some to be the finest recording by the All Stars. The recording sessions were produced by the great George Avakian, who got the very best out of the group. This CD reissue includes some wonderful bonus tracks, such as an interview with W.C. Handy in which he speaks about first hearing Louis.
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Satch Plays Fats
Sony

Based upon the artistic and commercial success of “Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy” (see above), George Avakian gathered the All Stars into the studio again for a second session to record tunes by Fats Waller. This is also a stunning album: the All Stars, at the top of their form, play great material by a single composer. Includes “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “All that Meat and No Potatoes,” and many other Waller favorites. All Stars vocalist Velma Middleton, (who was often underrated) is especially captivating.
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Satchmo the Great
Sony

The bulk of this CD is from the soundtrack of the much-heralded documentary film, Satchmo the Great. (Today, this film is inexplicably not available on video.) Includes concert performances during Louis’s 1956 tour of Europe and Africa, as well as “St. Louis Blues” with an orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Also includes interview segments with the legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. Hear Louis jam with local musicians in Africa, as well as perform “Black and Blue” for an audience that included Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister of Ghana.
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Ella and Louis
Ella and Louis, Again

PolyGram

Swinging, classic performances by two jazz giants, the great vocalist Ella Fitgerald and Louis Armstrong. With a world-class rhythm section of Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich and Herb Ellis. The group performs selections from the great American songbook, including “A Foggy Day,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “April in Paris,” “The Nearness of You,” “Autumn in New York, and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Several writers have held that Louis was a great innovator in the 1920s and 1930s, but then he degenerated into a popular entertainer. These recordings blow that theory out of the water.
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Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson
PolyGram

This CD is drawn from the same series of 1957 recording sessions that produced “Ella and Louis” (see above), except that Ella Fitzgerald is not present. Louis Armstrong with the stellar rhythm section of the Oscar Peterson Quartet. Classic tunes including, “That Old Feeling,” “I Get a Kick Out of You, “ Makin’ Whoopie,” and “Let’s Fall in Love.”
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Louis and the Good Book
Universal

A charming collection of Louis’s performance of spirituals, including “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Motherless Child,” “Down by the Riverside,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Accompanied by arrangements by Sy Oliver. This CD reissue also includes “Elder Eatmore’s Sermon on Generosity” and “Elder Eatmore’s Sermon on Throwing Stones,” parodies of a pompous preacher, recorded by Louis in 1938, previously known only to jazz collectors.
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The Great Summit: The Complete Sessions
Roulette

This two-CD set presents the only collaboration in the recording studio between two jazz giants, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Essentially, the session is Louis Armstrong and the All Stars, except with Duke Ellington in the piano chair, performing Ellington compositions. Louis creates sensitive interpretations of such tunes as “Mood Indigo,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” and “Solitude.” Louis and Duke’s performance on the previously little known tune “Azalea” is not to be missed.
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Disney Songs the Satchmo Way
Disney

A great Louis CD for the kids! Who but Louis could have so much fun with “Whistle While You Work,” and “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, (it’s off to work we go)”? And Louis’s performance of “When You Wish upon a Star,” accompanied by strings, may bring tears to your eyes.
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Christmas through the Years
Laserlight

A Louis Armstrong Christmas CD! (But you knew that already.) Hear Louis have fun with the swinging “Cool Yule” and “Zat you, Santa Claus?” as well as the more traditional Christmas songs of “White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.” The absolute highlight is Louis reading the poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” better known as “The Night before Christmas.”
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