Louis Armstrong: A Jazz Legacy Essay
Louis Armstrong: A Jazz Legacy
Songs nowadays are more appreciated because of their catchiness and irresistible rhythm. No matter how much these songs are loved by the generation now, there’s no denying that all of these music ‘magic’ dates back from no other than Louis Armstrong, a significant figure not only in the jazz music industry, but on the whole music industry during the 1920s. Despite focusing on jazz as his main music genre, Armstrong made his way to mainstream music that garnered him enormous recognition from a lot of people in the music industry up to now.
Armstrong plays numerous instruments by heart, including the horn, the cornet, and the trumpet. As we all know, these three instruments are brass instruments, a core element of jazz music. He played in a lot of clubs and cabarets as a way for him to slowly enter into the music scene. What made his works very notable and ground-breaking is his ability to deviate from the notes of the song and create his own improvisation of the rhythm, which becomes a good alternate product. His method is described as a “vigorous swinging from one pitch to the next.
” This is considered as one of his greatest contributions to jazz music, especially that no one has so far surpassed his playing abilities considering that he sometimes play as a soloist. [Last Name] 2 The alteration of tunes paved way to one of Armstrong’s signature element, the happy-type of songs. One of the most notable pieces exhibiting this element is “Jazz Lips” from his Hot Fives recordings, using the trumpet as its main instrument. After the first three notes played, the pitch suddenly changes on what sounds like a “second tone,” adding to the lively upbeat aura of the song.
Moreover, the song can be considered as monotonous but at the same time with variations, again as a result of the editing of some notes. Such move is actually risky especially if the notes do not match the entirety of the piece, but Louis Armstrong can definitely get through that risk without breaking a sweat. Another magic of the song is the absence of percussion instruments, which is not really considered a big deal since the tempo is set as an upbeat song, and the trumpets are played like they have their own basses. The songs from the Hot Fives recordings actually have their share of ‘flaws.
’ The whole recording was made in a ‘casual way’ and that there are occasional mistakes in ‘the routine,’ including the ‘order of solos, breaks and strains of the songs. ’ However, these flaws did not bother their audiences. The entertainment value of their songs was still able to make up for those unnoticed details. Speaking of mistakes, another definitive moment in Louis Armstrong’s career is his non-sense singing of syllables in place of ordinary words, which is now referred to as scat singing. Armstrong was not the first to use this type of jazz singing, but he was the one who started the craze of doing so.
Apparently, his combination of scat singing with jazz music is considered a [Last Name] 3 great factor in changing American music forever. Apparently, this is what I have mentioned in the beginning of this paper – the catchiness of the songs nowadays attributes to this ability of Mr. Armstrong. The key idea behind this ability is that he wanted musicians to sound like their instruments, thus replacing these ‘tunes’ with syllables that may not necessarily contribute to the lyrical context of the song, but does add variety and catchiness to it.
His ‘gravelly’ voice even added to the quality of the songs in which he either expressed sadness or joy. Evidently, some of his creations were featured in Scott Deveaux’s “Jazz,” where syllabic phrases such as “bidi-bum-ba-ram-pap-pa-rap” are very much heard. In addition to scat singing, Armstrong also experimented with his voice and his trumpet, sometimes tuning his voice the same way as his trumpet. Some of the songs during his era focused on political and racist problems that faced the Black people living in America.
Although he started from humble beginnings, Louis Armstrong did not focus too much on addressing these issues and instead opted for the brighter side of things. In fact, during their era when there was a financial problem facing the U. S. economy, Armstrong continued releasing heartfelt and humorous songs, although slowly shifting from solely playing the trumpet to adding more vocals to his creations. A breakthrough in his career was a release of a CD that began with a simple trumpet solo which introduced then listeners to the main melody, which is followed by his warm-toned singing of a mixed ad-libbed lyrics and a few scat phrases.
While he was taking a breather mid-way through the song, the band he’s [Last Name] 4 playing with played their instruments for a huge bridge, then concluding the song with a trumpet ensemble full of high notes. This formula is still used by many songs nowadays, most especially with big ballads and Latin-inspired themes, reiterating the fact that Armstrong’s style does not only revolve around jazz, but also on many other genres. Armstrong continued to release more songs, including his biggest hit by far, “Hello, Dolly!
” which reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts on May 9, 1964. This was during the time when the Beatles are becoming a worldwide sensation with their song “Can’t Buy Me Love” which at that time was the chart predecessor of ‘Dolly. ’ Armstrong was able to knock the group off the top. The song has also been remade by a lot of other singers during his era. An upbeat song, the trumpet accompaniments in the song are a bit subdued in comparison to Armstrong’s strong vocals. Also a noticeable element in this song is that the song didn’t start with a trumpet ensemble.
In addition, during the later parts of the first verse, the trumpet’s tones went with Armstrong’s singing of the song, making the trumpet the ‘second voice’ or serve as its ‘background singer. ’ The latter parts include trumpet bridges of high notes and a conclusion of both vocals and trumpets, parts of Armstrong’s signature styles in Jazz music. Truly a man of great talent and innovation (considering how much he has experimented with his music during their time,) Louis Armstrong should always be regarded as the one who
[Last Name] 5 started the catchiness of songs. Nowadays, the younger generation seem to forget that fact just because they have a negative view towards the classics. This is changing slowly, as many artists are trying to pay homage to the efforts of the musicians of the yesteryears by incorporating jazz, soul and a-la-cabaret style of music into their modern songs. Even if jazz music is not that prominent anymore especially in mainstream music, Jazz music fans of all ages will surely appreciate the contributions of Louis Armstrong.
If I were to ask my opinions about him, I think he should be regarded as the King or the pioneer of real jazz music, because that genre would not be even recognized without his creativity. When we listen to classical music, we think of formulaic or repetitive elements that characterize them, adding to our views about the music. But his creations are far from what seemed to be predictable during their time, as characterized by his aggression in changing a few notes in his pieces by making them livelier, not to mention the “scat singing” that is overused these days.
Granted, he did not focus on society’s issue as his lyrical contents, but his heart-warming songs are enough to justify his love for jazz music, as well as the humorous, danceable and catchy songs that he creates that symbolizes his outlook of Jazz music as an individual. He is truly a proof that entertainment will always be entertainment just as long as you have the talent and the heart to do so. I could not imagine Jazz music without Louis Armstrong.
Perhaps, I could not imagine how the whole music industry will be like today if not for the talent that he has shared with us that we continue to make use today. [Last Name] 6 Works Cited Collier, James Lincoln. Louis Armstrong: An American Genius. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Raum, Elizabeth. Louis Armstrong: Jazz Legend. Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2007. Tanenhaus, Sam. Louis Armstrong. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 September 2016
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