Louis Armstrong

- Born: Aug. 4, 1901

- Died: July 6, 1971

- Essential listening: “West End Blues” (1928)

- Who he inspired: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima, Tom Waits

Louis Armstrong goes down in history as what scholars call the “first great jazz soloist” and quite possibly the single most influential players in American music. After overcoming the extreme poverty he was born into, Armstrong’s musical contributions during the Harlem Renaissance can’t be overstated: He was the first to bring the concept of an improv soloist (in his case, as an accomplished trumpeter), front and center.

Louis Armstrong, along with his Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, made a series of recordings between 1925 and 1928 heralded today as the most transformative influence of jazz music. Famed music critic Dan Morgenstern once said, “There is not a single musician playing in the jazz tradition who does not make daily use, knowingly or unknowingly, of something invented by Louis Armstrong.”

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