There are many jazz musicians who have made a mark on the world. Louis Armstrong & Bix Beiderbecke, two of jazz’s greatest artists, were both icons. They were both able to make a contribution to jazz, even though their careers and music styles were different. Louis Armstrong played jazz that was faster-paced, more popular and had a longer career. Beiderbecke was a jazz musician who played a whimsical and calm style of music. Both artists contributed greatly to the development of jazz. I will examine the musical influences and background of both musicians in this essay. After that, I’ll talk about the different musical styles and philosophy of each artist. After that, I’ll discuss how the political and socio-economic conditions impacted their careers. Finaly, I will discuss how these factors influenced their popularity.
Louis Armstrong grew up in New Orleans. His mother raised him in a dangerous neighborhood which led to his early troubles. In 1912 on New Year’s Eve, he was taken into custody and sent to a home for boys for Colored Waifs. In this home, he was able to develop and discover his musical ability. Peter Davis taught Armstrong how the cornet should be played while Louis Armstrong stayed at the Waif’s home. Louis Armstrong led the Waif’s Brass Band for many years after much practice. After a while, his time in the band made him consider becoming a musician. Louis Armstrong’s mentor Joe “King Oliver”, who was a cornetist, became Armstrong one of the busiest in town. He was often seen playing on Mississippi riverboats. Armstrong’s two-cornet breaks allowed him to gain exposure in 1922 when he joined King Oliver’s Band. Armstrong started recording under his name in 1925. The records that Armstrong made are among the most influential ones in jazz. Armstrong eventually became very famous on radio and films. His recordings also allowed him the opportunity to tour. Armstrong started a new group called Louis Armstrong’s All Stars. The group gained popularity around the world. Armstrong was not only a musician, but also a civil-rights activist. Armstrong took a break from his music after suffering a serious heart attack. His body was unable to handle the return and he ended up dying while sleeping in 1971.
Bix Biderbecke was birthed in 1903. His mother played the piano and served as an organist in their church. It was his mother who first inspired him to take up music. Beiderbecke’s first job was at Haynes dance school in 1921. He finally left Lake Forest in order to begin playing with bands in Chicago. In 1924, Beiderbecke joined the Wolverine Orchestra. This was short-lived, as he soon left and joined Jean Goldkette’s orchestra. Beiderbecke moved from one orchestra to another, as Bix joined Paul Whiteman’s Whiteman Orchestra in 1927. In 1927, Beiderbecke joined the Whiteman Orchestra led by Paul whiteman. Beiderbecke was also the author of In a Mist and Candlelight. Beiderbecke was popular, so many people bought him alcohol. A charmer, he couldn’t refuse gifts. As a result, he became dependent on booze. In 1931, his alcoholism caused him to die from a lung disease called Lobar Pneumonia.
Both artists had very different musical styles. Armstrong’s tempos were fast and explosive, with a lot of improvisations. Hot jazz is a musical style that’s exciting and fast. Hot jazz combines ragtime with blues and brass bands marches. Louis Armstrong’s musical compositions reveal “his imagination, intelligence, and daring form”. Louis Armstrong music will keep you entertained. His music is always exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Louis Armstrong was known for his incredible improvisations, which were full of innovation, rhythm and time mastery. Beiderbecke, on the other had both classical and jazz influences. Beiderbecke’s music was mellower, cooler and more reflective than the hot jazz played by Armstrong. Beiderbecke favored temples with a more relaxed, tranquil tone. Many of his arrangements were older than Armstrong’s. Beiderbecke had a great melodic playing style. He was known for his “chime notes”, and played with a lot of emotion.
Louis Armstrong, Bix Bederbecke and their musical careers had a very distinct difference. Louis Armstrong’s race was the biggest difference between him and Bix. Armstrong was subjected to more persecution because of this. Beiderbecke’s whiteness prevented him from fully expressing the real emotion behind jazz music. Beiderbecke’s music, according to me, was also less meaningful because he could not be a civil-rights advocate from first-hand experience. In terms of politics, it was clear that both artists had very different backgrounds. Armstrong grew up surrounded by poverty and danger, which made him prone to getting into trouble. Armstrong is unable to depend on resources for exposure or to improve his skills because of the lack of financial security. Armstrong had his work cut out for him. He also had to prove his abilities. Beiderbecke was able, as a youngster, to attend a variety of schools, which included specialized performing arts schools. Beiderbecke’s family was financially stable, so he had more resources available. Lastly, their educational level is another major difference. Armstrong had been in legal trouble and was short of money. He only managed to get a five-grade education. Beiderbecke attended University of Iowa and graduated from high school. The difference in educational levels also affected the resources available to each artist. Both artists’ musical careers were influenced by very different factors. Armstrong had a greater sense of determination than Beiderbecke, despite the fact that Beiderbecke was more resourceful.
Finaly, the paper discusses how all the elements discussed influenced Louis Armstrong’s life and career as a musician. Louis Armstrong’s popularity was widespread, while Bix Bederbecke’s was relative. Armstrong became more popular, I think, because of his more meaningful music. It touched many more hearts. Armstrong’s platform was used for more than just music. He supported civil rights, and other causes he was passionate about. This helped him touch many lives. Louis Armstrong was also able to learn new skills from many well-known mentors. As he learned from the best of best, Louis Armstrong was able develop his talent and gain exposure. Louis Armstrong also worked in various groups, but was not averse to making music under his personal name. It was his music that made him so memorable. Beiderbecke played his music in orchestras. He was inconsistent, constantly changing orchestras. Louis Armstrong was a musician for a longer period of time than Beiderbecke. Beiderbecke lost his career prematurely. Armstrong’s musical career was longer, which helped him gain more international popularity.
“Biography.” Louis Armstrong Home Museum, https://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/biography/.
“Bix Biography.” Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, http://www.bixsociety.org/bio.html.
French, David. “Bix Beiderbecke: A Cure for the ‘Davenport Blues’?” JazzTimes, 1 July 2006, https://jazztimes.com/news/bix-beiderbecke-a-cure-for-the-davenport-blues/.
Ramsey, Doug. “Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings.” JazzTimes, 1 Oct. 2000, https://jazztimes.com/reviews/albums/louis-armstrong-the-complete-hot-five-and-hot-seven-recordings/.