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posted: 6/30/2010 12:01 AM

Louis Armstrong, other jazz greats still important today

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  • One of the first jazz singers most likely was the world famous trumpeter and gravely voiced singer Louis Armstrong.

      One of the first jazz singers most likely was the world famous trumpeter and gravely voiced singer Louis Armstrong.
    Photo courtesy Wikipedia

 

Jazz is a type of music that invites the musician to be directed by feelings as well as be guided by the sheet music. Jazz was pieced together from other musical styles popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including ragtime, folk, African spirituals, Creole, gospel, blues and marching band. Jazz started in New Orleans and has been embraced by artists and audiences all over the world. Jazz music typically has a strong brass section with saxophone, trumpet, cornet, trombone and tuba and also can include bass, guitar, clarinet, drums, flute, piano and vocal arrangements.

Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University in New Orleans, says one of the first jazz singers most likely was the world famous trumpeter and gravely voiced singer Louis Armstrong.

"That's not an easy question, because the singers who sang on early jazz recordings, the only documents we can use to make comparisons, often weren't jazz singers. I think Louis Armstrong would probably be the first example that everyone could agree on. He became famous in 1926 for his vocals on 'Heebie Jeebies' on which he scats."

Louis Armstrong was born around 1900 in New Orleans, a city where life and music are inseparable. By age 11 Armstrong was singing and performing in street bands, marching bands and in music halls. He played cornet and trumpet and developed a distinctive low range, scratchy-voiced singing style. By the time he was 22 he was able to support himself solely through his music. There's no question that Armstrong's influence on jazz helped to bring the musical form to a nationwide and worldwide audience, making him one of the most highly acclaimed musicians of his time. Armstrong, nicknamed "Satchmo," played and sang in live performances, at churches, in movies and on radio and television. His recording of "Hello Dolly" flew to the top of the popular music charts in 1964 and bumped the Beatles out of the number one spot.

Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ellis Marsalis and sons Wynton and Branford have made this American musical art form so popular that even our nation's teens are introduced to jazz through high school and middle school band programs. Jazz in New Orleans is as much a part of the fabric of everyday living as when Armstrong was a boy, with live concerts at Preservation Hall and the New Orleans Jazz National Park and daily street concerts and festivals.

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