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When I was younger I was
raised in a household that knew and listened to no jazz music at all. In fact,
whenever I would her jazz music I simply referred to it as elevator music. I
saw it as having no purpose expect to be just background music. While watching
the popular Disney movie “WALL-E”, my ears perked up and felt wonder as I heard
Louis Armstrong sing his famous song “La Vie en Rose”. Back then when I
couldn’t understand how jazz music was of any attention; I could now see as
something much more. After researching Louis Armstrong place in our culture, I
realized how because of him, jazz music was able to advance and be of influence
on other future coming jazz artists of the American culture.

            Born
on July 4, 1990 in New Orleans, Louisiana; Daniel Louis Armstrong grew up in a
poor setting in New Orleans where he was surrounded with “crime, prostitutes,
and drunks” (“Louis Daniel Armstrong”).
For Armstrong this was a way to not be swayed by his surroundings, and thus
lead into working small jobs from “delivering coal” to “singing on the
streets for loose change” (“Louis Daniel Armstrong”). In having been avoiding
trouble for most of his young years, at the age of thirteen, Louis Armstrong
was put in an institution for troubled boys due to shooting a gun in the air to
celebrate New Year’s. This was a turning point, as during his stay there, Armstrong
learned to play music and found his way to the one instrument that would lead
to being “regarded by critics as the greatest jazz performer ever” (“Louis
Armstrong”).

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             It was around the
1920s when Daniel Louis Armstrong, begun to play the cornet instrument (a brass
instrument similar to the trumpet) for lesser known jazz bands and even saw the
chance to write some songs and wrote “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister
Kate”, which a company published, but didn’t give any credit to Armstrong (“Louis
Armstrong”). While “visiting nightclubs such as the Funky Butt Hall”
Armstrong would just listen to jazz performers and it was there, where he met
the one person who would truly help his musical ability flourish, Joe Oliver (“When
Did Louis…”). Oliver guided Armstrong to figure his style and advance his skill,
so much that he called Oliver “Pappa Joe” and even had gigs passed to him by
Oliver (“Louis Daniel Armstrong”).

            During a time playing and having his guide move,
Armstrong was given the opportunity to take the place of Oliver in a very
well-known band called “The Kid Ory” in New Orleans. (“Louis Daniel Armstrong”).
This became one of the first bumps in helping to launch Armstrong’s
introduction to a new jazz era. Another band he joined that aided in the higher
launch of his musical career was Oliver’s creole jazz band away from New
Orleans, in Chicago where “Louis Armstrong’s career really took off” (“When Did
Louis…”). However, true career advancement occurred when Armstrong changed
setting yet again and oved to New York City. It was during 1924 where Armstrong
truly had an entrance into the music business as he joined with a band called
the “Fletcher Henderson” (“Louis Armstrong”). He now had gained a newly-founded
confidence as a performer and with that recognition, all throughout America.
After a year and improvement Armstrong made a switch in instrument from the
cornet to the trumpet which for the next few years “led him to break free of
the more rigid Dixieland style of jazz and pave the way for a more modern
jazz genre” which hadn’t been heard of much in the music industry (“Louis
Armstrong”).

            In a time where jazz music hadn’t been fondled with (in
terms of its “style”), Armstrong was paving the way for a new jazz technique.
The technique of scat singing consisted of “vocal improvisation with wordless
syllables, combining improvised melodies, motifs and rhythmic patterns using
the voice as an instrument…” (Vitro) and is said to have stumbled onto the
style of scat singing by complete chance as his music sheet fell whilst in the
middle of singing a song and having to improvise quickly (“Louis Armstrong”).  He later helped scat singing to become widely
known and used. The contribution he made to jazz was later shown by his “masterpiece
the ‘Basin Street Blues'” (Talevski) with its rhythmic sounds. Armstrong helped
to make jazz music be more widespread all throughout the many years of his
career life by having musical appearances in a wide variety of films such as
“Pennies from Heaven” in 1936 and “Hello, Dolly” in 1969 (“Louis Armstrong”). This
helped Armstrong to even further his popularity amongst America and even other
countries around the world. While doing tours Armstrong had a performance in
England, where while performing was he given the famous nickname of “Satchmo”,
for the way his cheeks puffed while playing the trumpet (“Louis Armstrong”). For
the American culture he created and sang music in a way that was revolutionary
as Billboard describes as having
“originated a kind of jazz music that did not exist before…” with its
“timeless ebullience and unabashed love of life” (Levenson).

            People during the 20th century in America, for the most
part loved Louis Armstrong because of his representation of the true love he
had for music and his “sufferings of the poor” which he knew of due to his
upbringing growing up in New Orleans (“Driven by Genius”). All through his
famed career was it talked about how humble he stayed. As it was known that
what he enjoyed eating the most was “red beans and rice—poor people’s food” (“Driven
by Genius”). Being so popular amongst even the ‘Whites’ during his time of fame
caused fellow ‘Blacks’ like himself to feel as if he was trying to belong into
something not fit and was even referred to as “a White Folks’ Nigger,” to which
he felt no correlation to, as because of the “powerful white folks, Armstrong
was able to be released from jail and even avoided lynching while on tour in
the Deep South” helping him to move around and maintain his spread of jazz
amongst everyone during this time (“Driven by Genius”). It was known for
everyone how Armstrong would just say “just glad to play” when fame and fortune
would be spoken of to him, as was also known his generosity amongst the people
around him, whom his money was given to (“Louis Daniel Armstrong”).

            Louis Armstrong’s “distinctive sound… is evident” in his
music all throughout such as in his last song that became worldwide known,
“What a Wonderful World” which was recorded in 1968 (Norment).  His influences on coming jazz influenced
artists were evident as famous American jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie said,
“if it weren’t for Armstrong there would be no Dizzy Gillespie”. Although
having maintained a concrete wave of fame throughout his career even after his
death his popularity is still seen amongst America as some of his songs are
played in current 21st century movies and listened to by 21st
century Americans, earning “a new generation of fans” (“Louis Armstrong”).

            Armstrong’s influence perhaps can be seen in the way of
how his music inspired me to appreciate jazz music and its complex sounds, that
create a timeless feel. As critic Ralph Gleason once said, “Louis Armstrong
is like Picasso, Stravinsky, and Casals, one of a kind, a giant upon the earth,
and there won’t be another like him” (Levenson).  Listening to Armstrong’s music and his
eloquent sounds made me realize how miniscule one’s talent may be to oneself,
but how massive the impact is to everyone else. I understand why it is important
to have a point of creativity so that others can be inspired, and create.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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