New Orleans trumpeter Louis Armstrong shaped early Jazz, his earthy singing and personality made him one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th Century with a broad international following. Also, if you listen to a classic Louis 78 rpm disc on a Victorola from the era, his sharp trumpet sound and pungent gravelly vocal project quite well through the medium.
Armstrong’s greatest strength was his power of improvisation expressed through his trumpet and voice. He had a genius for remaking, revising, editing and improving a melody or known theme, often by simplification or abbreviation. His rhythmic ideas -- shifting accents and emphasis, playing ahead of the beat, and a vibrato trailing his notes -- shaped the Jazz concept of “swing.” Armstrong not only influenced early Jazz but his popularity helped it grow and spread; his style impacted not only other trumpeters but the singers, saxophonists and everything to do with the culture and lore of Jazz.
On the other hand . . .
Armstrong is not above criticism. The two most common are:
1) The quality of his trumpet style declined beginning in the early 1930s. Despite occasional brilliance, he began consistently relying on repetitious high register riffs and crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics that broke little fresh ground.
2) A broader criticism argues that Louis’ brilliant solo improvising launched a cult of bravura solos eclipsing the original New Orleans ensemble style. Both musicians and the musical public, were so dazzled by the possibilities, that the ensemble polyphony brought north from New Orleans withered on the vine. The desire and ability to generate a sustained tapestry of simultaneously improvised interaction among several musical voices, brought North by men like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, largely died out.
A voice like no other
I think part of Louis’ triumph as an artist was an ability to directly express his personality projecting it through the recorded medium. In the end there seemed to be no difference between the inner man and the outer one, as found in his music, speech, extensive private writings and tapes, and recordings.
Armstrong’s greatest strength and innovation, his primary musical contribution was in his ability to remold, abbreviate or improve the music he encountered. He revised melodies and his fluid sense of rhythm, shifting cadence, and playing ahead of the beat stamped his personality on the music. Over time, and despite stylistic shortcomings of the ‘30s and beyond, Satchmo’s music developed greater emotional depth becoming ever more personal and saturated with emotion.
“West End Blues” is widely considered his best recorded performance. Immediately recognized as a work of genius and emotional depth unusual for its day (1928), The Grove Dictionary of Jazz salutes its “unity of form and feeling rare in Jazz.”
Louis Armstrong 1A.mp3 SWING THAT MUSIC -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1936 COAL CART BLUES -- Louis Armstrong and his All Stars, 1940 FLEE AS A BIRD/DIDN’T HE RAMBLE -- Louis Armstrong & his All Stars, 1947 GUT BUCKET BLUES -- Louis Armstrong Hot Five, 1925 2:19 BLUES -- Louis Armstrong and his All Stars, 1940 DIPPERMOUTH BLUES (excerpt) -- King Oliver Creole Jazz Band, 1922 DIPPERMOUTH BLUES (excerpt) -- Chris Tyle's Silver Leaf Jazz Band SNAKE RAG -- King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, 1922 SNAKE RAG -- Abbi Hubner’s Lowdown Wizards, 1971 STOMP OFF, LETS GO -- Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra, 1925
Louis Armstrong 1B.mp3 HEEBIE JEEBIES -- Louis Armstrong Hot Five, 1925 WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED SWING -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1936 SATCHEL MOUTH SWING -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1936 SHADRACK -- Live at Club Hangover, San Francisco, 1954 THE SAINTS -- Live at Club Hangover, San Francisco, 1954 WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD -- Louis Armstrong 1970 WEST END BLUES -- Live at Club Hangover, San Francisco, 1954
Pt. 2 - Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong 2A.mp3 STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBEQUE -- Luis Russell Orchestra, 1938 DALLAS BLUES -- Luis Russell Orchestra, 1929 ST. LOUIS BLUES -- Luis Russell Orchestra, 1929 I’M JUST A LUCKY SO AND SO -- with Duke Ellington, 1961 PERDIDO STREET BLUES -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (with Sidney Bechet), 1940 DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN -- . . . and his Orchestra (with Sidney Bechet), 1940 ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET -- Luis Russell Orchestra, 1937 MAHOGANY HALL STOMP -- Louis Armstrong Savoy Ballroom Five, 1929
Louis Armstrong 2B.mp3 MONDAY NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS -- Kermit Ruffins SKID DAT-DE-DAT -- Tomas Ornberg’s Blue Five, 1981 MUSKRAT RAMBLE -- Louis Armstrong All Stars, Standard School Broadcast, 1948 BASIN STREET BLUES -- Louis Armstrong All Stars, vocal Jack Teagarden, Standard School Broadcast, 1948 BASIN STREET BLUES -- Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, 1928 WEATHERBIRD -- duet with Earl Hines, 1928 I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT -- with Duke Ellington, 1961
Pt. 3 - Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong 3A.mp3 SATCHELMOUTH SWING -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1938 PUBLIC MELODY NUMBER ONE -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1937 OLD MAN MOSE -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1935 STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBEQUE -- Louis Armstrong All Stars, Standard School Broadcast, 1948 IT DON'T MEAN A THING -- with Duke Ellington, 1961 MACK THE KNIFE -- Louis Armstrong All Stars, Edward R. Murrow narrator, 1956 DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM -- with Duke Ellington, 1961
Louis Armstrong 3B.mp3 MENTAL STRAIN AT DAWN -- Jack Purvis and his Orchestra, 1929 JEEPERS CREEPERS -- Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton, 1987 JEEPERS CREEPERS -- Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra, 1939 CANAL ST BLUES -- Louis Armstrong with Bob Haggarts Orchestra, 1957 EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY -- Louis Armstrong with Bob Haggart’s Orch, 1957 AZALEA -- with Duke Ellington, 1961
Pt. 4 - Louis Armstrong in the 1920’s
Louis Armstrong 4A.mp3 I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES -- Louis Armstrong & his Orch, 1933 POTATO HEAD BLUES -- -- Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven, 1927 CANAL STREET BLUES -- Southern Stompers, with Irakli, cornet, 1990 TEARS -- King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, 1923 I AINT GONNA TELL NOBODY -- Peruna Jazzmen, 1990 SKID DAT-DE-DAT -- Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, 1928 ALONE AT LAST -- Fletcher Henderson & his Orchestra (Edit), 1925 TELL ME DREAMY EYES -- Fletcher Henderson & his Orch (Edit), 1924 EASY COME EASY GO -- Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards, 1927
Louis Armstrong 4B.mp3 WILD MAN BLUES -- Johnny Dodds Black Botton Stompers, 1927 PAPA DIP -- Zenith Hot Stompers, 1989 JAZZ BATTLE -- Jabbo Smith and his Rhythm Aces, 1929 WEST END BLUES -- Louis Armstrong Hot Five 1928 HUSTLIN’ AND BUSTLIN’ FOR BABY -- . . . & his Orch, 1933 SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE -- . . . and his New Sebastian’s Cotton Club Orch WHAT DID I DO TO BE SO BLACK AND BLUE -- . . . and his Orchestra, 1929 THANKS A MILLION -- Luis Russell Orchestra, 1935