Jazz Music and Musicians

Who was one of the most influential jazz artists?

Jazz trumpeter (Daniel) Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1900–1971), was born in New Orleans and claimed to have been born on the Fourth of July, rather than on August 4 (which was his actual birthday). He learned to play the coronet and read music while in the Negro Waifs Home for Boys and later became leader of its band. Between 1917 and 1922, he played with various Dixieland jazz bands in New Orleans, including that of Kid Ory. Armstrong moved to Chicago in 1922, where he became second cornetist with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. He was also Oliver’s protégé. He married Lil Harding in 1924; although they later divorced, she remained a strong influence in his life. Harding persuaded him to become independent of Oliver. He left Oliver’s band and later moved to New York where he provided a spark in Fletcher Henderson’s band and made the jazz band a viable entity. In 1927 Armstrong formed a band called Louis Armstrong and His Stompers. During the early years of the Great Depression he was unemployed for a while, but from 1932 to 1935 he toured Europe, playing before King George V of England.

He appeared in several noteworthy films, including Pennies from Heaven and Cabin in the Sky. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, Armstrong had become well known as an entertainer. His recording of “Hello Dolly,” which he made in the 1960s, brought him to the top of the charts. His hits “Mack the Knife” and “Blueberry Hill” added to his popularity. Although he took a stance against racial segregation by refusing to play in New Orleans for many years, blacks often misunderstood Armstrong and accused him of pandering to whites. They also criticized his wide grin and use of a large white handkerchief—his trademark—to wipe perspiration from his face. In time, however, he became recognized as one of the most influential jazz artists of all time. A superb showman, he was known for his gravelly, growling vocal style. In 1932 an editor of the Melody Maker gave him the nickname “Satchmo.”

One of the most influential jazz artists of all time was trumpet player and band leader Louis Armstrong.


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