Throughout the year, Pepper has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first jazz recording by sharing interviews with modern jazz legends, descriptions of historic sites, and a blog series about the impact of jazz on our national history. If you haven’t yet, please check out the excellent resources we have shared so far.
Of course, no celebration of jazz is complete without honoring Louis Armstrong. The legendary trumpet player and singer is one of the best-known names not just in jazz, but in the entire world of music. Whether they know it or not, musicians and listeners alike owe a debt of gratitude to Armstrong – his contributions to the jazz idiom pervade modern popular music at large, and he continues to inspire subsequent generations. In the video below, contemporary jazz musicians Victor Goines and Marcus Printup discuss just how important Louis Armstrong is to them personally, as well as to the musical world.
“All music should be played like Louis Armstrong plays music.” – Wynton Marsalis
It is difficult to overstate just how important Armstrong was to the advancement of jazz. Goines says it best when he says, “When people think about innovation they think about things that are new. Everything about Louis Armstrong was new. Every time he played it was new. It’s new today. Every time you hear it. If you listen close enough you can hear something different every time he plays.”
His lasting impact is clear; even his contemporaries recognized that he was a pioneer. Everyone in the jazz world appreciated his talent and dedication to music. According to Goines, “Duke Ellington said that if he had his way, he would want Louis Armstrong to play every instrument in his band, because he was such an American original.”
Printup tells the story of a time Tony Bennett was called the greatest jazz singer in the world. Bennett disagreed, stating that, in fact, Louis Armstrong was. He also relates a comment from Wynton Marsalis, who said, “All music should be played like Louis Armstrong plays music.”
Goines further adds that “Pops didn’t care whether you were black, white, red, or yellow. All he wanted to know is were you a good person and could you play. In that order.”
He was, no doubt, a great musician, but he was also an amazing man. He cared about how music could help others, and he played for love of song and love of others. According to Printup, Armstrong had this to say about why he plays:
“First of all, I play for the Man upstairs, and I play for my wife. I play for someone I love, because I know wherever I am, if they’re in the audience, if no one else is listening – they will be listening.”
Armstrong is truly a man worth celebrating. If you are looking for a way to share his story with music students, the upcoming release of Jazz for Young People, Volume 2 is an excellent choice. The book is a partnership between Sharon Burch, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Victor Goines, and Marcus Printup, and it explores the life and work of Louis Armstrong.
“Pops didn’t care whether you were black, white, red, or yellow. All he wanted to know is were you a good person and could you play. In that order.” – Victor Goines
Check out our site for more music from Louis Armstrong.