Cornet/trumpet player Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901) revolutionized
both the instrumental and the vocal style of jazz.
King Oliver's substitute in Kid Ory's band, Armstrong left New Orleans in
1922 to join Oliver in Chicago, where he recorded his
Weather Bird Rag (april 1923), and then (1924) Fletcher Henderson in New York.
While in New York, he also accompanied blues singers
(notably Bessie Smith's legendary january 1925 recording of St Louis Blues)
and cut some songs (Clarence Williams' Texas Moaner Blues in october 1924) with smaller groups that included Sidney Bechet.
In fact the classic recording of the age, and perhaps the most faithful to the original sound of New Orleans' jazz, was an interpretation of Benton Overstreet's Early Every Morn (december 1924) by a quintet named Red Onion Jazz Babies, organized by Clarence Williams, that featured Armstrong, Bechet, pianist Lil Hardin and blues vocalist Alberta Hunter.
In 1925 he returned to Chicago, formed the Hot Five (also Hot Seven),
a spin-off of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (Johnny Dodds on clarinet,
Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny St Cyr on banjo, Lil Hardin on piano, but the
line-up changed quickly), and
cut songs that were celebrated for the smooth and elegant phrasing of his
Gut Bucket Blues (november 1925),
Cornet Chop Suey (february 1926), typical of how the rest of the band was becoming mere background,
Heebie Jeebies (february 1926), the first black recording of scat singing (already used by white vaudeville singers such as Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards),
Potato Head Blues (may 1927),
Wild Man Blues (may 1927), perhaps their masterpiece recording, the peak of his "vocal" imitation,
Kid Ory's Savoy Blues (december 1927), featuring blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson,
Muggles (december 1928), featuring Earl Hines on piano,
Spencer Williams' Basin Street Blues (december 1928), featuring Earl Hines on celeste,
King Oliver's West End Blues (july 1928), featuring both Hines on piano and Zutty Singleton on drums, opened by one of his most famous passages, and further enhanced by an elegant duet between his scat singing and Jimmy Strong's clarinet.
Armstrong's trumpet solos were majestic, phantasmagoric and full of drama.
His experience with blues singers had prompted him to develop a trumpet style that was a mirror image of human singing. His trumpet was literally the instrumental counterpart of blues singing.
Lil Hardin contributed a lot of material to their repertory: My Heart (november 1925),
Skid-Dat-De-Dat (november 1926), an inventive of tonal variety and shifting focus,
Struttin' with Some Barbecue (december 1927),
Hotter Than That (december 1927), highlighted by a virtuoso vocal duet with guitarist Lonnie Johnson, reminiscent of Adelaide Hall's role in Duke Ellington's Creole Love Call (1927),
Two Deuces (june 1928), etc.
These performances contrasted with King Oliver's style because Armstrong's
instrument dominated the proceedings: Armstrong had introduced a dose on
individualism in jazz that was the antithesis of its original socialist principles.
Jelly Roll Morton had used the solos to increase the sophistication of his orchestral music, but his focus was still on the sound of the ensemble. It was Armstrong who shifted the emphasis towards the vocabulary of the extended virtuoso solo.
Solos became longer and longer, while displaying an even stronger sense of control.
Armstrong applied a similar technique to his vocals, which did more than
just popularize "scat" singing (wordless vocalizing):
they invented a way to sing without singing.
His singing often sounded like a conversation.
Sometimes his vocals were so estranged from the music that it sounded like he
didn't know what song he was singing.
The voice had always been an instrument, but Armstrong started the trend that
would turn it into the most malleable of instruments,
away from the passion of blues, the conventions of the opera and the frigidity of pop.
Armstrong turned the human voice into not only an instrument but an instrument
that was as legitimate for improvising as any other instrument of the orchestra.
Under the direction of his manager Tommy Rockwell,
Armstrong left Chicago in 1929 to become a globe-trotter, a veritable
evangelist of jazz music around the world, while his repertory became even more
Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' (july 1929), the song that made him star,
Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust (november 1931),
the spiritual When the Saints Go Marching In (may 1938),
Hello Dolly (december 1963), his best-selling record, cut with the All Stars,
Bob Thiele's What a Wonderful World (august 1967),
Wilbur Schwandt's Dream a Little Dream of Me (july 1968),
and even a theme song for a James Bond movie, We Have All The Time In The World (october 1969).
His fame increased exponentially among the white audience.
Armstrong became famous with his improvisations on covers of blues and pop standards.
In many ways, he taught the whole jazz world how to improvise on a theme.
At the same time, the charming and flamboyant player knew how to entertain an
audience with the humblest of musical tools.
But his contributions as a composer are rather dismal.
He was more of a popular icon and entertainer than an auteur.
This too influenced generations of jazz musicians who cared more for the
marginal contribution of their delivery (for the "look and feel" of their
music) than for the core contribution of their compositions.
With Armstrong jazz became more style than substance.
His influence was enormous, but it is debatable what kind of influence it was.
He was certainly instrumental in making jazz music acceptable by the white
middle class, and in making it a worldwide phenomenon.
Armstrong died in july 1971.
Louis Armstrong cantava da bambino per qualche penny sui marciapiedi di New
Orleans. Nel 1914 si iscrisse ad una scuola di musica ed apprese a suonare
diversi strumenti, dimostrando una spiccata propensione per la cornetta.
Fu contale strumento che si mise in evidenza nella brass band Home prima e
in diversi nightclub poi. Nel 1918 prese il posto di Oliver nell' orchestra
di Kid Ory e nel 1922 Oliver lo chiamo' a Chicago a suonare la seconda
cornetta nella Creole Jazz Band.
A partire dal 1924, quando lascio' Oliver per trasferirsi a New York e suonare
con Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong si rivelo' come il primo grande solista del
jazz, subito adorato dal pubblico ed imitato dai colleghi.
Incise altri suoi classici, come "Copenaghen".
Torno' a Chicago nel 1925, conquistando rapidamente il carisma del piu' grande
jazzista vivente, fino a diventare simbolo vivente della musica negra a livello
mondiale. "Cake Walking Babies From Home", "West End Blues", "Weather Bird",
"Mahogany Hall Stomp", "When The Saints Go Marchin In" furono alcuni dei
piu' grandi successi dell' epoca.