We’ve been playing Original Jazz music for ages now and we’ve gone through everyone from Coltrane and Mingus to Waller and Beiderbecke. One of the artists we feel has not only inspired and influenced us as musicians and professionals, but has also impacted many of us personally is Louis Armstrong.
In an attempt to pay our respects (though probably never enough) to this great musician, we’re going to share a few things we know about the man, his achievements and his contributions to jazz.
Born Louis Daniel Armstrong in Louisiana on August 4th 1901 in Louisiana and was sent to live at a boys home at the tender age of 11. He quickly learned how to play the Cornett (a key instrument in Dixieland Jazz), and realized that he has a passion for it.
Prior to joining his mentors; Joe Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago, Armstrong played with numerous other small outfits perfecting his skills as he went along. In a sense, his tenure with Joe Oliver’s Creole Band was the first of his major historical contributions to the genre. This was because the band was known for bringing New Orleans jazz to the mainstream forefront in Chicago.
Between 1925 and 28, Louis Armstrong set numerous standards for hot jazz with his groups The Hot 5 and The Hot 7 with numbers such as Muggles and the infamous and brilliant West End Blues.
Armstrong could sing, he could scat and he had a natural sense of swing which was clearly apparent even in his earlier work. In a sense, it was him who helped make scatting a thing in jazz music, influencing other musicians of his time to partake. It was his 1926 hit Heebiejeebies that brought him immense popularity across the country and outside it.
He set trends that played a part in the development of the music of a lot of jazz musicians that came after him. Apart from his musical skill, it was his charismatic personality, presence and creativity that made him so inspirational to many.
By the 1930s, Armstrong was huge. Where a large number of jazz musicians at the time were African American, Armstrong was the first who was permitted to play on national radio. He was also the first African American to be featured in a Hollywood movie.
Armstrong has as much pride as he did talent. At the time, when racial segregation was still a thing, one of Armstrong’s contractual clauses was that he would not perform at any establishment where he wasn’t welcome as a guest! Though bold at the time, it was these achievements and steps that paved the way for other African American jazz musicians to take a stand for what was fairly due.
If Louis’s list of groundbreaking achievements wasn’t enough, he was also the first jazz musician ever – African American or otherwise to be featured on the cover of the time magazine. Even after crossing the age of 60, Armstrong was making waves in the musical world with fresh renditions of old personal hits like Hello Dolly and other originals!
The man literally played till he died of the heart attack in 1971 and left an impression on the world of jazz and music in general that few in his stead have been able to compare to. Even after his death, his original hit What a Wonderful World made ratings spike when it was played on the broadcast show Good Morning Vietnam.
This blog only serves as a gentle nod to this man’s personality, skills and achievements. There have been books and entire documentaries made on the subject and we hope some of you after reading this, explore this man and his work further.
Personally, though we’re not Louis, we do know we love jazz music about as much as he did and are passionate about it. We’re also familiar with styles he excelled in and contributed to such as swing and ragtime among other original jazz types. If you want to experience jazz music live, our band will be happy to perform for you and give you a sense of what Louis’s music and the genre he loved is really all about!