Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie: Comparison and Contrast in Jazz music


Jazz music has its origin dating back to as far as the beginning of the 20th century with an African American origin. Louis Armstrong is described to be the man best known around the would as the founding father of Jazz (Louis Armstrong house museum, 2008) while on the other hand, Dizzy Gillespie is reputed to have music that is a major contributing factor to the development of a modern jazz known as “bebop”.

Louis Armstrong

Lois Armstrong was born in the American poverty stricken neighborhoods called “Battlefield” on the 4th of August 1904 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At age 12, Louis fired a borrowed pistol while celebrating the New Year (1913) that saw him arrested and taken to the Colored Waifs’ home for boys. He eventually got influenced by Peter Davis, the musical instructor of the home, who taught him singing, percussion and ultimately the trumpet.

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On his release at age 14, he sought for bars in the Storyville district to listen for jazz bands that were at the time just arising. On developing interest on Joe “King” Oliver’s music, Joe become Louis’s mentor, as Peter Davis had been before and by age 17, Louis was already playing in numerous bands with his horn, of which he had bought at the age of 7.

Louis joined King Oliver’s band in 1922 in Chicago, and that is where he me his wife, Lillian Hardin who was the group’s pianist[1]. He played the second cornet in the band for two years where he gained much popularity to surpass Oliver’s within few months. His style displayed improvisation, making him to be a major influencer on the initiation and progress of melody in jazz during the 20s[2].

Louis went on to organize several bands, with the most eminent being “The original hot five” and “The hot seven”[3] (St. George, 2009).1n 1964, Louis recorded “Hello Dolly”, a song which was his biggest hit to gain the number one spot in the USA. In addition the songs “Mark the knife”, “All of me” and “On the sunny side of the street” remind his fans about him. His dedication saw him make at least 300 gigs around the world every year, consequently gaining international popularity and fame and nickname “Ambassador Satch”.

Louis’s Contribution to Jazz and the Society

According to[4], many musicians and Historians have confirmed that he was the most influential personality in the birth of jazz. Additionally, he appeared in a total of 28 full length movies with a couple of short features from 1931 to 1961. This escapade contributed a great deal in popularizing jazz to an international level.

Furthermore, his acting career in movies struggled to win respect to jazz against classical music with its corollary themes[5]. His movies were shot at the time when racism was eminent in the USA. They therefore went a long way in stating up the African American History in the cinema.

Louis being born August 4th always insisted that his birthday was in July 4th[6]. Jazz, was latter termed as music that eventually contributed to the American culture. Thanks to these two facts, in April 2001, US governors decided to officially declare April as a jazz recognition month in their states. St. George (2009) [7]quoted President George W. Bush (2003) who said that educational institutions, media houses and musicians should develop programs that will explore, promote and honor jazz as a national world treasure.

He endured humiliating racial discrimination thought his career and derived dignity by an ethic of self- help and accommodation. He every now and then “Popped off” about current affairs on the TV, thus making a foremost contribution to the ladder of racial justice that was even more eminent than Martin Luther Kings[8].

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie was born on the 21st of October1917, in Cheraw South Carolina. He was the last of children born to John and Lottie Gillespie.

He grew up hard and strong due to his father’s strictness and abusiveness[9]. Gillespie got introduced to music at the age of 10 by his English teacher, just after his father had died leaving his family in hard financial trouble. He primarily played the trombone, latter on switching to the trumpet, after trying out and training himself using his father’s instruments then latter on playing to audiences under local bands.

Gillespie received a music scholarship in 1913 at the Laurinburg institute in North Carolina. He studied harmony and theory for two years until when his family moved to Philadelphia in 1935. He continued playing with local bands, where he eventually picked his nickname “Dizzy” due to his vigorous style of music[10].

By age 18, Gillespie had moved to New York and his talent had already been noticed by several bands. Gillespie tried to play his trumpet with more youthful energy than ever before. He would play each trumpet solo faster than he did with additional notes from the previous [11]. Further more, on trying out the piano, he sounded good too without doubt. Gillespie would sit with bands, where he eventually met with Mario Bauza, a Cuban trumpeter who latter introduced him to Latin tunes and rhythms.

Gillespie’s New Ideas on Jazz Music and Contribution to Society

By age 19, Gillespie had already become famous among the New York musicians who couldn’t help but notice his new vigorous take on the jazz music: He made use of the upper register of notes above C, playing with a super- fast speed using new rhythms and chord changes. Dizzy, is termed as one of the greatest trumpeters of the 20th century[12].

He is known for his vigorous on- stage movements that brought innovativeness to the trumpet players that were characterized by “jolting rhythmic shifts and ceaseless harmonic explorations” while playing the instrument. These explores saw the gradual and initial change of the American jazz from “swing” to “bebop”. The bebop tunes gained a vast recognition of being “modern jazz.”

Dizzy’s music survived the times of strong racial discrimination. He was personally involved in world tours in 1956 to inspire public diplomacy (Rice, 2006 as quoted by the USC center on public diplomacy)[13]. Dizzy’s creativity was able to reach out to people of different races, classes and culture. His involvement in the creation of music that spoke freedom to thin, innovate and speak. His famous tour, created a land mark event in the founding of a tradition of cultural diplomacy.

Comparison and Contrast

Louis Armstrong is recognized by many as being the founder father of Jazz music. He channeled his interest to become innovative and create something new in the musical; realm, On the other hand, Dizzy Gillespie was a pioneer as well. He brought a new feel in Jazz music that saw it shift in to a more vigorous style (bebop).

Both Louis and Dizzy used their careers to reach out to the society and denounce racial discrimination. Today in the United States, Jazz is recognized as the major contributing factor to the attaining of public and cultural diplomacy. The only contrast between the two jazz legends is their style of music. While Louis loved to make smooth Jazz music (swing), Dizzy was more jubilant and vigorous in his music style (bebop).

Reference List

Galupo, Scott (2010, April). King Louis and all that Jazz. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.amconmag.com/article/2010/apr/01/00046/

Gentry Tony (1993). Dizzy Gillespie: Performer, Bandleader and Composer. New York: Melrose Square pub. Co.

Krakow Airc (2006). Louis Armstrong & Jam. Zoom in on America, 3(25). Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.usinfo.pl/zoom/files/April2006/april2006.pdf

Nollen Allen Scott. (2004). Louis Armstrong: the life, music and screen career. North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

St. George (2009). A tribute to Louis Armstrong. Kaleidoscope. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.sydneysymphony.com/shared/programs/2009/louisarmstrong_sso_090529/files/509/PROG16_090529_LouisArmstrong_SSO.pdf

Troupe Quincy (2010). dizzy Gillespie: american jazz musician . b 1917 . d 1993. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.jazzandbluesmasters.com/dizzy.htm#diz%20top%20of%20page

USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2006). Jazz, Public Diplomacy and Dizzy Gillespie:

Remarks from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/pdfs/rice_speech.pdf

Yanow Scott (2010). Dizzie Gillespie. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.mymusicbase.ru/PPB/ppb0/Bio_66.htm

Krakow Airc (2006). Louis Armstrong & Jam. Zoom in on America, 3(25).
Galupo, Scott (2010, April). King Louis and all that Jazz.
St. George (2009). A tribute to Louis Armstrong. Kaleidoscope
St. George (2009). A tribute to Louis Armstrong. Kaleidoscope
Krakow Airc (2006). Louis Armstrong & Jam. Zoom in on America, 3(25).
Nollen Allen Scott. (2004). Louis Armstrong: the life, music and screen career.
St. George (2009). A tribute to Louis Armstrong. Kaleidoscope.
Galupo, Scott (2010, April). King Louis and all that Jazz.
Yanow Scott (2010). Dizzie Gillespie.
Troupe Quincy (2010). dizzy Gillespie: American jazz musician
Gentry Tony (1993). Dizzy Gillespie: Performer, Bandleader and Composer
Troupe Quincy (2010). dizzy Gillespie: American jazz musician
USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2006).


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