When reading the history of jazz, it is unimaginable to miss Daniel Louis Armstrong’s name as among the recommendable and famous figures of African American Jazz (Brothers 1). The Jazz music society praises him for his purposes in the music industry, which include the legendary tone, a trumpet player, stamina and ferocity of musical attack (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). Throughout history, there are sufficient pieces of evidence to support the fact that Armstrong’s style of composing and playing helped to transform jazz from an ensemble activity to a soloist art form (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). Even though jazz music has had various composers across its musical history, Louis Armstrong’s improvisations of jazz music remain unsurpassed through the entire musical genres.
Various pieces of scholarly materials depict that Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans Louisiana and died July 6, 1971, in New York (Stein 8). To begin, Louis was one of the two children in the family of Willie and Mary Armstrong. He spent most of his childhood life with the mother, sister, and grandmother in a rundown area in New Orleans, which at the time was bests referred as “the Battlefield” due to drunkenness, gambling, fighting and shooting that often took place there (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). After the law enforcers arrested him in 1913 for firing a gun into the air during the New Year’s Eve, he was taken in an orphanage for delinquents in New Orleans (The Waif’s Home) (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). There, Armstrong learned the cornet, which is an instrument that resembled the trumpet and eventually played it in the band. After the authorities released him, he worked on casual jobs after which he started to perform with local groups (Stein 13).
As stated earlier, Louis’s artistic training began back while detained in the home for delinquents in New Orleans (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). However, he advanced his practice through his friendship with great people such as Joe “King” Oliver, which allowed him to make records and get trumpet lessons (Stein 9). By the time Oliver left New Orleans in 1918, Armstrong filled his position in the Kid Ory’s jazz band. Armstrong stayed there until 1922 before joining Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25).
Armstrong’s musical lessons not only stopped with Oliver but also learned from the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra (Brothers 4). The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra made his move to New York City in 1924, where they featured him as a jazz specialist (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). After gaining the jazz skills and techniques, Armstrong went back to Chicago in the fall of 1925 where he organized a band and enhanced his music career with most excellent recordings (Stein 39). Since he was then playing trumpet, Louis Armstrong made a series of about 60 recordings between 1925 and 1928 with his group referred as “Hot Five’, which later become ‘Hot Seven’ (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). After he accomplished with making musical recordings that weighed his skills with the trumpet, Armstrong began recording in 1928 with drummer Zutty Singleton and Earl Hines a pianist (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). During his many recordings, he managed to construct adventurous rhythms that extended his style. After that, he managed to invent the scat singing that resulted from the random use of nonsense syllables. Following the very many training and experimentation, Armstrong reached the peak of his piano playing around 1933 (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). At that point, he had a more straightforward and mature style because of the excellent mastering of every note of his trumpet.
It is most probable that Louis Armstrong is the most famous jazz musician throughout history. The fanatics and artists of jazz music remember him for various aspects such as his humor as well as the vast number of recordings (Stein 13). Louis influenced jazz music by his ability to the utilization of the legato as a cornetist. As such, he made every space essential by using every space dramatically, building his solos to a climax and “telling a story” in his playing (Stein 15). Besides, he added a blues feeling in every song as well as the use of the expressive style that was voice-like whereas his tone perfectly matched the sound of the trumpet.
It is due to Louis Armstrong’s massive playing of music that changed jazz into one that focused on brilliant and adventurous soloists (Brothers 7). For instance, during his period with Henderson, Louis became a significant influence on brass players as well as other musicians of all instruments. That is, most musicians emulated his solos, thereby moving jazz music many miles ahead in later 1925 from where it was in 1923 (Stein 31). For that fact, many trumpeters came into existence with sounds that resembled Armstrong’s style.
Louis Armstrong’s recordings with his groups (Hot Five, Hot Seven, and Savoy Ballroom Five) much revolutionized jazz with the inventive trumpet playing (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25. The very many sessions led him into singing, which he invented a new style as well. For instance, previously vocalists were supposed to sing in a straight and square approach (Henderson, Lol, and Lee 25). However, Armstrong’s tone distinctively sounded like his horn solos, therefore, popularized the scat singing famously referred to as scatting. Apart from the popularization of scatting, Louis Armstrong influenced the use of relaxed song similar to his trumpet that made perfect use of space (Stein 33). Besides, he altered melody lines to offer them rhythms that were catchier and at the same time changed lyrics to suit his voice and his conception of the song (Stein 44). These aspects influenced many artists such as Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, and Billie Holiday among many others. Even though Louse Armstrong’s recordings of the period 1925-1928 became sensational to most instrumentalists and singers, his style of altering the course of jazz became the third area that made him world-famous (Stein 44).
Louis Armstrong’s Key Compositions
In reference to music history, some of the significant Armstrong’s compositions included Hello Dolly and What a Wonderful World (Brothers 220). Armstrong Released Hello Dolly in 1963 and What A Wonderful World in 1968 (Teachout 2). Today, What a Wonderful World remains one of Armstrong’s work that pulled him to the top as the bestselling song. The song focused on appreciating the beauty within everyone’s surroundings (Teachout 5). Besides, the critical aspect that makes the song better is its ability to pull different races together.
However, Hello Dolly remains featured as Louis’s song that had a significant influence on future composers (Jasen 235). The song had great facts regarding trumpeting and composing. For instance, the song illustrated a pure musical style at the end of its first measures of Armstrong’s trumpet solo (Jasen 235). Scholarly work indicates that Hello Dolly brought light to the new form of music composition, which many artists adopted (Jasen 236). That is, Armstrong, transformed the song especially lyrics and tunes and it eventually reaffirmed his status as America’s greatest jazzman. Louis deconstructed most words in the Hello Dolly into percussive bursts along with his horn solo that spiced up the familiar melody with runs and oomph (Brothers 274). As a result, various artists all over the history of jazz have used more of Armstrong’s improvisations especially trumpet playing. In jazz history, Hello Dolly had an essential influence on soloists from all genres of American popular music who aped Armstrong’s use of swinging rhythm and energetic momentum (Bothers 275).
Daniel Louis Armstrong remains a genius figure in the history of African American Jazz. Fanatics remember him for his style of composing and playing, which helped to transform jazz from an ensemble activity to a soloist art form. Studies reveal Armstrong’s was birthday as being August 4, 1901, in New Orleans Louisiana and lived until July 6, 1971, in New York. However, what seemed an unfortunate event of temporary suspension to a delinquency camp turned into a land of fortune to him. His passion for music and playing of trumpet began at the Waif’s Home, which later crowned him the legacy in the jazz music. Even though Joe Oliver and Henderson played a great part in training Armstrong’s music career, Armstrong became a significant influencer to artists across all genres.
Brothers, Thomas. Louis Armstrong, master of modernism. WW Norton & Company, 2014.
Henderson, Lol, and Lee Stacey, eds. Encyclopedia of Music in the 20th Century. Routledge, (2014), p.25.
Jasen, David A., and Gene Jones. Black Bottom Stomp: Eight Masters of Ragtime and Early Jazz. Routledge, 2013.
Stein, Daniel. Music is my life: Louis Armstrong, autobiography, and American jazz. University of Michigan Press, 2012.
Teachout, Terry. Pops: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong. Aurum Press Limited, 2014.