New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz in the early 1900’s. It was the most influential music of its time and started a cultural revolution in America. Everyone of every race enjoyed the rhythms and smooth sounds of Jazz. Not only did it break race barriers, but it produced one of the greatest musicians of all time, Louis Armstrong. His performances were nothing short of legendary, and he became the best known black musician in the world. (Starr, waterman. 2018)
The sound of Jazz is uniquely American, originating in the hardy town of New Orleans. It was a city full of hardships and on the decline by the time the sweet sounds came out of the city. (Gioia, 2011) The city was a town Built in a bad place (Gioia, 2011) The people there had many troubles; from flooding and tropical storms, to the constant worry of sickness. But, like most Americans at the time, they still enjoyed dancing and playing music as ways to escape their daily lives.
Their music was also distinct because of the cultural melting pot of people that lived there. There was a large mix of Blacks, Whites, and Creole people that each had their own style of music. (Starr, Waterman. 2018) In spite of the hardships the people of New Orleans faced, they still knew how to have a good time. Rag-time music was being played in ball rooms across the city and this was a large precursor to jazz. (Starr, Waterman. 2018) However Buddy Bolden was the one who is often given the credit for creating the first sounds that were distinctly Jazz. (Gioia, 2011). Not only was he influenced by the ragtime music of the day, he was also influenced by his church and the early Black spirituals that they sang. (Gioia, 2011) Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Jazz was the perfect mesh between the two styles created a rich and unique sound that everybody could dance to.
While Bolden may have invented Jazz music, his followers perfected it. The sound was so unique and catchy that people of all races wanted to get in on the jazz movement. In fact, the first recordings of early Jazz were made by a white group from New Orleans called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. (Starr, Waterman. 2018) These recordings allowed people all over the country, black and white to experience the sounds of New Orleans and the popular music that was created there. It quickly became the music of choice for many dance halls across America (Starr, Waterman 2018).
Then came Louis Armstrong. He is a testament to how influential and long-standing jazz music has become, even in the modern age. He was one of the first black musicians to become a household name. Everyone wanted to hear him perform. He Closed the book on New Orleans Jazz (Gioia, 2011). His career spanned nearly 60 years and within those years he managed to have dozens of top singles and created some of the most memorable music that is still commonly heard today.
Armstrongs influences are often cited as being Buddy Bolin, and King Joe Oliver. (Gioia, 2011) He first heard their music, ran with it, and perfected it. He got his start with King Oliver’s band in Chicago and worked his way into New York by joining Fletcher Hendersons band. (Starr, Waterman. 2018). From there he stormed the recording studios; people couldn’t get enough of his solo’s and unique style of music. Most musicians, white and black, wanted to play like him and saw him perform.
In conclusion, Armstrong helped to break down the race barrier through jazz. It became a universal sound that many Americans, and even people around the world, wanted to hear. It didn’t matter if you were white, black, asian, or some other race; they could all talk about one thing. Jazz and Louis Armstrong. The sound also resonated with Americans because it helped them escape their own troubles, as it did in New Orleans. This was furthered by the Great Depression and the advent of the radio, everyone wanted to listen to music that helped them out of their daily slump, and that music was Jazz. (Gioia 2011). It is still listened to and enjoyed even today.
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