Louis Armstrong is the first person to come to mind when I think about Jazz. I picked “West End Blues” because it is one of my favorite tunes from the 1920s. Armstrong changed the future of Jazz by displaying his immense talent.
Listening to the recording, I can feel Armstrong’s natural cheerfulness emerge through his trumpet and scat singing. He and his band were able to convey an image of tranquility which wasn’t symbolic of New Orleans, or the United States, back then.
Armstrong’s version is the one to stand out because he improved some of the aspects of Jazz and defined new ones. For example, he was one of the first musicians to introduce scat singing. His intro, with his trumpet solo, established a new standard for rhythmic and melodic complexity and for technical mastery1.
The pace of the tune starts out fast with the trumpet solo. It goes on slower with the trumpet, the trombone, and then the clarinet. The piano solo along with Armstrong’s scat singing picks up the pace until the coda, with the trumpet solo. I see it as an honest expression of the musicians’ love for Jazz.
Jazz was a new and quite different genre at the time. It was a mix of improvisation, unexpected and off beat rhythms, and a main melody. With this song, Armstrong was able to shape Jazz into a genre which could compete with the highest order of musical expression2.
One song I often listen to is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. I’d like to make a connection between the two because, although they’re not the same genre, their composition has a bit of a resemblance. They both have several, distinct parts with a coda that is famous. Also, they were both created by artists who changed the music industry in two different eras.
- Louis Armstrong records “West End Blues”. History.com. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/louis-armstrong-records-west-end-blues. Published in 2010. Accessed July 17, 2017.
- West End Blues. NPR.org. http://www.npr.org/2000/08/06/1080400/west-end-blues Published on August 6, 2000. Accessed July 18, 2017.