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Louis Armstrong: The Jazzman - Essay Example

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This "Louis Armstrong: The Jazzman" outlines the history of jazz and the place of Louis Armstrong in it. Jazz was invented by African American slaves, and the term originally meant “sex”, but eventually included all kinds of fun, and then became the name of possibly the most American music style of all time (Harker, 2011). Jazz has its roots in the work songs of American slaves and their Gospel music from Christian churches (Ondaatje, 2011). As it became popular it was added to and modified by artist from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Because of its original improvisational style, it was easy for it to absorb contributions from other kinds of music and for master of other genres to contribute to its growth (Harker, 2011). Jazz is cooperative and improvisational. It is like a conversation among the instruments, most evident in Dixieland style. Many musicians spent their lives searching for that “perfect” performance, as in Michael Ondaatje’s. Coming Through Slaughter (Ondaatje, 2011) the story of Buddy Bolden who, when he found it, he “blew out his lip” and never played again. (Blowing out one’s lip means he cannot play again. It is like trying to pitch baseball with a badly healed broken elbow.)
It was very difficult to select one piece to represent this artist, but if we go back to his roots we can see the development of New Orleans Style jazz for which he was noted. There is a song that he and his second wife, Lillian Hardin Armstrong, wrote and recorded for Decca in 1940.,

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I never heard it before: Perdido Street Blues, found here: http://www.redhotjazz.com/lao.html. Perdido Street in New Orleans was where Armstrong was born and raised. It was a mean street filled with all kinds of poverty and vice. His father left his mother and she had to prostitute to buy food. Armstrong got in trouble at age 11 for firing his stepfathers pistol in the air on New Years Eve and was sent to Colored Waif's Home for Boys where he was given the cornet lessons that changed his life (Ricardi 2013). Perdido Street Blues has many versions, but the original Decca recording on 10’ 78 rpm is the most representative of his style, which had matured by that time. There is no singing or scatting on it, and Armstrong plays trumpet instead of cornet. The rest of the instrumentalists include: Bass – W. Brand Clarinet – S. Bechet Drums – Z. Singleton Guitar – B. Addison Piano – L. Russell Trombone – C. Jones (Louis Armstrong and his orchestra - perdido street blues / 2.19 blues (shellac) at discogs Retrieved 12/2/2013) The music starts with a high four line (8 bars) solo on clarinet with the rest of the instruments punching in a 2 note counterpoint for the first three lines until the clarinet swings into the mellow backup theme to set off Armstrong’s trumpet solo. There are four melody lines combining here with the trumpet

Summary

This essay describes the career of a great musician Louis Armstrong. He is known as the most influential person on American Jazz, one of the truly American genres of music. He was also involved in blues, swing and ragtime, pop and other sub-genres. Louis Armstrong brought his music to every corner…
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