Now acknowledged as one of the foremost musicians of the twentieth century, Armstrong was a ridiculously gifted trumpeter whose innovations shaped an emerging, distinctly American musical form: jazz.
On the March
To learn more about Louis Armstrong, visit the “Louis Armstrong: 1901-1971” website at www.redhotjazz.com/louie.html, and check out the boxed set The Hot Fives and Sevens (JSP Records).
Just as important as his towering technical and improvisational skills on the trumpet, however (and more often overlooked), was his influence as a singer. Armstrong's unique vocal delivery had a huge impact on the development of American popular music: Anyone who ever improvised within the structure of a song, putting a unique personal impression on the material, is, in essence, following Louis Armstrong's lead. That puts figures as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, and Erykah Badu in the debt of the man called Satchmo.
A tireless performer and a gifted comic actor, Armstrong maintained his extraordinary popularity over five decades. Over that time, he won the kind of accolades from critics and fellow musicians that only true masters ever earn.
Shortly before he died, Armstrong dismissed the plea of a doctor that he cancel an upcoming concert with the following words: “What we play is life, my whole life, my whole soul. My whole spirit is to blow that horn.”
He played the gig.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to African-American History © 2003 by Melba J. Duncan. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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