By Brandon I. Brooks
Sentinel Entertainment Editor
Louis Armstrong was one of the most influential artists in the history of music. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901, he began playing the cornet at the age of 13. Armstrong perfected the improvised jazz solo as we know it (see Improvisation). Before Armstrong, Dixieland was the style of jazz that everyone was playing. This was a style that featured collective improvisation where everyone soloed at once. Armstrong developed the idea of musicians playing during breaks that expanded into musicians playing individual solos. This became the norm. Affectionately known as “Pops” and “Satchmo,” Louis was loved and admired throughout the world. He died in New York City on July 6, 1971.
A pioneer of rock music, Berry was a significant influence on the development of both the music and the attitude associated with the rock music lifestyle. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics successfully aimed to appeal to the early teenage market by using graphic and humorous descriptions of teen dances, fast cars, high-school life, and consumer culture, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Duke Ellington’s work has become immortally institutionalized as a cornerstone of American culture and heritage. His works have been revisited by artists and musicians around the world both as a source of inspiration and a bedrock of their own performing careers. His compositions are now the staple of the repertoire of music conservatories, and even high school band programs that have embraced his great music and continue to give it life and voice. His son, Mercer Ellington kept his big band alive after his passing. When Mercer died, Paul Ellington kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going. It plays on the road at concert halls around the world to this day.
One of the founding fathers of jazz and one of the inventors of bebop. Â Gillespie’s image is almost inseparable from his trademark trumpet, whose bell bends upward at a 45-degree angle rather than pointing straight ahead as in the conventional design. In honor of this trademark, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has collected Gillespie’s B-flat trumpet. Â According to Gillespie’s autobiography, this was originally the result of accidental damage caused by someone sitting on it during a job on January 6, 1953, but the constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect. Gillespie’s biographer Alyn Shipton writes that Gillespie likely got the idea when he saw a similar instrument in 1937 in Manchester, England while on tour with the Teddy Hill Orchestra. An English trumpeter was using such an instrument because his vision was poor and the horn made reading music easier. According to this account (from British journalist Pat Brand) Gillespie was able to try out the horn and the experience led him, much later, to commission a similar horn for himself. Â Whatever the origins of Gillespie’s upswept trumpet, by June, 1954, Gillespie was using a professionally manufactured horn of this design, and it was to become a visual trademark for him for the rest of his life.
Ella Fitzgerald is also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella,” was an American jazz and song vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves, she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. She is considered to be a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Over a recording career that lasted 59 years, she was the winner of 14 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.
Bessie Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists.
Her distinct delivery made Billie Holiday’s performances instantly recognizable throughout her career. A master of improvisation, Billie’s well-trained ear more than compensated for her lack of music education. Â Her voice lacked range and was somewhat thin, plus years of abuse eventually altered the texture of her voice and gave it a prepossessing fragility. Nonetheless, the emotion with which she imbued each song remained not only intact but also profound.
Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter, and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Squeeze Me”. Waller composed many novelty swing tunes in the 1920s and 30s, and sold them for relatively small sums. When the compositions became hits, other songwriters claimed them as their own. Many standards are alternatively and sometimes controversially attributed to Waller.
She was billed as The Mother of the Blues. She did much to develop and popularize the form and was an important influence on younger blues women, such as Bessie Smith, and their careers. Pridgett began performing at 12Ã±14. She recorded under the name Ma Rainey after she and Will Rainey were married in 1904. They toured with F.S. WolcottÃs Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group called Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. From the time of her first recording in 1923 to five years later, Ma Rainey made over 100 recordings.
Charlie “Bird” Parker
Parker influenced the development of “bop” in the 1940s and was one of the greatest improvising soloists in jazz. By 1950, much of the jazz world had fallen under Parker’s spell. Many musicians transcribed and copied his solos. Parker was known for often showing up to performances without an instrument, necessitating a loan at the last moment. Parker was known for often showing up to performances without an instrument, necessitating a loan at the last moment.
The influence Coltrane has had on music spans many different genres and musicians. Coltrane’s massive influence on jazz, both mainstream and avant-garde, began during his lifetime and continued to grow after his death. He is one of the most dominant influences on post-1960 jazz saxophonists and has inspired an entire generation of jazz musicians. In 1965, he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1972, A Love Supreme was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over half a million copies in Japan. This album, as well as My Favorite Things, was certified gold in the United States in 2001. In 1982 Coltrane was awarded a posthumous Grammy for “Best Jazz Solo Performance” on the album Bye Bye Blackbird, and in 1997, was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.