June 28, 1928



I've previously made mention to the fact that I believe there are only
three kinds of music:
Classical – Jazz – Pop
Of course within each of these genres there are a multitude of subgenera,
but in general, I like to keep it simple.
Furthermore, I have also made mention that previous to the 20th century all music was generalized as being 'classical' music. So when did things change, and who was responsible?
On June 28, 1928 Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five recorded West End Blues in Chicago. This recording is heralded as the first time jazz became a separate genre and an institution unto itself.
Here are some things to consider when listening to the recording.
  • The tune was originally written and recorded by Joe "King" Oliver. He was a juggernaut of the New Orleans dixie land sound and incidentally one of Armstrong's early music teachers.
  • Armstrong's band, The Hot Five, was a traditional dixie land outfit that was comprised of trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, and drums.
  • The opening gesture in the piano solo sounds like it was ripped out of any number of George Gershwin piano compositions and although Rhapsody in Blue was premiered in 1924, it was still not quite jazz as a genre.
  • The imitative vocal gestures that Armstrong sings during the clarinet solo is perhaps the earliest example of scat singing.
  • The opening trumpet cadenza is the defining genre break that warrants this recording as jazz. Armstrong's phrasing and prominence elevate the trumpet to the leader of the band, and lay out the structure of future jazz language.
you dig?