As Louis Armstrong became a household name the world over in the decades following World War II, a new generation of jazz musicians started to create their own style of playing. One of the most renowned musicians to come out of this generation was Miles Davis, who would continue to test the limits of the jazz genre throughout his four decade long career.
Born in Alton, Illinois in 1926, Davis started studying the trumpet after a neighbor gave him an old horn when he was ten. He took private lessons and played in his junior high and high school bands and eventually got a job playing in Eddie Randell’s Blue Devils’ band when he was 17. He continued his musical education at Julliard while getting an education in the New York jazz scene from musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. After a year at Julliard he decided that the school was not for him and devoted all of his energy to a career in jazz. He developed his own distinct voice among the other bebop musicians of the time, characterized by a lyrical tone and spaces of silence between notes. In 1948, Davis teamed up with composer Gil Evans to record Birth of the Cool, which ushered in the new era of cool jazz.
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Long Wharf Theatre confirmed this and added that Satchmo at the Waldorf "has officially become the biggest hit in the history of Stage II, outpacing Brian Dennehy in Hughie and Krapp's Last Tape." Due to the production's massive popularity and critical acclaim, the theatre company extended its run for an additional week.
Please join us as we welcome John Douglas Thompson back to The Wilma Theater for this compelling production!
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Jazz music has been a highly influential art form since its conception in the early 1900s. Over the years numerous subgenres have evolved, each with its own personality. Here are just a few of the more prominent subgenres of jazz that emerged during Louis Armstrong’s lifetime.
Ragtime – Ragtime was a popular style of dance music in the early 1900s characterized by a syncopated, “ragged” rhythm. Influenced by European classical music, the popular marches of composers such as John Phillip Sousa, and the polyrhythms of traditional African music, it is seen as the American equivalent of Mozart’s minuets or waltzes by Brahms. Noted ragtime composers include Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, and Jelly Roll Morton, who was also influential in the early days of jazz. Listen to Joplin's The Entertainer
“West End Blues” was the recording that really cemented Louis Armstrong’s fame, and is considered one of the most important recordings in jazz history. Written by Armstrong’s mentor and former employer Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong recorded it soon afterward with his Hot Five, featuring the great Earl “Fatha” Hines, a classically-trained pianist from Duquesne, Pennsylvania, and Armstrong’s then-wife Lil. Opening with Armstrong’s legendary cornet cadenza, the recording was one of the first to feature Armstrong’s famous “scatting,” wordless vocal improvisation.
The record was particularly influential to a young Billie Holiday, who recalled, “Sometimes the record would make me so sad I’d cry up a storm. Other times the same damn record would make me so happy.” The Hot Five’s recording was so successful that King Oliver released a second recording, imitating Armstrong’s version. However, Armstrong had so far surpassed Oliver’s abilities that while Oliver’s name appears on the record, he does not actually play the trumpet part on the recording. Armstrong himself would record “West End Blues” at least two more times, but nothing compares to the original recording.
Louis Armstrong, also Known as Satchmo - short for “satchel-mouth” Ambassador Satch, Satch, Satchmo the great, Dippermouth, Dipper, and Pops was one of the greatest Jazz musicians of the twentieth century. He is still known for his big smile, magnificent trumpet playing and unique voice. Born in New Orleans sometime around July 1, 1900 and died in Queens in 1971, Armstrong lived an extraordinary life. Duke Ellington said of him that “He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone on the way.”
Armstrong began playing the horn at the ‘Colored Waif’s Home’ just outside of New Orleans when he was a young boy. He was sent to the home for setting off a firecracker in the street. While he was out of the home he had to work to support himself and his mother. He shoveled coal and worked for a local Jewish family that was particularly kind to him. As he grew older, he started playing his horn with local jazz groups and at clubs. He began to play with Joe “King” Oliver, who became a mentor to Armstrong.
Eventually he moved to Chicago to play at clubs there as a part of Joe Oliver’s band. He played at the Sunset Café, owned by Joe Glaser. Glaser advertised Armstrong as the best trumpet player in the world, despite protests that a black man could not possibly be the best. Armstrong accidentally wound up getting wrapped up in some trouble with the mob because of his management. Armstrong was stuck and wound up calling up Joe Glaser for help. From then on Glaser was Armstrong’s manager and friend. He ran the business side of things and Armstrong focused on his music. Glaser kept Armstrong on the road year round, entertaining around the world. With Glaser’s guidance Armstrong’s fame grew and grew.