The King of Jazz: Louis Armstrong

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the life and work of Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and a key figure in the development of jazz.


Louis Armstrong was an influential jazz musician who changed the course of the genre with his unique style. A trumpeter and composer, Armstrong was a founding father of jazz and one of the most popular entertainers of his time. Born in New Orleans in 1901, he got his start playing in the city’s vibrant music scene. He rose to prominence in the 1920s as a member of the hot jazz band Hot Five and helped to shape the sound of American music for generations to come.

Armstrong was known for his distinctive gravelly voice and his inventive approach to trumpet playing. He was also a skilled improviser, making up solos on the spot that amazed audiences and fellow musicians alike. His influence can be heard in the work of many later jazz greats, including Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis.

Armstrong lived a full and colorful life, both on and off stage. He was married four times, survived cancer, and starred in several Hollywood films. He died in 1971 at the age of 69, but his music lives on and continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

Early life and influences

Born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong was the grandson of slaves. He started playing the cornet at age 11 and toured with the Riverboat Shuffle during his teens. In 1922, he joined King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago.Louis Armstrong’s roots in New Orleans jazz were evident in his early recordings with Oliver, but he quickly began to develop his own style. His solos were more improvised than those of other jazz musicians of the time and often incorporated scat singing, a vocal technique in which nonsense syllables are used to imitate the sound of instrumental music.

Armstrong became one of the first African American entertainers to achieve widespread recognition and acclaim. He achieved success in both jazz and popular music and was revered by both black and white audiences. In addition to his accomplishments as a musician, Armstrong was also a pioneer in race relations. He was one of the first black celebrities to publicly denounce racism and did much to promote racial equality through his work with various civil rights organizations.

Armstrong died of a heart attack on July 6, 1971, at the age of 69. His influence on music and culture is still felt today, and he is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in jazz history.

Career highlights

Louis Armstrong was an American jazz trumpeter and singer who was one of the most influential figures in jazz music. His career highlights include his work with the Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, his recordings of “West End Blues” and “St. James Infirmary,” and his performances at the Cotton Club and on Broadway.

Unique style

No single musician did more to change the course of jazz than Louis Armstrong. Born in New Orleans in 1901, Armstrong began playing the trumpet in the early 1920s and quickly developed a unique style that blended elements of ragtime, blues and traditional New Orleans jazz. His technical prowess, combined with his outgoing personality and natural showmanship, made him one of the most popular musicians of his time. He was also one of the first African American performers to achieve widespread success in the mainstream entertainment world.

Over the course of his career, Armstrong made dozens of recordings and appeared in several films. He also toured extensively, both as a solo artist and as a member of various groups. In later years, he became an iconic figure in American popular culture, known affectionately as “Satchmo” or “Pops.” He died in 1971 at the age of 69.


Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music. He was an outspoken civil rights advocate and one of the first popular African-American entertainers to cross over into the mainstream. His visionary recordings with his own big bands and small ensembles paved the way for other greats like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Armstrong’s influence on other artists

While Armstrong is best known for his solo work, he was also a highly influential bandleader. He helped to propel the careers of many other artists, including Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, and Eubie Blake. He also mentored younger musicians, such as Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Armstrong’s influence on jazz is incalculable; he was one of the first truly great jazz soloists, and his style set the standard for subsequent generations of players.


“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.” – Louis Armstrong

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” – Louis Armstrong

“Some people try to find things in my music that just aren’t there. I just play it, and that’s all.” – Louis Armstrong

“What we play is life.” – Louis Armstrong

If you’re interested in learning more about Louis Armstrong, we recommend checking out the following songs:

-West End Blues
-A Foggy Day
-Mack The Knife

Here are some recommended readings if you want to learn more about the life and work of Louis Armstrong:

-“Louis Armstrong: An Extensive Discography” by Scott Yanow
-“The New Biographical Dictionary of Film” by David Thomson
-“1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” by Robert Dimery

Further information

Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz history. Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began playing the trumpet at the age of eleven and quickly rose to prominence as a leading musician in the New Orleans jazz scene. In 1922, he moved to Chicago to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Armstrong’s innovative style of playing paved the way for future generations of jazz musicians and helped to make jazz a truly international style of music. He was also a gifted singer and improviser, known for his distinctive gravelly voice and scat singing. Armstrong’s career spanned five decades, during which time he made many recordings and appeared in dozens of films. He died in 1971 at the age of 69.

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