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Louis Armstrong 1901 – 1971
Possibly Louis Armstrong was illegitimate, it is quite clear that his mother was a part-time prostitute. His father deserted the family shortly after Louis's birth in 1901.  
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As a boy Armstrong went barefoot and lived in the red-light district of New Orleans, an area catering for working class black customers where knifings, shootings and vice in every form were commonplace. It was an upbringing as deprived as in any ghetto of today, apart from the rich musical culture that surrounded him.

At the age of 11 or 12, Armstrong was committed by a court to the Coloured Waifs' Home, a sort of reformatory cum charity school. There he joined the band and got some rudimentary instruction on cornet (the favoured instrument of military hands and universal among early jazz musicians until Armstrong himself switched to trumpet in the late twenties).

He left determined to become a professional player, and by 1919 he was working in Kid Ory's Band, the best in New Orleans. In 1922 he was summoned to Chicago to play second cornet in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.

Within 5 years he had transformed jazz; within 10 he was one of the most famous performers in the world. How did he do it ? Although Armstrong spawned many new ideas, he did not gain this prominence through a specific innovation.

It was the sheer quality of his playing that made the difference. Essentially, he demonstrated the potential of the jazz solo with such conviction and imaginative power that the music became forthwith what it has subsequently remained a soloist's art.

Other players were moving in the same direction, but Armstrong's example was simply overwhelming. For the next generation he became, in the words of Ruby Braff, "a musical university and a universe of music".

* Also see :- Dave Brubeck Biography
* Also see :- John Hammond Biography
* Also see :- Nica de Koenigswarter Biography
* Also see :- 52nd Street
* Also see :- Tin Pan Alley
* Also see :- The History Of Jazz

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