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The Personification of Jazz

The auditorium was packed standing room only. The people were ready. There was an aura of splendor hovering over the audience; excitement, allied with love as they waited to hear the inimitable, and, paramount musician, singer, and entertainer the world over "Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong"

When the band kicked off the intro to "Hello Dolly," the audience went into an emotion-packed uproar as they watched their hero, with his unmistakable prance, walk to the microphone, his trumpet in one hand, his handkerchief in the other his smile was so big, it could light up Broadway. Louie gave them want they wanted it went something like this "Hello Dolly oh Hello Dolly " Hearing this, the audience clapped and yelled so much, it made you think a cataclysmic eruption was eminent! His fans loved him so much, as did the rest of the world; they showed it with their hands and emotional outburst of respect and adoration for a man who stands for so much primarily, love!

On February 15, 1964, Louis recorded "Hello Dolly." It became an instant hit across the nation, while pushing the Beatles down a few notches. The incredible success of "Hello Dolly" was a remarkable triumph for a man who had revolutionized American music nearly forty years earlier. On July 6, 1971, Louis took his leave; the composite memory of him, the music of America coming from his horn, his total persona-on and off the stage, his humor, his love, which he gave to the world, all of which will linger on as long as there are ways and means to hear and see Louie, we will always have access to the most incredible musician and singer in the history of music ."The Patron Saint of The Entertainment World."

Louie always thought of himself as, and insisted that he was, a child of the American century; born July 4th, 1900. However, the truth holds that, he was born on August 4th, 1901, which is documented in the Baptismal Registry of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New Orleans. The actual date is not as important; but what is important is, what Louis gave to the world he gave of himself!

Louis grew up in the ghetto of New Orleans; in the area known as Storyville; the boarding houses the red light district. On one 4th of July, fireworks were going off everywhere. Now Louie, without any fireworks, borrowed a pistol and began shooting some rounds into the air; subsequently, he was abducted by the local authorities and put in the "Colored Waif Home," which was founded by Captain Joseph Jones.

From the video documentary, "Satchmo," Edward R. Murrow asked Louie, "What was it like in the Waif Home?" Louie had this to say "There was a music teacher name Mr. Peter Davis. He didn't notice me at first, he thought I was one of da bad boys from the street. Then one day, he ask me to be the bugler this was good, I could play the blues chords. When I got out, I went right to see King Oliver. I know his wife, Mrs. Oliver, she always give me dem red beans and rice. What I want more than anything is lessons. Oliver gave me lessons-I was ready."

Louis was a quick learner. In 1918, King Oliver and his band went to the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. Louis was asked to take Oliver's place with the hottest band in New Orleans, "Kid Ory and His Creole Jazz Orchestra." Then in 1922, Louis joined up with the "Tuxedo Jazz Band." It was this year that King Oliver sent for Louie to come to Chicago and play second trumpet at the Lincoln Gardens. In the same interview with Murrow, he asked Louie "Did that make you happy?" Louie's smile got bigger "OH Yeah could nobody get me out of New Orleans."

King Oliver played with the same style as Louie, but with a softer tone. Louis had some powerful chops, and because of that, in a recording session, Louis was asked to stand some distance behind so as not to overpower the band. Louie played second harmony to King's lead. Louie had an uncanny talent to anticipate a phrase King might play without music, Louie was in there with the right harmony note. King Oliver was Louie's mentor, he served as a father image as well. After two years in Chicago, King Oliver and Louie made musical history. It was here in the Windy City that Louis recorded his solo effort, "Chimes Blues."

Were it not for Olivers' pianist, Lillian Hardin, the trumpet duet might have continued. She took a special interest in Louie and became the second major influence in his life. In 1924, Louie and Lillian were married. Louis was called by the great band leader and arranger, Fletcher Henderson, to come to New York and play in his orchestra; it was his wife who encouraged Louis to go that same year.

So in September 1924, Louie set out to join the Henderson musical conglomerate. He brought with him, a quality of solo playing far exceeding anything that New York had heard thus far in jazz. Louie's musical ideas and the harmonic knowledge he learned with Oliver, were a stimulus to action for Henderson's staff arranger, Don Redman. Louie remained with Henderson for about a year.

Louie's wife, Lillian, persuaded him to return to Chicago. She wanted him to play in her band, and Erskine Tate wanted Louie to play in his ensemble. So in November 1925, Louie returned to Chicago. Also in this year, Louis began recording under his own name and put together his first band, the Hot Five which featured the following musicians; pianist Hardin, trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and banjoist Johnny St Cyr. This innovated band was followed by the Hot Seven, which produced such early greats as, "Cornet Chop Suey." They made 65 records in three years. By the end of the decade, Louis was in demand across the country; Chicago, Washington, New York, and Los Angeles-but not New Orleans, a place where he would not return for some time.

During the period, 1929 to 1934, Louis 's trumpet style exploded from the powerful New Orleans ensemble lead to a solo voice whose majestic quality seemed to soar to new heights of splendor-on his way to becoming the "King of Jazz Trumpet." Musicians, who worked with him, and those who knew him, had so much admiration for his authority on the horn; his projection, perfect timing, and his profound understanding of the blues; he was an entrepreneur of jazz. The sound from Louie's horn had a profound influence on those to follow; rich with sonorities, it was unmistakable, undeniable, and it "is" eternal. Louie is doubtless the best known of all the American great jazz musicians!

Louie 's wife and pianist, Lil Hardin, was replaced with Earl "Father" Hines in 1928. This was a good year for Louie and the new edition of the Hot Five; they recorded the important jazz piece, "West End Blues." With its' formidable introduction, trumpeters were hard pressed to copy it; a piece that generated one of the classic, jazz-defining improvisations of all time. Louie took some harmonic chances on this one!

When the bells toll, New York beckons, for the return of the most popular singer and musician existent Louis Armstrong. This star-studded event took place in 1929. Louis was to become a major star. At Connie's Inn in Harlem, he sang and played Fat's Waller's "Ain't Misbehaven." Louie was so successful, his performance was inserted in the Broadway production "Hot Chocolates."

To underestimate the great potential and contribution Louis Armstrong has made to the world, is to underestimate the potential of life itself. The driving force behind this confidant and heart warming entertainer, is like a passionate locomotive with a lot of coal left to burn. He is one of the most influential artists in the music's history. His influence can be heard from the horns of many and singers alike. With his charismatic personality and his inimitable prowess on trumpet, Louis deserves the tittle "King of Jazz Trumpet."

From the Internet, "Jazz Profiles," here is their offering July, 2000

Armstrong-The Trumpeter . "Louis Armstrong revolutionized the sound of the trumpet in jazz. In his work with ensembles and as a soloist, Armstrong displayed a unique blend of talent and dedication that has not been matched by any trumpeter since. His skill at improvisation paved the way for the emergence of the jazz soloist. He boldly rephrased themes of jazz standards and popular tunes. His joyous, heartfelt musical expressions reflected his charismatic stage presence."

When it comes to scat-style singing, there's Louie Armstrong and ..? Louie started the scat-style of singing; this phenomenal event took place in February 1926. While recording "Heebie Jeebies," Louis had an opportunity to sing.; he dropped a piece of paper with the lyrics on it, so rather than ruin the recording, he began with this "Schoo wa de da doo be doo be .? Louie's outburst of something so new and unorthodox, turned the jazz world upside down! Louie elevated scat-singing to an art form, and for the next forty some years, his singing voice would become one of the worlds most recognized and enjoyed in jazz and popular Music.

Louie made his first sojourn to Europe in July 25, 1932 first stop-London. When Louie was young, some of his friends decided to give him a nickname because of his large mouth. They came up with "satchel-mouth." An editor in London took satchel-mouth and shorten it to, Satchmo; to his peers, he was always referred to as "POPS." But now, and for the rest of his life, his peers and the rest of the world would know him as "SATCHMO."

Louie was loved in Europe, in African, in Japan, and all over the world. Not just because of his smile, but because of the sound of his horn; it was the pure spiritual essence, the sound of American, and the freedom it had to offer. When Louis arrived in Denmark, there were 10,000 people waiting for him at the railway carriage. Wherever Louie went in Europe, he received a reception far exceeding that which other entertainers would have received. He was in demand all over the world he was a HERO!

When Louis returned to the United States in 1935, he found disappointment; no band, and no recording contracts; his career had come to an end. It was time to go see Joe Glazer, who at the time, was running the Lincoln Gardens for, as it was known, Al Capone. Glazer loved Louie, and had helped him a lot. Louie once said that Joe Glazer had taken him to unprecedented heights. Glazer, was a tough and tumble guy; he helped break down the doors that would normally be closed to someone like Louie.

Since he returned in 1935, Louie's career was in the hands of Joe Glazer, a hard- nose extrovert who was either loved or liked. Glazer promoted Louie intensively; taking charge of the musicians and bands that were to provide Louis with backup. After changing from one band, then another, he set out to form a new band to be made up of stars and which he planned to market under the name Louis Armstrong And His All Stars. Glazer's idea proved to be the perfect format for Louis; it would remain this way for the rest of his life; this would include changes in personal as necessary.

With the All Stars, Louie began a series of world sojourns; with an occasional club date here and there, they played mostly concert halls with crowds that thought Louie was the living end; they loved him wherever he went; they adored him. The line-up for the first All Star band included Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, and Big Sid Catlett.

One of the doors Glazer opened for Louie was that of Hollywood; a case in point would be the Jackie Gleason TV Show. From the video documentary, "Satchmo," on the show we had Dizzy Gillespie and company, Louis Armstrong was the guest. They started with a riff, taking four's in between. Dizzy was at his best, playing a lot of fast notes in what is known as, be-bop style. Now Louie, well, he didn't play a lot of fast notes, he didn't have too. The sound of his horn was 'horn-a-plenty,' as he exercised his knowledge of harmonics allied with a trumpet sound existent! There was a vocal exchange-Dizzy sang, Louie scated. When time came to end the riff, Dizzy, with his elevated-bell-trumpet, conducted the ending. After the applause died down, there was an exchange of laughter between Dizzy and Louie, as Louie bends a little and extends his right hand to Dizzy with a big smile and "Gimme some skin daddy!"

From the video documentary, "Satchmo," the interview with Edward R. Murrow continues. Louie's talking about one of the countries he visited. "We played all over the world, playing for different countries and different languages, and I don't speak but one language and that be poor English" .there was a slight pause and Louie, excitedly, came back with this "In 1953, I played Berlin .and I can't 'COUNT' the number of Russians that cross the line to hear 'our Louie,' that's the way they expressed it, 'our Louie.' Dem Russians really dig good jazz." Louie was excited!

In the 1950's, Louie was in eleven movies; the most notable being, "The Glenn Miller Story," with Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. In one scene, at Connie's Inn in Harlem, Louie was on stage (where else) with the All Stars-Lionel Hampton on drums. Miller and his wife had just said their wedding vows, and with a few friends and musicians, they went to Connie's Inn to celebrate.

As they entered the Inn, you could hear Louie singing and scating to the tune of "Basin Street Blues." Louie plays a solo a la virtuoso, then he see's Gene Krupa-drummer and Babe Ruskin-tenor saxophone and invites them up to set-in. Krupa starts off with a rather flamboyant drum solo for an up-tempo blues and their off and running! While Ruskin is blowin' down his solo, Louie invites Glenn Miller up to play with solos over, the two drummers go into what felt like a tom tom virtuosity exchange scenario that could make anyone jump up and start dancing. You will never hear any better jazz than that played at Connie's Inn that night!

Louie had a remarkable voice; it was unique unto itself, and apparent to those who chose to hear his voice since the 1920's. By any standards, Louie's voice was beyond redemption. However, in the world of jazz, it became recognized for what it was, a perfect instrument for jazz singing. Louie's raspy voice box, his laid back delivery, his perfect timing, and his command of rhythmic structure, are quite event in tunes such as, "Hello Dolly, "Ain't Misbehaven," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," and others too numerous to mention.

When watching and hearing Louie entertain, his mannerisms, the way he looked, the way he played, the way he smiled, his scat-singing, were all so profound he made a profound affect on the composite American musical scene; Louie was a righteous man-he lived up to it! If you put all your cards on the table, it is not difficult to accept the fact that, Louis Armstrong was, and still is, the most unique and popular musician and singer of the century. He was the "Ambassador of Love!"

Louie and The All Stars were off again in the year 1956; this time-West Africa; they were greeted by 100,000 people. In fact, the people were so excited to see Louie and his entourage, they were carried to their end destination in chairs. It was here in Africa that Louis was officially crowned "The Worlds Good Will Ambassador." In 1929, Fat's Waller wrote a protest song for Louie, he called it, "Black and Blue." Louie sang the song and dedicated it to the Prime minister of West Africa.

Everywhere Louis went he was welcomed; not only with warmth and love, he was greeted with Life! Louie gave them hope, he gave them joy, he gave them the security knowing that love is abound; as he showered them with his huge umbrella of love, which he sent out to them through the incredible sound of his trumpet the sound of American, and the unmistakable sound of the voice of the century.

Back in 1953, Louie became the first musician to be elected by Readers to the Down Beat Hall of Fame. Ultimately, Louie became quite famous within the recording industry. In the mid-1950's, Louie recorded his jazz masterpiece, "Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy," for Columbia. Also, Louie recorded one of his classics, "A Musical Autobiography" for Decca, and a few sessions with Ella Fitzgerald for Verve; these sessions became major sellers. Louis continued to tour until 1968, when at this time, his heart showed signs of weakness.

Louis was a man of compassion; it was hovering over the stage, no matter where he performed. He loved kids, even though he never had any. He would show some kids how to play the trumpet, and with others, he would play games with them. He was a proud man with a lot of confidence; he knew what he had to offer, but he continued to give more than he had; but his coffer was never to be empty. Louis was a man who could not be intimidated!

I know its' not protocol for an author to express personal feelings, so I take this liberty to do just that! For me, Louie was my inspiration; being a musician since 1948, I can a test to, not only his ongoing popularity, but the vibrations of infinity which pervade the trichotomy of, his trumpet, his voice-and his large, characteristic smile, and his composite persona. Then there was love; every time Louie stepped on stage, there was an exchange; a transformation, as he gave from his coffer-love, a love he gave to people all over the world; and in return, he received the bounty of love from his fans. No matter where Louie played, the response he received was nothing less than overwhelming.

During my career as a musician, often, I have been asked, what do I think of Louis Armstrong; I gave them this scenario:

On July 6th, 1971, I was pulling into a parking lot to have lunch with some engineers. As I parked the car, I heard on the radio that Louis Armstrong had died. Slowly, I turned off the ignition, and put my head on the steering wheel as the tears began rolling down my cheeks; this went on for some time.

Louie was my HERO, my inspiration; the world had lost the "World's Good Will Ambassador," "The King of Jazz Trumpet." We gave to the world, "Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong," the man who established "A ONENESS WITH MANKIND." Thank you Louie, for ALL you gave to the world.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Louis Armstrong
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