Louis Armstrong redefined Jazz. No man or woman before him could play their instrument and improvise as he could, nor could any man or woman since. He is the non-disputed most influential jazz musician of all time.

Louis Armstrong was born on August 4th, 1901 in New Orleans. As a child, he was very poor and often could be found dancing or singing for money on the street. When he was twelve years old, he was sent to a reform school called the Colored Waif's School after firing a pistol into the air on New Year's Eve. It was in this school that he learned to play the cornet. He had an affinity for the instrument and took great interest in it. He was released when he was fourteen. At that time he worked selling papers and other similarly common jobs. He made a habit of visiting clubs and other places in order to hear as much jazz as he could. It was in one such club that he met Joe "King" Oliver, who took a liking to Armstrong and ended up giving him his first cornet and giving him some instruction on the instrument. He often thought of Oliver as his father figure in his life and was influenced greatly by him.
It didn't take long from then for Louis Armstrong to start gaining recognition in and later out of New Orleans. He was joining and forming band after band. He was winning improvisational jazz battles. He was showing the jazz world how it was done. Soon, he was a household name. He had such an ability to play that towards the beginning of his successful career, many musicians thought he was cheating. For example, he played such high notes that other jealous trumpeters suspected he was playing a trick horn. Louis was happy to have his instrument go through any inspection they provided. After each test in which he proved such skeptics wrong, he would perform solos that had people on their feet with his evident virtuosity.
Louis Armstrong died in his sleep on July 6th, 1971.

Louis Armstrong performing "What A Wonderful World" which is often considered the best song ever written.

"Man, all music is folk music. You ain't never heard no horse sing a song, have you?"

-Louis Armstrong

This quote shows Louis Armstrong's great sense of humor, but it also demonstrates how simple music was to him. It was not over-analyzed or too thought out. It was just music. It just goes to show that everyone needs a little more simplified version every now and then in that someone so revolutionary had such a simplistic understanding of his trade.

Louis Armstrong can be compared to Thomas Edison. Edison thought up many great inventions and innovations, the most commonly attributed to him being the light bulb. Nowadays it is just that: common. Light bulbs are used everywhere we look. They are so regular and normal but were so revolutionary when they were created. The same concept is true of Louis Armstrong. The techniques he used are so common now but were so revolutionary when they were used by him. Jazz is so common to us, but he redefined jazz.


wordpress.com. <http://whitewhaletheatre.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/up-the-savage-river/>. Oct 8 2009

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901-1971). <http://www.redhotjazz.com/louie.html>. Oct 9 2009.

TIME.com <http://www.time.com/time/time100/artists/profile/armstrong4.html>. Oct 9 2009.

Devotions from the World of Music. Patrick and Barbara Kavanaugh. "January 14" "August 4"