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Wynton Marsalis, one of the most famous current trumpet players, brought Louis Armstrong’s jazz style back into the public eye. The new or modern style called “bebop” took the place of “traditional jazz” when legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis found different approaches in creating music. To them, jazz was about moving forward. It became less about dancing and more about intellectual appreciation. Less about melody, and more about complex approaches to harmonies that Louis just didn’t see, or at least didn’t want to. (Time)

When studying with Joe Oliver of Chicago, he was told to always stick to the melody, something that the bebopers weren’t doing. 

“We  never  had  to  look  at  each  other  when  we played,  both  just  thinkin’  the  same  thing.  And  he’s  the  one  that  stopped  me  playin’  all  those  variations—what  they  call  bebop  today.  ‘You  get yourself  a  lead  [melody]  and  you  stick  to  it,’  Papa  Joe  told  me.  And  I  always  do.”  -Louis from TIME


Louis played from the heart and wanted to create soul in his playing. Bebop players can do this, but it requires years of studying to reach that level. Most boppers are just as technical as a classical player. Louis was in no way a classical trumpet player.

Unlike Louis, the beboppers weren’t smiling. In a way, they were making fun of Louis. He was a superstar that was known by everyone and to them that wasn’t very cool. (Did they forget who started using that word?) To be honest, I am glad they came around. The bebop movement from the late 1940s evolved into modern jazz, which paved the way for many different sub-genres within jazz. But it was Marsalis that reminded the world of Louis’ contribution. Louis was and is Jazz. American Jazz. His birthday should legally be changed to July 4th, 1900 because he deserves it more than anybody in the music world. (Teachout)

“I had never really tried to learn any of his music, I was only dealing with the media image of Louis Armstrong. He was smiling. [But] then when you pick that trumpet up, that’s when you really knew. It slaps that respect into you…[M]ore than any other muscician’s, his sound carries the feeling and meaning of jazz” –Wynton Marsalis   (Teachout)

Marsalis became the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in 1991 and started incorporating more and more Louis Armstrong into the program. Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of the music credible jazz establishments in the world, and Louis is the “centerpiece”.  Louis didn’t have the ‘chops’ that the bepob guys had but it didn’t matter: Louis Armstrong was and is jazz. Period. (Teachout)

Today, the park/statue is hot spot for tourists or just a place for locals to relax on a bench by the water. I thought the park and statue are perfect. It’s construction started in 1973 and finished in 1980, so I could not find inaccurate representations anywhere within the park pertaining to racial issues. More, smaller statues were even added to give credit to other jazz legends. 

When I visited, there were probably 5 or 6 different groups visiting the park, all of the groups being white. And while I believe they had a nice time checking it out, the monument isn’t as much for them as it is for African Americans, especially those that live in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong represents choosing a goal and then achieving it, no matter your race. Today, jazz is dominated by African Americans, and before Louis ragtime and traditional jazz was dominated by whites. Young African Americans should visit the monument whether or not they are interested in music.

Louis had some help coming up in the 1920’s. Buddy Bolden has also been credited as the early founders of jazz. Sydney Bechet, one of Louis’ mentors and then competition, was one of the most respected clarinet players in New Orleans. Two statues have been put up in the Louis Armstrong Park to commemorate what they did for the music world.


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