The First Great Jazz Soloist Louis Armstrong

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When talking about Jazz, Louis Armstrong is one of the, if not the greatest solo artist of all time. His solo career was so significant that it extended beyond Jazz, and influenced soloists in every genre of American music. No only did his powerful and outstanding improvisations when playing make him one of the most significant figures in the history of American music, but also his charismatic personality, and beautifully unique voice.

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Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is now considered by many as, the birthplace of the jazz genre. The date of his birth has been debated on but is now accepted as August 4th, 1901. Armstrong was born into the most poor part of New Orleans, he grew up to know destitution, hardships, and music. At this time the city of New Orleans was going through a downfall of success. Armstrong was taken care of by his Grandmother until it was time for him to go to school, it was then that he lived with his mother. But this only lasted for a few years before he was taken in by a Jewish immigrant family. It was at this time that Armstrong began to grow his love for music because he started to sing with a barbershop quartet. He lived with this family until the age of 12. During this time he sold coal in the streets for them, they gave him a tin horn which was his first musical instrument, and at the age of eleven they allowed him to get his first cornet from a pawnshop.

Armstrong’s intrigue in music really began to develop when he was sent to the Colored Waifs Home For Boys, because he got in trouble with the law for being caught firing blanks from his stepfather’s pistol. Most people would see this situation as an unfortunate event for Armstrong, but this is truly where his life began to blossom into one worth living. During the duration of his stay at the home, he was persistent in playing the cornet and got lessons from a professor. Louis was released from the home after a year and joined a band that helped him to grow in his musical abilities and learn more about his style.

Armstrong was beginning to create a distinctive sound for himself and he wanted to use early jazz trumpeters as inspiration. He built on the sounds of great cornet and trumpet players that came before him but primarily, his biggest inspiration was Joe King Oliver. Oliver soon became Armstrong’s mentor, he taught him important things about his instrument and and how really use it. Eventually, Oliver aided Armstrong in beginning his career in the music industry. When Joe King Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918, Armstrong filled in for him in Kid Ory’s Band, he later joined Papa Celestin’s band and his talents really started to grow exponentially. He learned more about not only playing music but his ability to read music grew too. Louis moved to New York in 1922 when Joe King Oliver offered him to play as second trumpet in his band. He continued playing with Oliver for two years until his new wife, Lil Hardin, convinced him to join Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York at the Roseland Ballroom. It was in this esteemed ballroom that Henderson taught Armstrong the creation of compositions and music terms. Armstrong joining this band was the beginning of a new era of jazz as we knew it. It was famously said by Bing Crosby that, Louis Armstrong is the beginning and the end of music in America.

Before hearing him play people in New York had a lot of doubts set on Louis, his physical appearance and upbringing surely was to blame. But after hearing him play, all the uncertainty that was set in the people’s minds was washed away. Armstrong gave a new sound to the hall that no one had seen before, he created an atmosphere that was undeniably unlike anything else.

After hearing the way he played, there was no doubt that he was already, if not the best, soloist broadway had seen.
Although it does not seem like it, the retelling of Armstrong’s early life and his breakthrough of the music industry is important. Louis did not grow up in the healthiest, happiest household, he did not get top-notch music teachers, despite this, he is one of the most famous Jazz artists to date. The influence the world had on him was not nearly as great as the influence he had on the world.

Louis Armstrong’s greatest feat was his impact on not only jazz soloists but music from other genres today. He changed the qualities that soloists and ensemble jazz artists had when he first entered the scene and made them new, and bold. But it wasn’t just his playing of instruments, his voice was so unique and the way he used his rhythmic freedom with improv really set the bar for other artists. Louis Armstrong’s improv skills permanently transformed the perspective of jazz by making the soloist the focal point of the production. From the beginning of his career, Armstrong created ensembles to showcase his breathtaking trumpet playing which included his energy, swinging motions, and rhythmic momentum. He really started showcasing what he could do as a solo performer when he began recording with Hot Five and Hot Seven. These recordings had great significance because of the way the changed written lyrics to improvisations, and all harmonies to bold solos.

One of the biggest reasons Armstrong was a great solo performer was his use of improv, also known as scat. These improvisations were strikingly different from previous generation of trumpeters, whose solos often relied on simple melodies. After Armstrong exhibited this performance, every other soloist hoped to show talent like Armstrongs. Dizzy Gillespie, who is another big name when it comes to jazz, once said, No Him, no me. calling attention to Louis Armstrong’s influence on himself. This quote from one of the best jazz artists known to date tells us that Armstrong’s talent and style is what he used when creating his own music.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement meant to help people defect from the cultural norm and values that were set in place. This movement attracted many new ideas and types of people. The basis of this movement was formed because of The Great Migration, which was the movement of African Americans from the south to the north. This was meant to create a better living environment, and make way for higher quality socioeconomic standings for African American people. People saw the Harlem Renaissance as a rebirth of society, people also saw Louis Armstrong as the rebirth of Jazz music.

Jazz music is all about emotion and the feeling you get when listening to it, The Harlem Renaissance was centered around the pride of African Americans. Louis was a great storyteller, his voice and words helped to get the African American’s stories across in a way that produced light and color in a world that saw them as less. At this point in time African Americans needed a voice and platform, Louis Armstrong, along with many others, assisted them in doing this, not just for everyone else but also themselves, who also faced challenges
because of the color of their skin. Because of his flashy, virtuous style of playing, his extreme knack for creating a new approach to jazz music that was truly remarkable, and his kind heart, he is one of the most important musicians
when talking about the Harlem Renaissance.

When looking into popular music it is easy to notice how much of an influence jazz music in general has on it, but also Armstrong’s style has played a part in the creation of popular music and other genres as well. In the song Time by David Gilmour, the way that he solos through chords makes use of leading tones. This comes from jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong’s use of leading tones to improvise because of the tricky chord changes. Gilmour also makes use of the solo techniques that Armstrong used. David’s use of these critical jazz concepts is an obvious example of the influence that has been made by not only the jazz genre, but Armstrong himself, on other genres and times of music.

Louis Armstrong is a musical God. He has experienced a long and prosperous career. Armstrongs huge smile is known all over the world, he has touched people with just the simple playing of a trumpet and the smooth sound of his voice. He faced many roadblocks in his life, from the beginning to end. But despite the hatred the world showed him at times, he always prevailed and always found a way to shed some light, through music, on the dark. Bing Crosby, who is a great pop artist as well, was speaking about Louis Armstrong and said this Armstrong is greatest singer in the world that ever was and ever will be forever and ever, because when he sings a sad song you feel like crying, and when he sings a happy song you feel like laughing. What else is there with singing? This quote perfectly describes the influence that Armstrong has had on people just by listening to him. This is the most powerful thing an artist can do when performing and Armstrong is no doubt a genius when it comes to this. Louis Armstrong is the greatest jazz soloist of all time, and he has left his footprint around the world and inspired many other artists.

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The First Great Jazz Soloist Louis Armstrong. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from
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