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Louis Armstrong
If there is one person in the whole history of jazz that you should get to know it is Louis Armstrong. Known around the world as "Satchmo" and to his fellow musicians as "Pops", he was responsible for changing the face of music forever. Without "Pops" there might not have been jazz or pop music as we know it. He influenced EVERYONE, not only trumpet players but musicians in general.

There are numerous excellent books on Armstrong inbcluding one that was published within the last year. There is also an excellent video entitled "Satchmo" that is worth finding and watching. It really makes the history come alive. What follows is a few of the reasons why this man was and is so important to the study of jazz. Overall he had the creative abilities to take the music in a new direction that a lesser player would not have been able to do. It is important to remember that we are talking about the early part of this century so put yourself back in the 1920’s and 30’s.

1. Louis Armstrong showed that there was a different way of soloing than the collective improvisation practiced in New Orleans.
2. Armstrong was an incredibly powerful trumpet player. His range, tone and technique were unparalled at that time.
3. He developed solos in such a way that they always built to a climax at just the right moment.
4. His sense of rhythm and use of the same in his solos was far ahead of his time and was a precursor to the swing era.
5. He popularized a style of singing that was known as "scat".
6. He influenced many popular singers and entertainers.
7. His approach to improvisation that was based on playing original melodies over the regular chords was unique and was the model for many years to come.

He made numerous records as a soloist, a sideman, a vocalist, with small groups and big bands. His most famous recordings were done with two groups, the Hot Five and the Hot Seven. These recordings have stood the test of time and even after 70 odd years they are still fresh and worthy of study. Another important colaboration was with pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines. Together they recorded some wonderful duets, two of which worthy of repeated listening are: "Weatherbird" and "Tight Like This"

He had several careers including appearing in almost 50 movies. Later in his life he was known more as an entertainer/singer than as a jazz musician. He travelled the world as the "Ambassador Satch" and represented the USA in many different arenas. You can pick up any Louis Armstong CD and find some magic on it. Some are better than others, but there is always one tune, one phrase, one nuance that will stay with you. We are very fortunate to have so much research material available, so many recordings, so many well written books.

"Pops" has left us a legacy that will live on forever. Check him out!