Louis Armstrong was instrumental in the development and birth of jazz music since its beginnings. His career began in 1920, when jazz music was just beginning to be formed. Louis’s 5 decade-long career in jazz has been almost like a bookend to jazz’s rise, fall, and decline. Louis would have been a great inspiration for many of today’s jazz styles, forms, and improvisation. Louis was a key figure in the lives of all jazz musicians at all times and styles. His profound contribution is unrivalled. His ability to entertain, perform and create music that touches the soul is a permanent part of American and international history.
Louis Armstrong was born in a difficult life situation. He was also born during a political time period. It is believed that Armstrong beat the odds. Louis was brought up in New Orlean by his mother. After his father left him at an early stage, his mother raised him. Growing up, his father abandoned him at an early age. A kind Jewish family provided Louis with odd jobs and he learned to love the cornet. After an unfortunate incident with a shotgun, Louis Armstrong went to the Waif’s home, a house for troubled kids like orphanages. Music was his lifeline and it saved his life. Louis was inspired to master the cornet in the Waif home. Joey Oliver was a New Orleans cornetist that he admired. Oliver was a father figure to Louis and helped him get a place in Kid Ory’s pacesetting band. Louis learned how to read music and grew as musician there. He developed a lovely tone and a broad range. This was when he really became a jazz musician.
Louis never stopped. He moved to New York later and revolutionized jazz improvisation and performance. Most jazz soloists used to accent staccato phrases, kept their melodies close, and used repetitive double-time phrases. Louis changed everything. Instead of using staccato phrases, he used legato and made every note count. He also created space for drama and built his solos up to a climax. His music was meant to tell a story. Louis emphasized the blues vibe in every song. His voice was expressive, his tone beautiful and his voice was like a human being.
Louis Armstrong’s jazz improvisation was the standard for all jazz musicians until the dawn of the bebop. Louis Armstrong was the first trumpet player to switch permanently from the cornet in 1926. Louis recorded many recordings in the 1920s with his band. These recordings were where he learned to be a great singer and songwriter. He was known for his distinctive gravelly voice and phrased his melodies as if they were horn solos. Scat singing was invented by him during one recording session with Ella Fitzgerald. Scat became a major part of Jazz music and has been a defining characteristic ever since.
Louis Armstrong was not only a great performer and composer of jazz standards, but he also took American songbook pieces from Gershwin and Porter and added jazz interpretations to them. His ability to entertain was unparalleled. He was funny as well as serious. He became a household name and a worldwide sensation touring Europe. Louis, as well as other black Jazz musicians before him, preferred performing and living in Europe due to the lack of racial prejudices or persecution.
Joe Glaser, Louis Armstrong’s manager was a key factor in his success. Louis hired a white manager, with mob ties, to be his manager. It was smart because he was working and playing in a country where blacks were frequently discriminated against. Joe Glaser allowed Louis Armstrong to achieve great success in his career and after his passing. Joey Oliver, a black musician, didn’t have that luxury and died poor and destitute.
Louis Armstrong will be forever remembered as one the greatest jazz musicians and composers of all time.
His influence was great on many jazz soloists. After his death, he helped to change jazz improvisation and to develop his unique style of vocal and instrumental improv. He was a bright, cheerful man who refused to dwell on negative things and instead embraced the beauty of the world.