An Autobiography On Louis Armstrong Essay Research — страница 3

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Wilson, who survived him. In some respects, the swing era passed Louis Armstrong by, leading some observers to suggest that his career was on a downward slide from that point on. Certainly, the big band Armstrong fronted in the 30s was generally inferior to many of its competitors, but his playing was always at least as strong as that of any of the other virtuoso instrumentalist leaders of the era. His musical style, however, was a little out of step with public demand, and by the early 40s he was out of vogue. Since 1935 Armstrong’s career had been in the hands of Joe Glaser, a tough-talking, hard-nosed extrovert whom people either loved or hated. Ruthless in his determination to make his clients rich and famous, Glaser promoted Armstrong intensively. When the big band showed

signs of flagging, Glaser fired everyone and then hired younger, more aggressive (if not always musically appropriate) people to back his star client. When this failed to work out, Glaser took a cue from an engagement at New York’s Town Hall at which Armstrong fronted a small band to great acclaim. Glaser set out to form a new band that would be made up of stars and which he planned to market under the name Louis Armstrong And His All Stars. It proved to be a perfect format for Armstrong and it remained the setting for his music for the rest of his life – even though changes in personnel gradually made a nonsense of the band’s hyperbolic title. With the All Stars, Armstrong began a relentless succession of world tours with barely a night off, occasionally playing clubs and

festivals but most often filling concert halls with adoring crowds. The first All Stars included Tea garden, Jack, Barney Bigard , Hines, Earl and Big Catlett, Sid ; replacements in the early years included Young, Trummy, Hall, Edmond, Kyle, Billy and William ‘Cozy’ Cole. Later substitutes, when standards slipped, included Russell Moore, Joe Darensbourg, and Deems, Barrett. Regulars for many years were bassist Arvell Shaw and singer Middleton, Velma. The format and content of the All Stars shows (copied to dire and detrimental effect by numerous bands in the traditional jazz boom of the 50s and 60s) were predictable, with solos being repeated night after night, often note for note. This helped to fuel the contention that Armstrong was past his best. In fact, some of the All

Stars’ recordings, even those made with the lesser bands, show that this was not the case. The earliest All Stars are excitingly presented on Satchmo At Symphony Hall and New Orleans Nights, while the later bands produced some classic performances on Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy and Satch Plays Fats. On all these recordings Armstrong’s own playing is outstanding. However, time inevitably took its toll and eventually even Armstrong’s powerful lip weakened. It was then that another facet of his great talent came into its own. Apparent to any who cared to hear it since the 20s, Armstrong was a remarkable singer. By almost any standards but those of the jazz world, his voice was beyond redemption, but through jazz it became recognized for what it was: a perfect instrument

for jazz singing. Armstrong’s throaty voice, his lazy-sounding delivery, his perfect timing and effortlessly immaculate rhythmic presentation, brought to songs of all kinds a remarkable sense of rightness. Perfect examples of this form were the riotous ‘(I Want) A Butter And Egg Man’ through such soulfully moving lyrics as ‘(What Did I Do To Be So) Black And Blue’, ‘Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans’, and countless superb renditions of the blues. He added comic absurdities to ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ and over-sentimentality to ‘It’s A Wonderful World’, which in 1968 gave him a UK number 1 hit. He added texture and warmth and a rare measure of understanding often far exceeding anything that had been put there by the songs’ writers.

Additionally, he was one of the first performers to sing scat (the improvisation of wordless vocal sounds in place of the formal lyrics), and certainly the first to do so with skill and intelligence and not through mere chance (although he always claimed that he began scatting when the sheet music for ‘Heebie Jeebies’ fell on the floor during a 1926 recording session and he had to improvise the words). It was in his late years, as a singer and entertainer rather than as a trumpet star, that Armstrong became a world figure, known by name, sight and sound to tens of millions of people of all nationalities and creeds, who also loved him in a way that the urchin kid from the wrong side of the tracks in turn-of-the-century New Orleans could never have imagined. Armstrong’s world