Armstrong, Louis (Daniel)
Louis Armstrong performing "I Cover the Waterfront" in Copenhag ...
Louis Armstrong.
b. August 4, 1901, New Orleans, La., U.S.
d. July 6, 1971, New York, N.Y.
byname SATCHMO (DIMINUTIVE OF "SATCHEL MOUTH") the leading trumpeter in
jazz history. (See Louis Armstrong, "I Cover the Waterfront".)

A prolifically gifted natural musician, Armstrong as a child followed the brass bands around the streets of New Orleans and came to know many of the pioneers of jazz. In his youth he played the trumpet in marching bands and on the Mississippi riverboats, but he did not really come into his own until, in 1922, his hero, King Oliver, then leading a band in Chicago, sent for him to play second trumpet. A series of recordings with Oliver's Creole Jazz Band resulted, with such pieces as "Dippermouth Blues," "Canal Street Blues," and other blues.

Until his advent, jazz had been based on a three-instrument front line of clarinet-trumpet-trombone, in which individual gifts were subordinated to the demands of the ensemble. It was evident, however, that as soon as individual virtuosity reached a certain peak and a player evolved the ability to create solos more profound than anything the ensemble could offer, then this New Orleans convention was doomed. Armstrong, with his creativity, ended the convention. The series of recordings that he made between 1925 and 1928 with his Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles established the preeminence of the virtuoso soloist. With these groups, Armstrong made records that included "Savoy Blues," "Potato Head Blues," and "West End Blues."

Harmonically, Armstrong was always one of the clearest thinkers, and, despite the complex evolution of jazz after his youth, he remained rooted in the style that first established his reputation. With his beauty of tone, instrumental range, and gift for melodic variations, his extroverted style enabled him to bring jazz to audiences who cared little for the music. One of his most important contributions was to popularize a rhythmic approach in improvising that became known as jazz swing feeling. Another outcome of his burgeoning career was his invention of the "scat" vocal, in which the voice, by abandoning words in favour of conventional but meaningless syllables, reproduces the nuances of instrumental improvisation. Armstrong made many vocal records, and the scat vocal was imitated by jazz singers, including Ella Fitzgerald and Al Jarreau.

From the early 1930s on, he became something more than a jazz musician: he was bandleader, solo variety attraction, film star, and comedian. One of his most remarkable feats was his frequent conquest of the popular market with recordings that are in reality authentic jazz thinly disguised by its creator's contagious humour and delight in his own prowess.

As a composer, Armstrong is associated with such early jazz hits as "Dippermouth Blues" (with King Oliver), "Wild Man Blues" (with Jelly Roll Morton), "Gut Bucket Blues," and others.

Armstrong performed in a number of films, from Diamond Lil with Mae West to Hello Dolly! with Barbra Streisand. Armstrong autobiographies include Swing That Music (1936) and Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954).

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