Sunday Jazz Corner With Louis Armstrong

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Louis Armstrong was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.  He was one of the most famous musicians of the Harlem Renaissance.
Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly-recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes.  He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics).  Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross over”, whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation during the Little Rock Crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him socially acceptable access to the upper echelons of American society that were highly restricted for a black man.

In Louis Armstrong’s later years he resided in Corona, Queens NY in a home that now many schools and classrooms still visit today for history on the Harlem Renaissance and Social Studies.  It was explained to me recently by a teacher who took his classroom to visit the home as a school field trip that when Louis was on the road and would drive home all the neighbor kids would run up to the driveway to greet him and he would play his trumpet for them.  It is also told that his wife and him would invite the neighborhood kids in for cake.

Here is Louis Armstrong singing his classic version of “What A Wonderful World.”