Coleman Hawkins the “Father of the Tenor Saxophone”?

Saxophone Jazz Artist:

Coleman Hawkins Known as the “Father of the Tenor ”?

by Michelle Inherst

Photo of Coleman Hawkins courtesy of Wikipedia. Why was Coleman Hawkins the father of the tenor saxophone?

Coleman Randolph Hawkins was known by a variety of nicknames. Some called him ‘Bean’ because of his innovative musical ideas and others called him ‘The Hawk’. The nickname Coleman Hawkins is greatly remembered for is being the ‘Father of the Tenor Saxophone’.

      Born November 21, 1904 in St. Joseph, Missouri to William and Cornelia Hawkins; Coleman was the youngest of two children. Hawkins’ older sister died one year before he was born. For this reason, Hawkins was considered to be an only child.

      Hawkins attended social functions at church where his mother frequently played the organ. Coleman’s family valued education and his exposure to music piqued his interest so he began learning music at an early age. He learned cello at age five and received his first C Melody saxophone by the time he was nine. Coleman Hawkins became a very educated musician. Hawkins credits fellow musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Art Tatum as being his inspiration. For a time, Hawkins was considered a ‘Master of Comedy’ on the sax. After making some performances with Armstrong, Hawkins began incorporating  some of Armstrong’s improvisations into his own style.

     Hawkins began his career in the 1920’s; about the time jazz music was beginning to be recorded. In April 1922, Coleman started performing with Mamie Smith’s band; the Jazz Hounds. This was during a time when tenor saxophones were used as background instruments.

Hawkins was instrumental in bringing the sound of the tenor saxophone to the forefront.

He made his very first recording, Mean Daddy Blues on the C Melody saxophone.  He eventually traded in his C Melody saxophone for a tenor saxophone and in time, recorded Dicty Blues.

     Coleman Hawkins moved to and toured in Europe for a period of five years. He was received well and highly regarded in Europe due to the fact that his reputation preceded him. Upon returning to New York, Hawkins began sitting in on jam sessions at Harlem nightclubs where he would have a musical showdown with any musician willing to take him on. At the same time, Hawkins was known to ‘react positively to the work of his contemporaries.’

     During his career, Hawkins had always tried to stay on the ‘cutting edge’ with his musical style. He had a tendency toward taking risks in playing his sax. Hawkins also had a natural ability to adapt to change when it came to music and was constantly open to new ideas. His self confidence and sense of pride were legendary. He was known for always being well dressed and well kempt. He was paid top dollar for his performances as well.

      Toward the end of career though, Hawkins started drinking heavily and his appetite was not poor. He started losing weight and he let his hair and beard grow long and become unruly. By the late 1960’s his appearances became less frequent with final one being in Chicago’s North Park Hotel.

Coleman Hawkins; the man who had set the standard for other men who played the tenor saxophone and inspired many up and coming musicians, passed away in his Manhattan apartment May 19,1969. John Chilton was quoted as saying, “Some of his (Coleman Hawkins’) solos are considered Masterpieces by which other tenor saxophonists will be forever judged.

Works Cited

Extraordinary People in Jazz. Marvin Martin. Children’s Press. Copyright 2004.

The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia: Jazz & Blues. Julia Rolf. Starfire Books. Copyright 2007.

The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz Blues. Ted Drozdowski. Billboard Books. Copyright 2005.

A Century of Jazz. Roy Carr. Da Capo Press. Copyright 2007.

About Sharon Preston Folta? The alleged daughter of Miles Davis

Sharon Preston Folta: Who is she? This question is one that begs an answer. 

by Michelle Inherst

sharon preston folta

Sharon Preston Folta, an advertising executive, was born June 24, 1955 in Harlem, New York City, to Vaudeville dancer Lucille ‘Sweets’ Preston. Sharon’s mother was part of a dance team that opened for more famous performers in the 1930’s and 40’s. One musician Lucille Preston was fortunate to open for was jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong.  Lucille Preston and Louis Armstrong had an affair for many years. During this time, Preston became pregnant with her daughter Sharon in 1954. She and Armstrong believed him to be Sharon’s father although he was previously believed to be unable to conceive any children. The affair and Preston’s pregnancy were kept secret because Armstrong was married to his fourth wife, Lucille Armstrong.

      Armstrong tried to keep Sharon Preston Folta’s existence a secret and at times even denied it. He did promise to care for Sharon and her mother after the death of her mother’s husband and dance partner, Slim Preston. Armstrong followed through on his promise. He sent checks to the Preston family every month, bought them a house to live in and saved a total of $25,000 for Sharon to go to college. His financial support continued the rest of his life and even several years after his death in 1971. The financial support after Armstrong’s death came in the form of U. S. savings bonds. Sharon and her mother had the privilege of travelling at different times with Armstrong to some of his performances. This gave Sharon the chance to know the man she believed to be her father. Although there was never a paternity test given to provide proof the Armstrong was, in fact, Sharon’s father, he wrote letters to her mother frequently. These letters provide evidence that Louis Armstrong firmly believed Sharon to be his daughter. He even affectionately referred to Sharon as “Little Satchmo”. According to the New York Times, the letters Armstrong wrote to Lucille Preston went to auction in December 2012. They were estimated to be worth approximately $80,000.

This Piano Jazz CD is one of the greatest best kept secrets in Piano Jazz. 15 traditional old school jazz songs on one CD for $7. Check it out on Amazon by clicking the link below or Google : 9 Lives Lived, The Music of the Outcat Paul Knopf:

     The issue of who Sharon Preston Folta’s father really was did not prevent Sharon from getting her education. At the age of 7, Sharon started attended a mostly white Catholic school. It was at this school, the family secrets began to resurface, for a time. Undaunted, Sharon continued her education until she herself became pregnant at the age of sixteen. Sharon gave birth to a son. She eventually dropped out of school to care for her son because she became too overwhelmed attending school and being a mother at the same time. At some point, Sharon did show a strong desire for the Culinary Arts and received some formal education in that area. Eventually Sharon finished her education. She went on to graduate from college with her Bachelor Degree in Communication Arts and began working in media sales. Sharon eventually married a drummer who was Jewish and came from a similar background.

     Sharon Preston Folta and her mother were heartbroken to learn about Armstrong’s death in 1971 over the television. They were asked to not attend his funeral and did not receive anything from his estate. After all this happened, Sharon was driven to meet with a lawyer, an estate attorney, and a retired judge. They gathered together to look at Armstrong’s will. Sharon wanted to research her background and learn about her past. She had the desire to show others that she does exist and her existence does matter. Even more than that, Sharon wanted to learn about who her father really was so she could pass her legacy on to her children and grandchildren. She also wanted to inspire other children from similar backgrounds to learn about their legacy as well.

Sharon Preston Biography. No Author Noted. Famous Biographies. Access date 17 July 2018. Copyright 2018.

Louis Armstrong’s Secret Daughter, Sharon Preston-Folta owns her roots at last. Suzy Farbman. Read the Published 15 May 2017. Access Date 17 July 2018.

Woman Declares Louis Armstrong was her Father. James C. McKinley Jr. The New York Times. Publication Date 12 December 2012. Access Date 17 July 2018. Copyright 2018.

Blossom Dearie The Mystery of the Independent Spirit

Blossom Dearie the Independent Spirit   (1924-2009)

by : Michelle Inherst

Courtesy of

  Margrethe Blossom Dearie, the woman with the ‘girlish, pixie like voice and pageboy haircut’ was born April 28, 1924 in Durham, New York. Not much is known about her childhood, other than her father was Irish- Scottish and her mother was Scandinavian. Stories as to how Blossom was given her name differ from her brother announcing her birth by decorating the house with pear blossoms to a neighbor bringing pear blossoms to her parents after her birth. This child prodigy learned was able to pick out songs on the piano at two years old. By the age of 5, she learned to play classical piano and at ten, she was able to play songs from Chopin and Bach. Blossom was also able to play songs by ear and from her memory at a very young age.

     Although her musical education began with classical music, Blossom showed an interest and began playing jazz music in high school. She spent time working with Miles Davis during her career and credits Davis for being a part of her musical education as well. Blossom did live in Paris for a time after she graduated high school where she formed her own band, The Blue Flames of Paris. During her musical career that spanned 54 years, Blossom recorded nearly twenty albums. She was the first female to own a successful recording company in the United States; Daffodil Records. She wrote tribute songs for fellow musicians including John Lennon. Blossom wrote a tribute song for the survivors and victims of the September 11, 2001 tragedy as well.

     She became a regular performer at nightclubs in New York where it is believed she ‘controlled the environment.’ Blossom would insist that no drinks be sold during her performances and requested that those in attendance refrained from smoking because the secondhand cigarette smoke had a negative effect on her voice, making it difficult for her to sing.

     Blossom Dearie had a successful career as a female jazz pianist, singer and songwriter as she packed out concert venues at each and every performance. Perhaps not much is known about Blossom Dearie’s childhood and private life because she, unlike many other musicians, did not like to talk about herself. She stated in one interview that she found talking about herself boring. Blossom Dearie retired from giving live performances in 2006 due to health issues, and on February 7, 2009, she died peacefully in her home at Greenwich Village, New York City, New York.

Miles Davis – A Life of Troubles Transmuted to Jazz

Miles Davis (1926-1991) “The Prince of Darkness”

By: Michelle Inherst

Miles Dewey Davis III, the Evil Genius of Jazz, was born in May 25, 1926 in the small town of Alton, Illinois.

The Master Magician was raised in a comfortable, middle class family. Davis’ mother, Cleota Mae Henry Davis, was a music teacher and his father, Miles Dewey Davis Jr., was a successful dental surgeon who held three college degrees. Although both Davis’ parents supported and encouraged their son’s interest in music, it was his father who eventually bought Miles his first trumpet.

     Davis was an all around good student in school, doing well in math and music being his strongest subject of interest. During his childhood, Miles was known as “Little Davis” and in adulthood, he became known by other nicknames including; the Man with the Horn and the Picasso of Jazz. Davis took trumpet lessons in grade school from a patient of his fathers’ and after high school; he went on to study music at Julliard for a brief time. By the end of his career that spanned more than fifty years, Davis had won a total of eight Grammy’s.

     Davis is accredited with being one of the ‘last major innovators of jazz’ and a ‘pioneer in the fusion of rock and jazz music’.  He regarded curiosity and racial prejudice as his inspiration. Davis did experience some hardships that could have led to his drug and alcohol abuse.

His senior year in high school, Davis’ parents divorced. He had several relationships with women that usually ended in physical violence. He endured racist insults and police brutality. Davis was in a car accident in 1972 that left him with two broken ankles; collapsed on stage in Japan from a bleeding ulcer; and by 1975, had his second hip replacement.

     There was a brief time when Miles Davis was out of work. During this time, he became frustrated and depressed and began using heroin. Being caught up in the addiction, Davis eventually sold his trumpet for cash.

He soon returned to his family farm in Illinois, hoping to kick the heroin addiction. It was at this time; Davis looked to one of his heroes, Sugar Ray Robinson, as his inspiration to give up his drug habit. Eventually, Miles left for Michigan where he spent twelve days in a hotel room during his withdrawal period, finally kicking the heroin addiction for good.

Although, he beat his drug habit, Davis started abusing alcohol in the 1960’s.

At times, he could be difficult and frightening.

During concerts, he turned his back toward the audience as he played his trumpet. Offstage, he would sometimes swear at people hoping to talk to him.  Miles Davis was not always difficult. During his concerts, he enjoyed applause from his audiences but he enjoyed even more having a quiet, respectful audience; unlike some of his contemporaries like; Louis Armstrong.

 By 1975, Davis became discouraged and depressed. Over the next few years, Davis took time away from the limelight and made several comebacks. In September 1991, he was taken to St. John’s Hospital and Health Care in Santa Monica, California with pneumonia.

While in the hospital, he suffered a massive stroke and eventually fell into a coma. Davis never recovered from his coma and on September 28, 1991; Miles Davis died at the age of sixty- five.

The Sad Life of Bill Evans: filled with Drug Use & Heart Break – A Slow Suicide

The Slow Suicide of Bill Evans

By: Michelle Inherst

The life of Bill Evans’ truly painted a portrait of heart break.

bill evans slow suicide

Jazz pianist Bill Evans, the younger of two children, was born August 16, 1929 in Plainfield, New Jersey. His father was an alcoholic who managed a golf course and his mother was a Russian Orthodox. Evans’ childhood was fairly uneventful. He learned to play piano in his mothers’ church and also by mimicking the chords his older brother played. Later, in his childhood, Evans also learned to play other instruments including violin and flute. During his career, Evans recorded over 50 albums, received five Grammy’s, and even travelled with well known singers and musicians including; Billie Holiday and Tony Bennett. He played piano for Miles Davis’ band. Evans’ time with Davis’ band was difficult from time to time because he was the only white band member. So what was it that drove the talented musician to a life of drug use and an early demise?

     Bill Evans enlisted in the United States Army from 1951- 1954 and served during the Korean War. While in the Army, he used marijuana and experimented with heroine. Later, during his musical career, Evans also began using cocaine and eventually methadone.  According to some of his close friends, Evans’ drug habit was a means of escape from hardships he experienced in his adult life. Evans saw his drug habit as a way to cope with the stress of being a musician. One friend described Evans’ addiction as ‘being cyclical’. He would kick the habit of using one drug, only to start using the next one.

     Evans joined Miles Davis’ band in 1958 and, at one point, had his own band.  In 1965, Evans’ bass player, Scott LaFaro died unexpectedly in a car accident at the age of twenty- five. Evans survived two failed marriages; the first wife committed suicide in 1973, and the second died at an early age. The final blow came when Evans’ older brother, whom he idolized, committed suicide in 1979.  After years of drug abuse, Bill Evans died September 15, 1980 at the age of fifty- one from complications due to cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis that was left untreated. His life of drug use was looked upon as a ‘slow suicide’.

Sources Used:



Is Keith Jarrett really Arrogant? Or is there another reason for his attitude?

Is Keith Jarrett really Arrogant?

by: Michelle Inherst

keith jarret arrogant
courtesy of:

 “Keith Jarrett is an American pianist and composer known for his wild and melodic improvisational jazz performances.” (A & E Television Networks/ The Biography. Com Website) He introduced a new appreciation of the solo jazz performance in concert. In doing so, Jarrett, as a pianist, put a new spin on jazz music. Jarrett performed many different styles of music during his career. As a pioneer in classical and jazz, Keith Jarrett has recorded over eighty albums.

     Born May 8, 1945 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Keith Jarrett was the eldest of five boys. His mom encouraged him to pursue his musical education during his childhood. He started playing piano at the age of three.  He began studying classical the age of eight and by fifteen he was learning formal composition. While in his teens, Jarrett studied for a short time at Berklee College of Music. He travelled to Paris with the intention of furthering his musical education before moving to New York to become a jazz musician.

     In concert and off stage, Jarrett can come across as borderline self confident and arrogant. In reality, he is a no nonsense kind of person who, at times, can be difficult. In an interview with New York Times Magazine writer Andrew Solomon, Jarrett was quoted as stating that he was “proud to be difficult.” At times he has walked off the stage during a performance because concertgoers crinkled their cough drop wrappers and has yelled at others for walking in late. He refused to do a concert in South America one times because his specifications for a piano were not met. Others times, Jarrett refused appeals for an encore.

     Jarrett was not always difficult. When backstage before a concert, he cleared his mind so he was not distracted while performing. Onstage, Jarrett was focused and contemplative. He looked to his audience for encouragement and understanding. Jarrett never knew until he sat at the piano what songs he would play. When he made mistakes, he saw them as creative. While performing, he was very energetic and sometimes unpredictable. He was known to stand up, stomp his feet, throw his head back and slap the top of the piano. His concerts were spontaneous, making them a different kind of experience.

The Madness of Keith Jarrett


Paul Knopf: Piano Jazz Artist from New York City – Jazz Local Legend

During the 1950’s to the early 1960’s “the outcat,” Paul Knopf had a promising career in the Jazz circuit as a performing pianist with album releases, and rave reviews by Leonard Feather in playboy as well as a write up in Down Beat Magazine. He also performed as a feature on a CBS radio broadcast in the 1950’s titled: “Jazz is My Beat. “paul knopf

However, the storm of the Rock and Roll take over during the 1960’s that left Jazz music a casualty gave Paul little options as to where to perform as a Jazz musician. Performing is sanity to the “outcat,” and to maintain his mind he would play anywhere that would accept a jazz act, such as strip clubs.

To stay relevant, Paul played for a society band in New Orleans which performed at a night club owned by mob boss Frank Costello.

Later on, he went on to play piano for Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, and Paul Draper.

Always playing for a purpose Paul Knopf often dedicates his music to social justice, it is his way of fighting social ills such as racism, war, bullying, etc… Putting his money where his mouth is and his hands where his piano keys are, Paul was arrested three times for protesting the Vietnam War.

After that, Paul found himself in a grueling war with anxiety and alcoholism that made times tumultuous, which in return limited possibilities of being recognized as an artist. However, with a never saying die attitude and a bullet piercing passion for his music he was reviewed in the New York Times and appeared on the Joe Franklin show in the 1990’s, making a statement: “I am wounded but not dead.”paul knopf

In his fifty plus years of being an independent Jazz Artist he has experienced many eras, starting from World War two to the current state of affairs. He expresses his emotions through his piano keys.

Now Paul Knopf has a message for the world, and it is that Jazz is very much alive as well the sound of the “Outcat.”

At 90 years old, he continues to be an inspiration to us all by being a text book definition of never giving up. Paul host a podcast called The Outcat Show and Paul Knopf has a new CD available on Amazon, 9 Lives Lived The Music of the Outcat Paul Knopf, buy the CD by clicking on the link to Amazon here:

He also has albums available for download on ITunes, Amazon, and CDBABY titled: “Jazz You Can Feel, Volume One,” “Jazz You Can Feel, Volume 2” and “Through it All,” released by R. Media Inc. He also has a single available titled: Pressed Flowers.

You can download his music here, click on the view button:

Jazz You Can Feel – The Science of Jazz Music by moods and health benefits

The Many Moods of Jazz : The Positive Emotions and Health Benefits Inspired by Jazz Music

by: Michelle Inherst

     Listening to jazz music has been known to inspire and evoke a wide variety of moods. People who avidly listen to jazz say this genre of music leaves them with feelings of romance, passion, excitement and reflection. Others say jazz is relaxing and even evokes feelings of nostalgia; mentally carrying them off to a time and place they remember or an era in which they wish they could have lived.

      Research has shown that listening to jazz music does have a significant effect on mood and energy levels. With its cool tones and sultry, complex rhythms, jazz has been known to bring about a natural and drug free relief to the mind and body. Jazz music evokes feelings of happiness and hopefulness. Some jazz fans are left with sense of ‘reminiscent, yet optimistic; longing, yet fulfilled mood’.

     The upbeat stylings of jazz music have had huge ‘positive effects on the type of brainwaves’ listeners produce. Research has proven that these waves, known as THETA brainwaves, (falling in the range of 4-8 Hertz) are the most creative. When THETA brainwaves are produced, they are proven crucial in offering new insights and solutions. When stress levels are decreased and language patterns are increased, the brain is more susceptible to using the imagination. The boost in creativity to complete logical thinking is what causes us to think outside the box. Listening to jazz music is just as effective at reducing anxiety as getting a massage.

    Music played at around 60 beats per minute, stimulates ALPHA brainwaves. These brainwaves fall in the 8-14 Hertz category and cause the brain to synchronize with the beat of the music. This brain activity promotes relaxation yet, at the same time, leaves the listener conscious. DELTA brainwaves (>4 Hertz), are stimulated when a person listens to calming, relaxing music (like jazz) for at least 45 minutes before bedtime. This results in a better, longer night’s sleep. Research also showed that people experienced less chaos throughout the day and showed improvements in their mood as well.

     The effects of listening to jazz music are beneficial for physical well being as well as promoting positive effects on mood. The stimulating, upbeat melodies of jazz are a great way to aid with focus, increasing heart rate, and getting motivated. The relaxing effects of jazz help to reduce fatigue and have are greatly beneficial in relieving stress. Since many health issues are directly associated with stress, many hospitals and other health care facilities incorporate the use of jazz music to aid in treatment therapies.

     For example, some physical, speech and occupational therapists use jazz music with stroke patients during therapy. This musical genre helps the patients to focus, helps to improve the patients’ mood, and improves verbal memory. Patients who listened to jazz music within the first 3 months of therapy immediately following the stroke showed; 60% increase in verbal memory and 17%increase in focus.  Jazz music can help reduce blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels up to 30%; thereby showing a 15% reduction in the risk of death from stroke and other cardiovascular related diseases. Jazz music and laughter together have sometimes been the equivalent of losing 10 pounds or eating a low sodium diet. It is also comparable to taking medications to help reduce blood pressure. It also has been known to help lower heart and respiratory rates and produce a healing effect in the human body. The human body also showed an increase in immunity when a person listened to jazz music for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. This boost in immunity continued for an additional 30 minutes after the music had ended.

     Jazz is believed to be an effective pain reliever. It can help reduce the time and intensity of migraine headaches. Chronic pain experienced can be reduced up to 21% when listening to jazz music one hour each day for one week. More hospitals are incorporating the use of jazz music for pain relief as well. Doctors found that playing jazz music after childbirth reduces the amount of pain medications needed. Surgical teams and hospital staff also saw a decrease in post operative pain. When jazz music was being played during surgery, it aided is the effects of the anesthesia being used.

Jazz music offers tones that are stimulating, yet relaxing at the same time. According to research, listening to jazz music can help improve memory. Participants in research studies have proven better at retaining information while listening to jazz over those who did not. This was due, in part, to the soft sounds of jazz music aiding in the focus of the research subjects.

In addition to the emotional, mental and physical benefits, jazz music is fun to listen to.

Gutierrez, Steve. Why You Should Enjoy Jazz Music. Steppin In It, Fan Club. 16 June 2017.

Defflin, Kendall. Why Jazz is the Most Stimulating Genre of Music, According to Science.  Live For Live Music. 12 June 2016.

Mind, Body, & Jazz: How Jazz Can Improve Your Health. Top Masters in Healthcare Administration. Copyright 2018.

Ella Fitzgerald Biography Summary – The First Lady of Song


Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)“The First Lady of Song”

by :Michelle Inherst

Ella Fitzgerald was a legendary, American jazz singer who represented much of the Great American Songbook with her remarkably broad, 3- octave vocal range. Her ability to make full use of her voice and her gift of singing notes in tune earned Ella Fitzgerald thirteen Grammy Awards. Her musical performances packed popular theaters and music halls around the world. Ella Fitzgerald was adored by millions of fans with audiences as diverse as her vocal range. Some of her best loved recordings include a multi volume collection she had made with Verve Records.  

   ella  A child from a common- law marriage between William Fitzgerald and Tempest ‘Tempie’ Williams, Ella Fitzgerald was born April 24, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Ella’s troubled childhood began soon after she was born and she eventually turned to singing. Her parents had separated and she moved to Yonkers, New York where the two lived with her mother’s boyfriend, Joseph Da Silva. Ella easily made friends with the neighborhood children. In 1923, Fitzgerald’s half- sister Frances was born. The family was struggling financially so the young Ella Fitzgerald began working as a messenger for local gamblers. She picked up their bets and dropped off money. In doing so, Fitzgerald was able to help her family financially. While living in Yonkers, Fitzgerald considered herself to be a tomboy, but she had really aspired to become a dancer.

     When her mother passed away in a fatal car accident in 1932, Ella had taken the loss of her mother very hard. She lived with her ‘stepfather’ for a short time longer and eventually moved in with her aunt Virginia. It was soon after this that Fitzgerald’s ‘stepfather’ had a heart attack and died. Ella’s sister Frances came to join them. While living with her aunt, Ella had a difficult time adjusting to her new surroundings. She became more and more unhappy, her grades dropped drastically, and she started skipping school. The young Fitzgerald had gotten into trouble with the police and was sent to a special reform school, but did not last long there.  Ella became even more unhappy living at the reform school as she had been physically abused by her caretakers there.

     In1934, Ella left the reform school to try to make it on her own. She turned to living in the streets during the Great Depression. Later, during her career, Ella Fitzgerald used these childhood memories to her advantage to pull herself together before her performances. She felt more thankful for the successes she had during her career because she knew what it was like to struggle.

      Fitzgerald still had dreams of becoming an entertainer so she entered an amateur contest.  In 1934, her name was drawn to compete in the contest, which was held at the famous Apollo Theater in New York City. Fitzgerald had originally planned to dance for the contest, but at the last minute, as she walked onto the stage, Ella decided to sing instead. Ella beautifully sang the Hoagy Carmichael song “Judy”. She had sung so beautifully, the audience demanded more. Fitzgerald gave them what they wanted by singing “The Object of My Affections”. The audience was so impressed with Fitzgerald’s performance; they gave her the first place prize of twenty- five dollars. From there, her career as a singer took off.  She became the number one female jazz vocalist of the year.

     Although Fitzgerald felt ‘at home’ in the spotlight, she was shy and reserved behind the scenes. Ella shone with confidence and had no fear on stage, when was by herself, she doubted her ability to sing. Fitzgerald was conscientious about her appearance as well. It was while appearing on stage, Ella felt the adoration of her fans and she knew her calling was to sing for others.     Her avid supporters propelled Fitzgerald to enter- and win every single talent show she could find.

     January 1935 found Ella performing for a week at the Harlem Opera House with the Tiny Bradshaw band. While performing at the Harlem, Fitzgerald met bandleader and drummer Chick Webb. Webb invited Ella to audition with his band during a performance at Yale University. He told her that if the students liked her, she would have a job singing with his band. Although the crowd was difficult to please, Fitzgerald was a success that night. She joined Webb’s band as a singer and began travelling with them.

      In 1936, the duo recorded “Love and Kisses”.  Ella soon became a regular performer at the Savoy; one of Harlem’s most popular clubs. Not long after these recordings Ella began singing her own rendition of “(If You Can’t Sing It) You Have to Swing It”. This was one of the first times she began to experiment with scat. Fans were wowed with her improvisation and vocals. It was during this period, the popularity of big bands was drawing to a close and the focus on music trended more toward bebop.  In 1938, Fitzgerald released her first chart topping hit, a playful rendition of “A Tisket, A Tasket”; a song she helped write. After selling more than one million copies of the album, it soared to #1 on the pop music charts and remained there for 17 weeks straight. Her second hit, “I Found My Yellow Basket” was also recorded and released later in 1938. Although Fitzgerald continued working with Webb, she gave performances and recorded music with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. During this time, Ella had her own band known as Ella Fitzgerald and Her Savoy Eight.

     After the passing of Chick Webb on June 16, 1939, Fitzgerald took over his orchestra and bandleader. The name of the band was changed to Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra. It was around this time, Ella married local dockworker Ben Kornegay in 1941. This may have been due to her search for stability and protection in her life. Fitzgerald learned afterward of his criminal history as a convicted drug dealer and hustler. Their wedding lasted for only a brief time and in 1943, Fitzgerald had the marriage annulled.

     Fitzgerald struck out on her own and signed a deal with Decca Records. Together with the Ink Spots and Louis Jordan, Ella recorded some popular songs in the 1940’s. Fitzgerald made her first appearance in movies in 1942 as well with her debut as the character Ruby in Ride ‘Em Cowboy. The comedy western also co-starred Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

     The year 1946 brought another boost in Fitzgerald’s musical career when she with founder of Verve Records, Norman Granz.  He saw Fitzgerald’s potential of becoming a star. Granz had begun the use of jazz at the Philharmonic, a symphony orchestra the featured most of the great jazz performers. He became Fitzgerald’s manager. While touring with the Philharmonic, Ella worked with Louis Armstrong and started production on her songbook series. From 1954-1956, Fitzgerald recorded her rendition of songs from other jazz legends such as; Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart. These recordings were loved by Fitzgerald’s fans and the original artists whose music she recorded.

     Ella made appearances on television variety shows as well.  It didn’t take long for Fitzgerald to become a favorite guest making several appearances on countless shows. Her cameos included the “Bing Crosby Show”, “The Dinah Shore Show”, “The Frank Sinatra Show”, “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “The Tonight Show”, “The Nat King Cole Show”, “The Andy Williams Show”, and “The Dean Martin Show”.  

     While touring, it was no secret that Ella’s manager, had strong feelings regarding civil rights. He expected equal treatment of his musicians ‘regardless of their color’. Discrimination of any kind; whether at hotels, restaurants, or concert halls was unacceptable; even when touring to the Deep South. Celebrity fans, including Marilyn Monroe even showed her support for Fitzgerald. Ella was quoted as saying, “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular night club in the 50’s”.

     In the 1940’s, Fitzgerald began touring with Dizzy Gillespie and his band. She incorporated the use of scat during her performances, thus changing her singing style. Ella began to develop feelings for Gillespie’s bass player, Ray Brown, and the two were married in 1947. Shortly thereafter, they adopted Fitzgerald’s nephew and gave him the name Raymond ‘Ray’ Brown Jr. In 1952, the marriage came to an end. Due to their busy work schedules, the relationship between Ray and Ella became strained and the two divorced, but remained friends for the rest of their lives.

     Ella Fitzgerald enjoyed much success in the 1950’s and 60’s. By this time, Ella had earned the nickname “The First Lady of Song”.  This was due to her widespread popularity and unequaled vocal talents. Fitzgerald had a one of a kind ability to copy musical sounds which aided in making the vocal improvisation of scat become popular. Scat eventually became Fitzgerald’s signature vocal style.

     In 1956, Fitzgerald started making records with Verve Records, a newly formed record company. Some of her most popular albums were made and released while she was with Verve. Her very first one made under their label was Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book.  

     Ella was awarded her very first two Grammy’s at the first ever Grammy Awards ceremony in 1958. She went down in history as the first African American woman to receive such an honor. One award was for the best individual jazz performance and the other for best female vocalist. She had earned the two awards for her vocal performances on Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook respectively.

     Ella worked well with others and enjoyed doing so. She made astounding hits with such musical legends as Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. Fitzgerald gave performances with Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole as well.

     In 1960, Fitzgerald made her debut ion the pop music charts with her improvisational style of “Mack the Knife”. Despite ill effects on her health, Ella showed no signs of slowing down.  In the 1970’s, she continued giving performances around the world; sometimes two performances a day. A memorable series of performances from the 70’s was a two week gig in New York City in 1974; an engagement that included Sinatra and Basie. Fitzgerald was still going strong five years later. Ella was not only inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, she received Kennedy Center Honors for the contributions she made to the arts.     Because of her deep concern for child welfare, Fitzgerald made ‘generous donations to organizations for disadvantaged youths’. These continued contributions kept Ella going strong. When her sister Frances passed away, Fitzgerald felt the added responsibility of taking care of her sisters’ family as well.

     In the 1980’s, Fitzgerald did begin to show signs of serious health issues. In 1986, she had undergone heart surgery and was diagnosed with diabetes. In 1987, Ella was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan; an award that became her most prized possession. A few years later, France followed President Reagan’s example and bestowed their Commanding of Arts and Letters Award. Fitzgerald was also presented with honorary doctorates from Yale, Dartmouth, and several other Universities.     Fitzgerald recorded her last album in 1989. She gave her final public performance in 1991 at a New Year’s Eve party at Carnegie Hall.  

     In 1994, the symptoms of her diabetes had gotten worse. At the age of 76, Ella had completely lost her eyesight and; due to increasing circulatory issues, both of her legs were amputated below the knees. Fitzgerald was rarely able to perform as she had never fully recovered from her surgery. Ella spent her final years sitting in her backyard, listening to the birds and spending time with her son Ray Jr. and her granddaughter Alice. On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald died peacefully at her home in Beverly Hills, California. Following her memorial service, traffic on the freeway came to a halt to allow her funeral procession to pass through. Ella Fitzgerald was carried away to the Inglewood Park Cemetery.  There, she was taken to her final resting place; the “Sanctuary of the Bells” section of the Sunset Mission Mausoleum.

      Over the course of her career, Ella Fitzgerald had recorded and released more than 200 albums and 2,000+ songs. Sales of her records exceeded 40 million. Her many accomplishments include 13 Grammy Awards; the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and the Presidential Award of Freedom.

     During her musical career, Fitzgerald drew complaints that her ‘style and voice lacked the depth of some of more bluesy counterparts.’ However, Ella Fitzgerald’s success and the respect she gained from her contemporaries proved that she was ‘in a class all her own.’ According to Ella Fitzgerald’s official website, Mel Torme called Fitzgerald ‘the High Priestess of song’ while Pearl Bailey described her ‘the greatest singer of them all’.

          Since her passing in 1996, Fitzgerald’s memory has lived on. She was honored by the United States Postal Service with an Ella Fitzgerald Commemorative Stamp. This commemorative stamp marked the 90th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth. A tribute album was recorded and released that same year. The album, We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song featured other legendary female vocalists. Gladys Knight, Etta James, and Queen Latifa honored Ella Fitzgerald’s memory by performing her songs on this album.


Who is Louis Armstrong? The all you need to know about a Jazz Legend.

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971): Trumpeter,Bandleader, Singer, Soloist, Comedian, Filmstar

By:  Michelle Inherst

  louis armstrong “Star Dust”. “La Vie en Rose”. “What a Wonderful World”. These songs bring to mind one of the most influential musical artists in jazz music: Louis Armstrong.

     Born August 4, 1901 in a poor section of New Orleans, a section of town known at that time as The Battlefield, Louis Armstrong became one of the most famous jazz musicians. His charismatic stage presence unique vocals, and fancy trumpet playing skyrocketed Armstrong to fame in the 1920’s. During his long lasting career, Louis Armstrong had a major influence on many other musicians with his unique style. During his 50 year career, Armstrong came to be known by different nicknames; Satchmo, Pops, and later on he was given the nickname Ambassador Satch.

     Not long after his birth on August 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong and his family were abandoned by his father, who was a factory worker. Armstrong’s mother often turned to prostitution so he spent a lot of time during his childhood with his maternal grandmother.  His mother eventually remarried.

     Due to the difficulty of his childhood and his family’s low income, Louis felt the need to leave school his fifth grade year to start working. The first job the young Armstrong held was working for a neighboring  Jewish family, the Karnofsky’s. His duties included delivering coal and collecting junk. The family Armstrong worked for frequently invited him into their home to enjoy a meal and they also encouraged him to sing.

     It was on New Year’s Eve 1912 that Louis Armstrong was immediately arrested for firing his stepfather’s gun into the air at a New Year’s Eve celebration.  This incident earned Young Armstrong a trip to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. It was during the time he spent here that he received musical instruction on the coronet. He also developed a love for music while living at the home. When he was finally released from the home in 1914, Louis dreamed of a life making music.

From there, Armstrong worked odd jobs; selling newspapers and delivering coal to the well known redlight district of New Orleans. This is when Armstrong’s reputation as a fine blues player began. He was discovered by Joe “King” Oliver, one of the greatest coronet players of that time. Armstrong became one of Oliver’s students. Armstrong received pointers on how to play the horn and occasionally was used as a sub during Oliver’s performances.

     In 1918, Louis Armstrong married his first wife, a prostitute named Miss Daisy. Their marriage was a difficult one, riddled with many arguments and acts of violence. During his marriage to Miss Daisy, Armstrong adopted his three year old nephew whose mother had died during childbirth. Clarence who was left mentally disabled from a brain injury, was taken care of by Louis for the rest of his life.

     In the same year he married, Armstrong’s reputation began to grow. He replaced ‘King’ Oliver in Kid Ory’s Band, the most popular band in New Orleans at the time. Shortly thereafter, , Armstrong gave up working the manual labor jobs so he could concentrate full time on playing his coronet. The gigs he played included; parties, dances, funeral marches, and performing at local honky- tonks-(small bars that typically host musical acts).

     Louis spent the summer of 1919 performing on riverboats with a band that was led by Fate Marble. Armstrong honed his musical reading skills during the time he spent on the riverboats. He also encountered other great jazz legends including, Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden.

     During the summer of 1922, Louis encountered an old friend, his former musical mentor, Joe ‘King’ Oliver. Oliver called Armstrong and invited him to join his Creole band in Chicago as second coronetist. Armstrong immediately accepted this position.  Together, Armstrong and Oliver took Chicago by storm. The pair recorded their first album together on April 15, 1923, an album that earned Louis his first solo with the song “Chimes Blues”. By this time Louis and his first wife had divorced and he began dating Lillian Harding, the band’s pianist. Armstrong and Hardin were married in 1924. That same year, Lillian had convinced Louis to cut ties with his former mentor because she believed the Oliver was only holding Louis back. She pushed Louis to join the top African American dance band in New York City at the time; the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Armstrong joined the band in the fall of that year and right away made his presence known with a series of solos that introduced the idea of swing. Louis greatly influenced Henderson and his musical arranger, Don Redman. It wasn’t long until Henderson and Redman adopted Armstrong’s swing into their own musical style, a change that made the band into what became known as the first jazz big band.

     Louis’ southern background clashed with the more urban, Northern way of thinking held by Henderson’s other musicians. At times the other band members gave Armstrong a rough time over the way he dressed and the way he talked. For the latter reason, Louis was forbidden to sing in Henderson’s band. They feared his gravelly voice was too rough for the more sophisticated audiences at the Rosebud Ballroom. After only a year, Armstrong left Henderson’s band in 1925 and returned to Chicago. There, he started performing in his wife’s band at the Dreamland Café.

Armstrong made many recordings while living in New York. These recordings included; inspirational jazz music with other jazz legends such as, Sidney Bechet. He also played backup music for countless blues singers like Bessie Smith.

     Upon returning to Chicago once more, Armstrong was able to cut his first recordings under his own name; Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. He made these recordings with the Okeh record label. From 1925-1928, Louis Armstrong made more than sixty records with his Hot Five, a band that later became known as the Hot Seven. These albums today are looked upon as the most important and influential recordings in jazz history. It was in the realm of these recordings, Armstrong transformed jazz from an ensemble to a soloist’s art.

     Louis’ stop- time solos in songs such as “Coronet Chop Suey” and “Potato Head Blues” changed the history of jazz music. These recordings featured ‘daring rhythmic choices, swinging phrases, and incredibly high notes.’ (Louis Armstrong Biography: Singer, Trumpet Player) It was in these recordings that Louis began his singing career as well. He was noted for making scat (wordless singing) popular in his extremely well known vocalization in the 1926 song “Heebie Jeebies”.

     The only time Armstrong performed with his band The Hot Seven, (previously The Hot Five) were when he recorded music. During this time, Louis made nightly performances with Erskine Tate’s orchestra in the Verdome Theater. Often times, they played music for silent movies. It was in 1926 that Armstrong switched from playing coronet to the trumpet.

     Louis continued to gain popularity in Chicago during the 1920’s as he started performing other venues which included; the Sunset Café and Savoy Ballroom. Earl Hines, an up and coming pianist, took in and utilized Louis’ ideas into his piano playing.

     Armstrong and Hines made a powerful team. Together, they recorded some of the greatest music in 1928. These recordings included; “Weather Bird” and “West End Blues”. “West End Blues”, one of Louis’ best known recordings, showed the world that ‘fun, dance jazz’ had the capability of producing high art.

     In the summer of 1929, Armstrong went back to New York. There, he had a role in a Broadway production of Connie’s Hot Chocolates; a show that featured the music of Fate Waller and Andy Razaf. Every night, Louis was featured in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, in which he broke up the crowds of white theatergoers.

     In the same year, Armstrong made some recordings with some smaller ‘New Orleans influenced groups’ including his own Hot Five. He also started recording larger ensembles.  OKeh records allowed Armstrong to record songs that were more popular in that day, instead of recording only jazz music. Some of the songs Armstrong recorded in 1929 included; “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love”, “Star Dust”, and “Body and Soul”.

     Armstrong’s bold vocalizations completely changed the idea of popular singing in American pop music of that era. This daring transformation had lasting effects on other famous singers who followed Armstrong. These include; Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

     Armstrong, who was better known as Satchmo by the year 1932, made cameo appearances in movies and toured England for the first time. Although beloved by most musicians, Louis was too rogue for the critics. He drew some of the most racist and harshest reviews of his career from his critics.

     Satchmo was completely unfazed by the harsh criticism. Instead he returned overseas an even bigger star when he began an even longer tour of Europe in the year 1933. During the course of the tour, Satchmo’s career fell apart in an unexpected turn of events. The many years of playing high notes on his trumpet had taken a toll on Armstrong’s lips. Armstrong had a strong disagreement with his manager, Johnny Collins- who had already gotten him into trouble with the American Mafia and Armstrong was left stranded in Europe. After the disagreement, Satchmo decided to take some time off from performing and spent most of 1934 in Europe for some much needed rest and relaxation.

     Upon returning to Chicago, once again, Armstrong came upon some more troubles. He returned to a life with no band, no engagements, and no recording contracts. He found he still had troubles with the American Mafia. To add to his troubles, Armstrong’s wife Lil had decided to sue him as well and soon after, the two decided to part ways. 

     Louis Armstrong decided to turn to a long time friend Joe Glaser, the owner and manager of the Sunset Café. Armstrong entrusted Glaser, who had ties with the mafia as well as being a good friend of Al Capone. Louis asked his friend to make his troubles go away. Glaser not only came through, he aided Armstrong in getting a new band and it wasn’t long before Armstrong, along with his new big band, was back to recording songs with Decca Records.

     Louis Armstrong had been able to do certain things that no other African American had ever done before. In 1936, Armstrong became the first African American jazz musician to write his own autobiography. His autobiography was called Swing That Music. He was the first African American to receive top billing in the major Hollywood movie Pennies From Heaven; a movie that also starred singer/ actor, Bing Crosby. Louis also was the first African American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show in 1937, when he took the place of Rudy Vallee in his show Fleischmann’s Yeast Show for twelve weeks.

      Over time, Armstrong made appearances in major films with celebrities like; Mae West, Martha Raye, and Dick Powell. He also often made his presence known on the radio. Armstrong frequently shattered the box office at the pinnacle of what became known as the “swing era.” When his lip finally healed, Armstrong was able to record some of his finest music, including; “Swing That Music”, “Jubilee” and “Struttin with Some Barbecue”.

     In 1938, Louis Armstrong and his wife Lil finally divorced. Not long after his divorce from second wife Lil, Armstrong married Alpha Smith. By this time, Armstrong and Smith had been dating for more than 10 years. His marriage to Smith was a very unhappy one and after only 4 years, the two divorced in 1942. Louis remarried for the fourth and final time that same year. His last wife, Lucille Wilson, was a dancer at the Cotton Club.

     When Armstrong’s wife grew tired of travelling and show biz, she convinced him to buy a house in Corona, Queens, New York. Louis and Lucille Armstrong settled in to their new home in 1943. It was there that they would live out the remainder of their married lives.

     With the era of swing music and big bands drawing to a close by the mid 1940’s, Louis Armstrong decide to cut down the size of his band to only six members. The band was renamed the All Stars. Band members came and went, but the All Stars was the band Armstrong performed live shows with the remainder of his musical career. During this time, members of the band included; Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines,  Sid Catlett, Barney Bigard, Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, Billy Kyle, and Tyree Glenn,  as well as other great jazz musicians.

     During the 1940’s and 50’s, Louis continued making popular recordings with Decca Records.  These hits included songs like; “Blueberry Hill”, “That Lucky Old Sun”,  “La Vie en Rose”,  “A Kiss to Build On”, and “I Get Ideas”.

   Although Armstrong recorded many great hits with OKeh and Decca Records; it was sometime in the mid 1950’s Louis decided to sign on with Columbia Records with whom he created some of his best music during his long lived career. With the help of his producer George Avakian, Armstrong made Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy and Satch Plays Fats; two of the albums Armstrong made while recording under their label. While with Columbia, Armstrong recorded one of his biggest hit songs; his rendition of “Mack the Knife”.

      It was during this time period that Armstrong’s popularity soared overseas. Some people were led to change Armstrong’s well known nickname from Satchmo to Ambassador Satch.

     Louis traveled and performed abroad in the 1950’s and 60’s. He gave performances in countries in the continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Edward R. Murrow, well known newsman for CBS, followed Armstrong with a live camera crew during some of Armstrong’s overseas tour. Murrow then used some of the footage to create a theatrical documentary. The documentary, Satchmo the Great, was released in 1957.

     In the 1950’s Armstrong’s popularity reached new heights. He broke down so many barriers for African Americans and became a hero within his community for many years. Despite all this, the Great Satchmo began to lose standing among modern jazz fans and the young African American community.  This decline in his standing was due to the rise of another genre of music in the 1940’s. This new style of music, known as bebop, featured a younger generation of jazz musician who viewed themselves as artists, rather than entertainers. These young “artists” including; Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis; among others, criticized Armstrong in the media. They viewed his ‘stage persona and music as old fashioned.’ Louis retaliated, but still, younger jazz fans considered him to be an outdated entertainer with his ‘best days behind him.’

     The civil rights movement grew in intensity with each year that passed. It intensified with more protests, marches, and speeches from African Americans who wanted equal rights. To many young jazz fans at that time, Armstrong’s pleasant demeanor seemed to be from a bygone time period. He refused to comment on politics for many years. His silence placed Armstrong, in the eyes of the younger jazz fans, out of touch.

     This perception of the younger generation changed when, in 1957, Armstrong saw the news on television regarding the integration crisis at the Little Rock Central High School. The Arkansas governor at the time sent in the National Guard to prevent a group of African American students- known only as the Little Rock Nine- from entering the public school. When Louis Armstrong saw this and heard the white protestors yelling obscenities at the African American students, he lost his temper. Armstrong told the press, that the president had ‘no guts’ for letting the Arkansas governor run the country. He was also quoted as saying, “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.”

     These strong words from Armstrong made top news all around the world. Even though Armstrong voiced his opinion after remaining silent for many years, he still drew criticism from black and white public figures. Not one single jazz musician, who had previously criticized Armstrong, took his side. To this day, this is seen as one of the ‘bravest, most definitive moments’ in his life.

     Armstrong never had any children during any of his four marriages. He and his wife Lucille had tried for many years to conceive children, but with no success. Because of this, many believed Armstrong to be sterile.

     Armstrong’s fatherhood became the topic of controversy in 1954. Lucille “Sweets” Preston, a girlfriend the entertainer had secretly dated claimed she was pregnant with Armstrong’s child. In 1955, her daughter; Sharon Preston was born. Shortly after Sharon’s birth, Louis bragged about her to his manager, Glaser in a letter that was later published in the book Louis Armstrong in His Own Word. (1999). But Armstrong never did talk publicly until his death in 1971, about whether he was Sharon’s father or not.

     More recently, Sharon (who now goes by Sharon Preston Folta) made public numerous letters she and Louis had written to each other. These letters that date as far back as 1968, indicate that Armstrong truly believed Sharon to be his daughter. The letters also showed that he had a fatherly love for her. He had paid for her education, her home, and numerous other things during his lifetime. Although the controversy still continues over his fatherhood, DNA testing was never done to prove their relationship.

    louis armstrong Louis continued the rough schedule of his tour in the latter part of the 1950’s.This grueling schedule finally took its toll on him in 1959. Armstrong suffered a heart attack while on tour in Spoleto, Italy. Undaunted, Armstrong only took a few weeks to rest and recover. He returned to performing 300 nights a year all the way into the 1960’s.

     Although Armstrong was still a popular entertainer all over the world in 1963, he had not made any records in two years. It wasn’t until December 1963 that Armstrong returned to Columbia Studio to record the title song for the musical, Hello Dolly! before its opening night on Broadway.  This record, released earlier the following year, quickly topped the popular music charts, reaching #1 in May 1964. It knocked the Beatles out of the chart topping #1 spot during the height of Beatlemania.

     This newly acquired popularity gained Armstrong a newer, younger audience. Louis continued to release albums and make concert appearances for the remainder of the 1960’s. Armstrong even ‘cracked’ the Iron Curtain with performances in Communist countries such as East Berlin and Czechoslovakia in 1965.

     Armstrong’s newest ballad, “What a Wonderful World” was recorded and released in 1967 It differed from most of his recordings of that time in that it did not feature any trumpets. His gravelly voice was placed in the midst of “a bed of strings and angelic voices”.  He thought of his home in Queens, New York as he sang his heart out on the recording. “What a Wonderful World” did not receive much promotion in the United States. However, it did become a #1 hit all around the world in countries like England and South Africa. Eventually it became Louis Armstrong’s most memorable song after being played in the 1986 movie Good Morning Vietnam.

     Armstrong’s grueling lifestyle eventually caught up with him once again in 1968. Louis was faced with heart and kidney problems which forced him to give up performing in 1969. His longtime manager and friend, Joe Glaser, had also passed that same year. Armstrong had stayed at his home in Queens for most of 1969. During this time at home, Armstrong continued practicing his trumpet every day.

     In the summer, Armstrong was able to give public and begin playing his trumpet again. After a successful public gig in Las Vegas, Armstrong once again began performing around the world. He gave performances in London, Washington D. C., and New York.  He spent two weeks at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria giving live performances. Two days after the performances in Waldorf, Armstrong suffered yet another heart attack which put his career on hold for the next two months.

     In May 1971, Armstrong returned to his home. He did resume playing his trumpet again and promised to give one more public performance. However, before he was able to give this once last performance, Armstrong died peacefully in his sleep the night of July 6, 1971 at his home in Queens.

     Since his passing in July 1971, Armstrong’s legacy has continued to grow. In the 1980’s and 90’s, African American jazz musicians Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Peyton, and numerous others spoke publicly about Armstrong’s legacy and influence; a musician and as a human being.

     New biographies that have been written about Louis Armstrong clarified his role as a civil right pioneer. This series of biographies argued for “an embrace of his career’s output, not just his revolutionary recordings from the 1920’s.”

     Louis Armstrong’s home in Corona, Queens, New York was officially named a National Historical Landmark in 1977. To this day, his house is known as the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Thousands of tourists come from all over the world to visit the Museum every year.

     Armstrong was, and still is one of the most notable public figures of the 20th century. His new ideas as a trumpeter and singer are widely recognized today and will be for years to come.


Works Cited

Schuller, Gunther. Jazz. Encyclopedia Britannica. 26 April 2018

A& E Television Networks. Biography. com Website. 18 January 2018

What is Jazz Music? What is the History of Jazz

What Is Jazz?

A History of Jazz Music: Its’ Roots and How it Got its Start in America

by Michelle Inherst

     Jazz music is a versatile and improvisational form of music.  It was primarily developed by African-Americans in the South. The influence of Jazz came from the infusion of European harmonic structure and African rhythms in the late 19th century. The musical combination of ragtime rhythm and blues also had some influence in the development of Jazz music.

Robson Hatsukami Morgan, @robsonhmorgan

Jazz was first heard in New Orleans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The experiences of the Creole people who were born in the United States helped to shape Jazz music as we know it today. Creole people considered it to be a part of their cultural heritage.

Over time, jazz music has been characterized by syncopated (temporarily displaced) rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, and varying degrees of improvisation. Other characteristics that help define jazz are: deliberate deviations of pitch and use of original timbrels.

Jazz is a style of music that is primarily instrumental. Jazz music is constantly evolving, expanding, and changing.  It plays a special role in American history in that it tells the story of blending cultures, hardship and freedom.

     Jazz music gained its rhythm and “feel” from Africa. The tradition of playing an instrument in your own expressive way; made music an extension of one’s own voice and gave jazz a certain “blues quality. The harmony, instrumentation and classical style of European music also had its’ own influence in Jazz. The evolution of jazz in the American South came from slave songs and spirituals. Elements of these spirituals were borrowed from religious revival meetings attended by white people. Slaves were encouraged to attended to attend these revival meetings as well. They gradually adopted these elements as another musical resource into their religious texts. It found its roots in West Africa and was brought to America by slaves. Jazz was primarily invented by and became a source of pride for African-American composers, musicians, and listeners.  It was created out a simplified lifestyle and the need to substitute some style of musical expression. Harmony was very likely the last element of European music to be used by blacks during the development of jazz music.

     The harmony and structure of jazz music consist of each hand acting independently of each other and doing something different. The left hand carried a “steady, ‘march-like’ succession of alternating bass chords” while the right hand played syncopated melodies.

     Although composition, arrangement and ensemble are essential components of jazz; syncopation and swing are elements that make jazz a unique form of music. Jazz is not an entirely composed or predetermined musical style.  It instituted creative approaches on many different levels and endless permutations (fundamental changes).  Jazz music also derived some or its character from the various musicians who played it. Each jazz musician made this style of music their own by the way they improvised each note on different pieces of music, thus turning jazz into an art form.

     Jazz music became a unique musical style and language.  It is comprised of various perceived events which all came together at different times and many different regions of the country. Some places where jazz music was heard included; cotton plantations, railroads, rivers, levees, funeral processions, parades and in popular dance music.

     Ragtime music, the precursor to jazz music, was popular in the early 20th century. Jazz music differed from ragtime in that ragtime was composed, fully notated, and intended to be played in the same way each time; whereas jazz was not always notated. Jazz was improvised either wholly or in part. The themes and melodies of jazz music were more irregular than those of ragtime. The change from ragtime to jazz started somewhere around 1910- 1915 in the vicinity of New Orleans.

history of jazz
Clark Young – @CLARK1

     Pianists such as Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, and James Scott, to name a few, were instrumental in speeding along the change from ragtime music to jazz music. The use of improvisation in the ragtime music these men played helped to increase the turn of events that led to the development of jazz music. Jelly Roll Martin was a composer, pianist and self proclaimed “inventor of jazz”. Martin did play a major role in the development of jazz.  Many musicians during this time, were unable to read or write music but were able to play it by ear. This, along with the variety of instruments available to blacks brought about the need and use of improvisation.

     The coronet carried and embellished the tune of a song in the middle range while the clarinet played improvisation in the higher range. The trombone gave another independent melody within the lower range of the musical scale. Other instruments used in jazz were the tuba, piano, banjo, and the drums. These instruments were used to keep the rhythm and helped to provide a harmonic foundation to the music.

     Although many jazz musicians were employed in places like Storyville, some of the first recordings of jazz were made in New York City. These recordings were made by a group of white musicians known as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. This recording did not present a correct picture of the real New Orleans jazz. There were lesser known jazz musicians who played in various orchestras in New York City; pianist James P. Johnson, Abba Labba, and Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith; to name a few. James Reese Europe, another lesser known jazz musician played in Earl Fuller’s Jazz Band and Ford Dabney’s Band. Eventually Storyville closed in 1917,spelling disaster for many jazz musicians in New Orleans. Many of these musicians went from there to play in Mississippi riverboat orchestras. Other musicians, including coronet player King Oliver, in 1918, went on to perform their music in Chicago; the city that quickly became known as the “Jazz Capital of the World”.

Please download Jazz You Can Feel Volume One and 2 by Paul Knopf. You can stream or download it on any digital retailer. If you would like to download it on ITunes now, press the view button on the iTunes graphic below. To stream it on Spotify, copy and paste this link in to GOOGLE or click here:


 Works Cited

Coyne, Madeline. Jazz Music Will Never Die, and Here’s Why. The Front Porch People. 2018 –


Schuller, Gunther. Jazz. Encyclopedia Britannica. 26 April 2018-


A soldier’s poem by Paul Knopf – piano jazz podcast

itunes podcast GRAPHIC

A soldier’s poem. Poetry of a soldier at war.

Being a soldier in the army is very rough. It does not matter what time era it is. If there is a war, a soldier will feel pain. What is the best way for a soldier to express their pain? It is through creativity. Some people get creative through the expression of word and sound.

Paul Knopf reads a poem about his time as a soldier in World War Two (WWII). Under this poem is his piano jazz music.

He uses both of his gifts as a jazz composer and a poet to emote the feelings he has while he was a soldier in World War 2.

Listen to the podcast here:

Download his music here:

Pressed Flowers (Piano Solo):

Jazz You Can Feel Volume One:

Jazz You Can Feel Volume 2:

Paul Knops is featured in this movie, Bohemia The Life of a New York City Poet, here:

All of the Outcat Episodes have a national public radio, PBS kind of sound to it. It’s a great poem with some awesome jazz piano music. Some people call it Jazz-o-etry, to mean Jazz music and poetry. Please make sure you download Paul Knopf’s new song Pressed Flowers by Paul Knopf. It is a piano solo jazz love song. Paul Knopf also has two digital EPs available for download or streaming titled: Jazz You Can Feel Volume One and Jazz You Can Feel Volume 2.

Poem about bad luck- Piano Jazz & Poetry reading

poem about bad luckA poem about bad luck read by Paul Knopf on the Outcat Show Podcast.

This poem about bad luck is something we can all relate to. Here’s a line from the poem Fortune Feed my Belly on the Outcat Show:

Fortune, fortune feed my belly. Don’t stop, don’t stop at your will, what are my chances? I search the stars….curse you when my lucks runs out, call you a stingy bitch…..


If you are down on your luck you can relate to this.

Whether you lost your job and are now unemployed or you just went through a break up of your girlfriend or your boyfriend. I think we all want things to go our way, it can be a job, it can be love, it can be money, it can be family, but we always want things to go our way. That why the above indirect lines from Paul Knopf’s poem on the Outcat Show Podcast is so meaningful: “Fortune feed my belly! Curse you when my luck runs out!” Like always, The Outcat Paul Knopf plays his piano jazz while talking to us or reading his poetry.  The music that accompanies Paul under his poetry, philosophy, reasoning and talk is a solo piano.

All of the Outcat Episodes have a national public radio sound to it. It’s a great poem under some awesome jazz piano music. Some people call it Jazz-o-etry, to mean Jazz music and poetry. Please make sure you download Paul Knopf’s new song Pressed Flowers. It is a piano solo jazz love song. It is a great song to play when you are in the heat of passion with a partner.  You can download his song on cdbaby for forty three cents. Or please download it on Itunes for $0.99. It is the best piano jazz solo you will ever hear.

Free Documentary – Nine Lives Lived: Story of the Outcat Paul Knopf- Free

Free documentary

Free Documentary. This is an audio documentary that you can listen to for free.

Nine Lives Lived: The story of the Outcat Paul Knopf is a podcast series of The Outcat Show. It was originally supposed to be the audio for a documentary film about Paul with the same title. Instead, we decided to deliver this interesting story of a traveling piano jazz musician. It is free to listen to.

It’s a three part audio documentary SERIES right here on, LISTEN TO EACH ONE !

In Part 1, Paul talks about growing up in the mean streets of the Bronx in the 1930’s. In his area of the Bronx it was gang infested. The New York City street scene was different back then. It was a dangerous atmosphere but Paul persevered.  Growing up, Paul spends talks about his time in the army in World War Two. After that Paul talks about the start of his jazz career that spans decades starting from the 1950’s.


In Part 2 he talks in-depth about running the streets as a gigging musician as well as all of his ups and downs. Paul’s life is in full bloom. He starts his recording career and lives the wild times of a traveling jazz musician.


In Part 3, Paul Knopf talks about his career as a musical director for various churches in Manhattan as well as his duel with alcohol. The take of Rock and Roll music left Jazz music and musicians like Paul with a black eye. Not being able to get a gig due to a loss of popularity due to Rock music, Paul retreated to the Manhattan church scene as a director. However, these times also started to get troubling as he fell in to alcoholism which he later overcame.




Global Warming Discussion

global warming discussion

Global Warming Discussion: The hard topic

A global warming discussion is featured on this episode. This Outcat Show podcast is about global warming and the effects it has on us as humans as well as the effect climate change has on the planet. In this podcast we address what we should do about it.

Global warming is always in the news in some form or the other. If we are not being warned about global warming we are seeing the effects it has the planet.

Climate change is ruining our food. The drastic changes in climate are affecting peoples moods, causing them to do irrational things. Have you every wondered why our food supply is scarce sometimes? How about why there are so many droughts or a lot of floods? The answer is that global warming plays a heavy role on the burden it leaves us on Earth.

The solution seems to be simple: lets cooperate and work together. This podcast is philosophical and intellectual.

The point of view from this discussion recorded is being delivered by a unique individual. Paul Knopf has been around the block a few times. At ninety years old, Paul has experienced life and a lot of it. His wisdom pretty credible.

Like usual the jazz man The Outcat Paul Knopf plays his piano and swings his reasoning which ends up being a great and interesting podcast on a real hot topic. Enjoy!

Religion and the strange world thereof – The Outcat Show Podcast – Jazz Music and Dialogue


A podcast about the Strange World of Religion.

Religion and spirituality are two different entities. In this podcast we tackle this hot bed of an issue. This concept has been plastered all over the news.

Press play to listen below:

Paul Knopf is ready to give his wisdom to you. He is breaking down the strange world of religion for us. It can be very controlling. The church can scare you in to the things that you do not want to do. The next thing you know you are spending money you can not afford.

However, it has helped people all over the world. Churches all over the world have done the greatest act of humanity in history. The extreme planet that all religions live on. Whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Jewish there are radicals in every religion. The fundamentalist  really mess it up for people who try to do what is right on earth.

People have been killed innocently because of this. Wars and oppression have been implemented to the masses. There has been too much killing and wars over this. Can this strange world  be to our detriment? The answer is, yes it possibly can. In the radical element, can the value of a human being be devalued? The answer is yes. The disregard for one person over the other for the simple issue of a mere belief is extremley outrageous.

The Outcat Paul Knopf uses examples of the religious strife in Ireland. The problems in Ireland are about religion but it is between denominations of Christianity.  He also talks about the Hindu Muslim War in Asia.  The philosophy and solution is in this podcast. Press play above to listen this awesome show.

Paul Knopf is a great poet and piano jazz composer, buy his music on the top page.


Over The Road Man! The Outcat Show

The Outcat Show is a podcast of captivating dialogue with melodic jazz piano lines to match. The Outcat Show is a perfect mix of poetry, piano jazz, and issues of social justice. You’ll never be alone when you listen to The Outcat Show.

New Podcast 10/6/15: This podcast is all about poetry and piano jazz. Check out Paul Knopf’s poem: “Over The Road Man!” 

Listen Here:

Check us out on youtube here:



The Outcat Show: Another Piano Jazz Improv Solo

Piano Jazz Solo – Piano Jazz Improvisation solo

This podcast is all about solo piano jazz improv. Enjoy this free piano jazz solo improv session by the Outcat Paul Knopf.  Just press play on the media player below to listen to some piano jazz solo music.

Listen Here:


Check us out on youtube here:

The Outcat Show is a podcast of captivating dialogue with melodic jazz piano lines to match. The Outcat Show is a perfect mix of poetry, piano jazz, and issues of social justice. You’ll never be alone when you listen to The Outcat Show.

If you liked the piano jazz solo above, you can download his music by pressing the view button below.



The Outcat Show: Poetry and Piano Jazz from Paul Knopf


The Outcat Show is a podcast of captivating dialogue with melodic jazz piano lines to match. The Outcat Show is a perfect mix of poetry, piano jazz, and issues of social justice. You’ll never be alone when you listen to The Outcat Show.

New Podcast 8/3/2015 – The Outcat Paul Knopf is back! Not only do we have new podcast exclusive to this site, we are now on youtube, please subscribe to our YOUTUBE Channel here:

In this podcast The Outcat Paul Knopf gets poetic, here’s how he does it:

First Poem:
The artist caught in this world of entertainment and culture: Press agents, fund raising and such.
The artist chooses to follow his heart and his soul.

Second Poem:
The artist seeks solace in the promises of astrology and alchemy, and seeks to escape the cold worlds of
business and technology; the heat of his passion sets the city on fire. He chases his muse through the forest
of enchantment and love.

Listen Here:




Lenny Bruce and Me – The Outcat Show Podcast


The Outcat Show is a podcast of captivating dialogue with melodic jazz piano lines to match. The Outcat Show is a perfect mix of poetry, piano jazz, and issues of social justice. You’ll never be alone when you listen to The Outcat Show.

New Podcast 6/2/2015 – The Outcat Paul Knopf is back! Not only do we have new podcast exclusive to this site, we are now on youtube, please subscribe to our YOUTUBE Channel here:

This podcast is about Paul’s recollections of a gig he did sharing the venue with Lenny Bruce. Listen below.