Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter, singer, soloist and a film star. He was considered one of the best and most influential artists in the jazz history, he is also known for some pieces such as Star Dust and one that I am most familiar with What a Wonderful World this one would probably be my favorite piece for me, I had to write about this song for one of my classes in highschool so I am familiar with the piece.
Louis Armstrong was born in 1901 in New Orleans, and it wasn’t until the 1920’s where he stood out influenced several different musicians with his trumpet playing style along with his unique voice that to some may sound very raggedy. Armstrong’s stage presence impressed many in the jazz community, he recorded several songs during his career: Stardust, What a Wonderful World and La vie en Rose. In Armstrongs younger years he had a tough childhood as he grew up in Louisiana, the part in where he lived in Louisiana was so poor that it had the nickname the Battlefield. His father worked in a factory and ended up abandoning his family soon after Armstrong’s birth, while his mother had to turn to prostitution and Louis was frequently staying with his maternal grandmother and soon he had to dropout of school in fifth grade and begin to work. Armstrong found work from a Jewish family (the Karnofskys) collecting junk and delivering coal, the family encouraged young Louis to get into singing and was often invite over to the family’s house for meals which gave Louis a sense of purpose in the world.
In 1912 Louis was arrested for firing his father’s gun on New Year’s eve celebration, after this incident he was put into a home for boys called Colored Waif’s Home for Boys and it wasn’t until then where he starting receiving information about music. He received instructions on the cornet and ended up falling in love and once he left the all boys home he started becoming interested in pursuing his passion for music and performing. Louis was still forced to work odd jobs selling newspaper and hauling coal to the cities red light district, he then met a guy named Joe Oliver where he started to mentor Armstrong by showing him pointers on the horn and Joe would sometimes even use him as a sub. Once louis became older he started growing up pretty quick he got married to a women named Daisy Parker, while being married the two adopted a 3 year old whose mother armstrong’s cousin passed away while giving birth. Also during time of marriage Louis’s music career began to grow, in 1918 he replaced his mentor Joe Oliver Kid Ory’s band which soon became the most popular band in New Orleans. This helped Louis in the long run as he was able to quit his manual labor jobs and began concentrating solely on his full time music career, playing at parties, dances, and many more places that got his name spread throughout New Orleans. The following year Armstrong spent the summer playing on river boats with a band led by Fate Marable, that is where he honed his music reading skills and had his first encounters with jazz legends who influenced him. Armstrong was focused on staying in New Orleans until he had received a call from his old mentor Joe Oliver to come to chicago to join Joe’s jazz band on second cornet, as he accepted he quickly started taking Chicago by storm. He made his first recordings with Oliver in 1923 where he earned his first recorded solo on Chimes Blues, Louis soon then started dating one of the members of the band who said that Joe was holding him back in his music career. That is when Louis decided to join the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, a top african american dance band in New York City and he immediately made his presence with his solos that introduced the concept of swing music.
This huge influence Armstrong gave to the band as they began to incorporate Armstrongs swing music into their arrangements, this ultimately transformed the Henderson band into the first big Jazz band. Though Armstrong’s southern background did not mix well with the rest of the musicians in the band, he received some greif about the way Armstrong dressed and how he talked, Henderson did not allow him to sing as he feared that his voice was too coarse for the sophisticated audience at the Roseland Ballroom they performed in front of. Soon Louis ended up leaving the band a couple years later to return to Chicago, where OKeh records let him make his first recordings with a band under his own name and he made more than 60 records. The recordings are considered as the most important and influential recordings in jazz history, Armstrongs brilliance helped transform from an ensemble music to an soloist’s art and his solos on numbers like Cornet Chop Suey and Potato Head Blues change the jazz genre, featuring swinging phrasing, and incredibly high notes. His popularity continued to grow in Chicago he began playing at many more venues including the Sunset Cafe and Savoy Ballroom. A pianist named Earl Hines used Armstrong’s style into his own pieces, they had their first duet together the Weather Bird and West End Blues, these performances became some of his finest works that proved to the world that the musical genre of dance jazz was capable of producing fine art.
Louis Armstrong had a huge impact on the jazz community, his skill of playing really helped him stand out of anybody during his time. While being at the top of the jazz music he had his first heart attack where he was forced to go to intensive care at Beth Israel for heart attack and kidney trouble, he tried returning to the music world but in the end it became too much for him and he passed away on July 6, 1971. It was crazy reading about how influential Armstrong was in incorporating a new style to the music industry, my favorite piece by him was What a Wonderful World I really enjoyed this song and hearing his voice during the entire piece.