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http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/obituaries/archives/louis-armstrong
 
Louis Armstrong, the Entertainer Who Epitomized Jazz
2016-07-06T07:06:25-04:00
July 6, 2016
Was Louis Armstrong the world’s most beloved entertainer, or was he the single most important musician in the history of jazz?
The answer is yes.
To millions, Armstrong, who died 45 years ago today, was the human ray of sunshine with the mile-wide smile, the gravelly voice and the peerless way with a song — the man whose joyous rendition of “Hello, Dolly!,” recorded when he was in his 60s, momentarily ended the Beatles’ three-month reign at the top of the singles chart.
 
 
 
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To jazz aficionados, he was also something more: the trumpet virtuoso with the boundless musical imagination who almost singlehandedly shifted the focus of jazz from collective improvisation to individual expression — the man whose playing on the remarkable Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions, recorded when he was in his 20s, virtually defined the art of the jazz solo.
Miles Davis said it was impossible to play anything on a horn that Armstrong hadn’t already played.
Dizzy Gillespie put it this way: “His style was equally copied by saxophonists, trumpet players, pianists and all of the instrumentalists who make up the jazz picture.”
The New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson wrote in 1971 that Armstrong was “the root source that moved jazz onto the path along which it has developed for more than 45 years.”
There was nothing in Armstrong’s early years to suggest that he was destined for greatness. Born into poverty in New Orleans, he sang on street corners as a child and studied music while confined to the Colored Waifs’ Home for Boys.
He learned fast. Before he was out of his teens, he was a fixture on the New Orleans music scene; a few years later he moved to Chicago, where he made the records that changed jazz history. In due time he became the first jazz superstar, embraced by the world for his bravura playing, his ebullient singing and his larger-than-life personality.
Louis Armstrong died at his home in Queens on July 6, 1971. His front-page Times obituary noted that “he had observed his 71st birthday on Sunday,” just two days earlier. That this quintessential American success story was born on July 4, 1900, always seemed too perfect to be true. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t true: According to later research, he had actually been born on Aug. 4, 1901.
Call it poetic license. The date he (and everyone else) celebrated was, as the old saying goes, close enough for jazz.
Read the obituary “Louis Armstrong, Jazz Trumpeter and Singer, Dies”
— PETER KEEPNEWS




 
 


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