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Art Blakey and Louis Armstrong

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Art Blakey was born to a poor family in the heart of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919. He was working in the steel and coal mills when he was only fourteen. There were no child labor laws in those times. He had to work to help support his family and put food on the table. Blakey turned to music as a way of escaping the exhausting day-to-day labor of the mills. Blakey taught himself how to play the piano. Even though he couldn't read music, and could only play songs in three keys, Blakey was a crowd favorite a several local venues. He used to make fifteen-twenty dollars a night in tips every night he went. At fifteen Blakey was leading his own band. They were small and unknown, but played at clubs all around the city.

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For nearly the first half of the twentieth century, from about 1915 to 1955, jazz was the dominant form of popular dance music in the United States. Dance music and dance bands existed before jazz and, after the rise of jazz, there were still many dance bands that did not play jazz or used jazz elements only sparingly. And although for a certain period of its existence, jazz was dance music, jazz musicians were probably not attracted to this style of music primarily for this reason. From its earliest days, jazz seemed to have been music that, in part, musicians played for themselves, as a way to free themselves from the rigidity of standard dance or marching bands or other forms of commercial or popular music, which they found repetitive and unchallenging to play. Jazz originated early in the century with small bands of five-to-seven players in a style that became known as New Orleans, named after the place where the music, in its first iteration, codified itself. That style is now called Dixieland. Jazz was propelled commercially mostly by 12-to-15 piece big bands, usually with both a male and female vocalist, in a style that became known as swing during the 1930s.Although jazz has made use of many musical structures including blues, tango, African and Indian music; its most basic form is the 32-bar format of the American pop song, many of which by such noted composers as Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, the Gershwin Brothers, Rodgers and Hart, Vernon Duke, and others, constitute the foundational repertoire of jazz. Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” is a standard example of such a song with its A-A-B-A typology. This song and most of Gershwin’s most popular tunes are standard fare for jazz musicians even today.

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This artist’s first solo was recorded at the Chimes Blues in the year 1923. At this time Armstrong operated in a band, but as time moved by it was evident that he wanted to pursue and build on his own career. This was a major step because the successive turn out of events would be associated to him and not the group that composed of the band. In turn had influenced many artists of the time to go single in their music careers and consequently earn for themselves when their songs hit the masses. It was evident that with the influence his actions posed to the rest of the artists in the music industry that he was in a bid to develop his personal career in his own way and in no collaboration (Colin 3169). His hit songs can be compared based on different aspects. In the year 1924, Armstrong’s publicity was growing by a greater margin. Becoming one of the best cornet players directed public attention to him. This was amid being recognized as one of the strongest soloists of his time at a time when other bands were experiencing his influence in almost every musical aspect, thereby resulting to the emergence of hot jazz in the city of New York. Further freelance performances that he engaged in raised the music industry and the public eye on him. He moved the music industry by using his own recordings in the improvement of his personal stature. These recordings included reel-to-reel recordings. His playing and singing of scat popularized Armstrong. The “Heebie Jeebies” was one of these kinds of performances. This built up his vocal identity that was in no time adopted by other performing artists. His “I done forgot the words” was also an evidence of Armstrong’s success in the scat singing that characterized his hit performances. This artist could interchange vocals, use short and long phrases, improvise and further use his voice just like his own made trumpet (Scott 167). All these were characteristic of his musical wave that overhauled the industry at his time. Further comparison of Armstrong’s hit songs dates back from the time “Stardust” was released to the time he did “All the time in the world”. Many songs came between these periods, and so is the comparison intertwined to the flow of events during this time. His popularity had described what success in the music career is all about. Some of his songs featured on several commercial advertisements including the Guinness advert. This relationship signified the fact that music could be made to appear and portray the characteristics of creativity and therefore achieve desired results interrelated by the virtue of what the public perceived it to be. Other songs like “What a wonderful world” hit the entire globe and more especially the British charts. Any comparison of the hit songs done by Armstrong revolves around the concept of his success in the music industry and his personal affiliated influence to the worldwide direction that his kind of music took, prior to his contribution (Colin 3984).

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In brief, famous personalities often become subjects of college papers, and artists are not an exception. You can either be tasked with writing about a pre-defined character or given the right of choice. In any case, Louis Armstrong, one of the most significant figures in the history of jazz in America and the world in general is a perfect candidate to write about. His biography, artistic heritage, and influence on the entire music industry provide plenty of aspects to cover in any type of academic work.

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Colin, Larkin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Volume 6 of the Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music; Original from the University of

California. California: Guinness Publications. 4991 pages

Scott, Allen. Louis Armstrong: the life, music, and screen career. New Orleans: McFarland. 2004. 231 pages

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Art Blakey and Louis Armstrong
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