Louis Armstrong

By: Greg Rowland
August 4, 2009

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Miles Davis once said that the history of jazz could be summed up by two names: Charlie Parker and LOUIS ARMSTRONG (1901-71). I’d go further, and claim that the ABC of 20th century pop culture are: Armstrong, The Beatles, and Chaplin. Though we know him as “Satchmo,” his fellow jazzers called him “Pops” — which suited him well, because Armstrong was Zeus, the All-Father whose innumerable offspring, musicians whose output ranged from banal to sublime, tumbled in his thunderous wake. Want to hear the grammar of jazz redefined for the solo instrument? Listen to any tracks by Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens. Need convincing that Armstrong defined vocal recording, while also introducing the idea of expressive personality into popular singing? Check out his 1930s “Stardust.” The pillars of the written tune were granite… until Armstrong resculpted them, again and again. He made it possible for us to see, listen, and even think in an entirely new playful/serious and improvisatory way.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Iceberg Slim |

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).

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HiLo Heroes, Jazz, Music