The Louis Armstrong Discography
Louis Armstrong was one of the most important musicians of the 20th century - an artist who blasted the music of the world out of a tired tradition of classic orchestra and mundane Tin Pan Alley pop into the exciting era of hot jazz. Not single-handedly, admittedly; but setting a new standard that surpassed everything that came before and providing a vital reference point for the music that came after.
Armstrong's dominant gift was a sense of "Swing", a stylistic quality that defies accurate description but is obvious to the ear. This attractive quality of his playing transformed jazz from a genre dominated by ensembles to one that featured lengthy solos. Tying it all together was an infectious charisma that propelled him to popular stardom in a new era of sound film and electronic communication.
Born in 1901, his life paralleled many of the twists and turns of the middle century. In the twenties, he stunned his jazz peers with a unique instrumental originality and the thirties saw him rise to the top of the pop music echelon, as his peerless personality swept up admiring listeners of all colors. The forties brought both a sinking of fortunes, with a ban on recording during the war, and a bold resurgence at the end of the decade. By the fifties, Louis' voice mellowed into an evocative instrument of its own, capable of elevating a novelty like "Mack the Knife" or a ballad like "That Old Feeling" into timeless mementos. Even in his final years, though deprived of the facility to make his famous cornet produce the kind of stirring sound that first brought him recognition, Louis Armstrong had the clout to create his most famous hits.
Armstrong' cacophonous century would lead to somewhat better treatment of African-Americans by the larger culture, but Armstrong had the misfortune of leaving the world at a moment when his congenial manner and omnipresent smile were often viewed as symbols of an archaic paradigm for interracial relations. While the generation of jazzmen that followed Armstrong engaged in a somber search for identity that led them to explore radically disparate styles, dissonances and technologies, Armstrong stuck throughout his life to the populist swinging style that he grew up with and was comfortable in. History is proving to be somewhat kinder to Armstrong than his contemporaries, generally cherishing his spark of transformational artistry while accepting that he was an entertainer and man who had to adapt to the world he was given.
Like all the finer things, Armstrong is a developed taste, one of life's contemplative pleasures; once sampled, once appreciated, his music and charm are open to be savored over and over, with a fresh enjoyment each time. It is as a modest gesture of admiration that this site is presented in his honor.
(c) 1999-2011 by Michael Minn and Scott Johnson