Louis Armstrong   bigraphy, stories - An American jazz trumpeter

Louis Armstrong : biography


Louis was named in the Creole manner, he was born in a very poor Black region in New Orleans. He was brought up in a problem family (his mother was a laundress, father was a day-labourer). Louis’ father left his family when the boy was a little baby. Mother became a streetwalker and the boy with his younger sister Beatrice was sent to be brought up by their grandmother Josephine who even remembered the time of slavery. Some time later Armstrong’s mother Mayann took Loius but she never gave him enough attention – since the age of seven a little boy started to live with the Jewish family Karnofskys which had lately immigrated in America from Lithuania. They took pity on the neglected child and took him in the family. They lived in Storyvill – this region was famous for independent mores and plenty of bars, clubs, disco halls and houses of prostitution. Armstrong worked since childhood, he transported coal, sold newspapers and so on.

Armstrong began to sing in a small street vocal group very early, he played the drums and for several years he exercised his hearing. The first musical education he received in a correctional camp-boarding school “Waifs’ Home” for black teenagers in 1913 where he got because of one accidental mischievous action – he shot the gun on the street in the New Year’s night (he stole the gun from a policeman who was a client of his mother). In the school he at once joined a camp brass band and learnt to play the tambourine, the althorn, and later he mastered playing the cornet. The orchestra performed a traditional for that time repertory – marshes, polkas and popular songs. By the time of finishing the term of being at school Louis had decided to become a musician. When he was set free he began to go to clubs and played the lent instruments in the local bands. King Oliver, the best cornet player of the city took him under the patronage and Armstrong considered him to be his real teacher. After Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918, another rather authoritative trombonist Kid Ory took him in his band. Loius started to play occasionally in the ensemble “Tuxedo Brass Band” of Oscar “Father” Selestine where such musicians as Paul Dominguez, Zutty Singleton, Albert Nickols, Barney Bigard and Louis Russel played. He took part in jazz parades on the streets of the native city and played in the band “Jazz-E-Sazz Band” of Fats Marable who performed in dancings on steamers which steamed in summers along Mississippi. Marable was a rather professional band-leader, he gave the young boy the first introduction to the ability to read musical notes. Armstrong became a qualified musician. Gradually he began to be known among musicians as Satchmo (shortening of “Satchel Mouth”).

In 1922 Oliver needed a new cornet player and he invited Armstrong to go to Chicago and play in “Lincoln Gardens” (the restaurant for seven hundred people) in his “Creole Jazz Band”. This band was the brightest jazz group in Chicago of that time and the work in it gave Armstrong for his future career. When he played in “Creole Jazz Band” he made his first recordings. In 1924 Armstrong got married for the second time (his first wife was a prostitute, a cute Creole Daisy Parker from New Orleans), his wife was a pianist of the ensemble Lil Hardin who insisted that he should start his own career. Armstrongs moved to New York where Louis found work in the orchestra of Fletcher Henderson. He became famous, jazz lovers came to listen to this band often only because of his passionate solo. By that time his own style was finally formed – it was a bright, improvisational and resourceful style.

In that period Armstrong took part in recordings of the ensemble “Blu Five” of the pianist Clarence Williams and worked in different accompany ensembles with many blues and jazz vocalists (Ma Rainey, Trixie Smith, Clara Smith, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Maggie Jones, Eva Taylor, Virginia Liston, Margaret Johnson, Sipi Wollas, Perry Bradford).

In 1925 when the term of his engagement with Fletcher Henderson was finished Louis Armstrong returned to Chicago where he worked a lot and successfully. He played in Erskine Tate’s theatre show-band where his actor’s talent was shown very brilliantly. He made historic recordings with his best studio band “Hot Five”. The recordings made in these years with the participation of a trombonist Kid Ory, a clarinetist Johnny Dodds, a banjo player Johnny St.Cyr and a pianist Lil Hardin (later Fred Robinson, Jimmy Strong, Earl Hines and Zutty Singleton took part in recordings) became masterpieces of jazz classic music. In 1926 Louis became a vocalist of the Carroll Dickerson’s orchestra, after his leaving Armstrong himself became a bandleader and for some time he leaded his own orchestra “Louis Armstrong and His Stompers”, its members were Boyd Atkins, Joe Dixon, Al Washington, Earl Hines, Rip Basset, Pete Briggs, Tabby Hall. In 1927 Pete Briggs and Baby Dodds (Johnny’s brother) joined the studio quintet “Hot Five” and a new studio band “Hot Seven” was formed. They made many bright session recordings. At that time Armstrong gave up playing the cornet and completely passed on to the trumpet because he liked its more bright sound. Louis Armstrong performed with duets with a pianist Earl Hines and started to sing in the manner “scat” (for the first time it happened during the record of the play “Heebie Jeebies”) and was a great success among listeners.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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