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Jazz Legends - Louis Armstrong

Updated on October 16, 2012

Lazz Legend Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, his trumpet and his handkerchief
Louis Armstrong, his trumpet and his handkerchief
Louis Armstrong and Peter Davis
Louis Armstrong and Peter Davis

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Louis Armstrong

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No other jazz musician influenced American jazz more than Louis, "Satchmo" Armstrong. Almost single handedly, he shifted its focus from collective improvisation to solo performances.

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His series of "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven" recordings in the mid 1920s influenced an entire generation of jazz artists and helped to make American jazz famous throughout the world. His 1927 recording of "Potato Head Blues" is an excellent example.

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Louis Armstrong

Jazz Legends

Cast your vote for Louis Armstrong

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Born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901, the grandson of slaves, he grew up in poverty in a broken home. When he was only 12 years old, he was sentenced to a boy’s home for firing a gun in public. It was there that he learned to play the coronet from Peter Davis who ran the home.

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Later on, he played in the brass bands and on the riverboats of New Orleans. His mentors were Bunk Johnson, Kid Ory and above all Joe "King" Oliver. When King Oliver went north in 1919, Louis Armstrong replaced him in Kid Ory’s band. In 1922, Armstrong moved to Chicago and joined King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

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His second wife, Lil Hardin Armstrong, convinced Louis that he could do better so in 1924 he went to New York to join the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra where he switched from playing the coronet to the trumpet and influenced Coleman Hawkins, Henderson’s tenor sax soloist.

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He also added scat singing to his act. It was during that period that he became acquainted with pianist Clarence Williams, clarinetist Sidney Bechet and blues singers, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Alberta Hunter. In, 1925, he returned to Chicago and began recording under his own name for Okeh records. It was during this period that his famous "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven " recordings were made. Another excellent recording from this period is "Struttin with Some Barbecue".

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During the early 1930s, the Depression was particularly hard on jazz musicians. Bix Beiderbecke died, Sidney Bechet became a tailor and Kid Ory returned to New Orleans to raise chickens. Louis moved to Los Angeles where money was more readily available. In 1931, he appeared in his first movie, Ex-Flame. Ultimately, he appeared in more than a dozen Hollywood films.

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Due to the change in public tastes, coupled with some problems with his fingers and his lips, he gradually emphasized his vocals more and played more popular music. Today, more young people remember him for his vocal performances in "Hello Dolly" and "What a Wonderful World", than for his brilliant trumpet solos in "Weather Bird" or "West End Blues" .

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They forget that he had eleven recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and one into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to his influence on a score of jazz musicians including Coleman Hawkins, Bunny Berigan and many others, his playing and singing influenced such vocalists as Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. If any one man can be credited with changing the direction of Jazz in America, it surely was Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong.

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We finish this hub with two of Louis Armstrong’s most famous solos. The first is called "Weatherbird" which was recorded with Earl Hines in 1928 and the second is "West End Blues" recorded the same year with the Hot Five.

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New Orleans Montage

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans and gained his early fame in Chicago

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    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Love this guy I could listen to him on and on.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • radmicheal profile image

      radmicheal 5 years ago from Marseille, France

      Voted up, his voice is so very unique

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 5 years ago from Singapore

      Great post, I love Armstrong

    • rjsadowski profile image
      Author

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      His singing was just like his trumpet playing. He used his voice as an instrument.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      There is no one like Satchmo. I loved him...Enjoyed.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub about this great legend and wonderful person Louis Armstrong boy could he play that trumpet !

      Vote up and more !!!

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