Sunday, January 6, 2019

Creating the Jazz Solo: Louis Armstrong and Barbershop Harmony by Vic Hobson

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Building effectively on past work, in Creating the Jazz Solo Vic Hobson explores the symbiosis of Louis Armstrong's early vocal and instrumental styles, grounding the analysis in a thorough reading of the critical literature, as well as Armstrong's own recollections. It's a masterful and insightful book, of interest to all jazz lovers."
- Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Curator Emeritus, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University

“It is through the foresight of archivists, jazz enthusiasts, journalists, and editors that jazz research is possible. The William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive in Tulane University began interviewing the jazz musicians of that city in the 19505 and today holds a treasury of recordings and transcripts of oral history dating back to the earliest years of jazz. Bruce Raeburn and Lynn Abbott have assisted me in too many ways to enumerate to access these collections and guide and advise me.”
- Vic Hobson

“To the listener orientated to "classical" singing, Louis's voice, with its rasp and totally unorthodox technique, usually comes as a complete shock. The reaction is often to set the voice aside as primitive and uncouth. Actually, Louis's singing is but a vocal counterpart of his playing, just as natural and inspired. In his singing we can hear all the nuances, inflections, and natural ease of his trumpet playing, including even the bends and scoops, vibrato and shakes."
- Gunther Schuller

"You are too young to know the impact Louis had in the 1920s. By the time you were old enough to appreciate Louis, you had been hearing those who derived from him. You cannot imagine how radical he was to all of us. Revolutionary. He defined not only how you play a trumpet solo but how you play a solo on any instrument. Had Louis Armstrong never lived, I suppose there would be a jazz, but it would be very different."
- Artie Shaw speaking to author/critic Gene Lees about Pops

One hundred and one years after the Original Jazz Band issued the first Jazz recordings in February 1917, the Jazz landscape [i.e. its visible features] is markedly different.

Instead of being derided, denigrated and dismissed as a crude and raw form of music that plays to humankind’s baser instincts, Jazz is now accorded a cultural status in which many accomplished people view it as an art form.

Writing in the Autumn 2018 online edition of the City Journal, Ted Gioia, the distinguished Jazz author, comments on one aspect of this changing Jazz landscape when he writes:

“The most visible sign of this change is an extraordinary building: the SFJAZZ Center, the largest stand-alone jazz performance facility in the United States. The eventual price tag on the completed structure, which opened in 2013, was $66 million. It hosts about 400 jazz events a year, with 150,000 people coming through its doors. In an earlier age, jazz fans in San Francisco took pride in their small, quirky nightclubs such as the Black Hawk, which operated on Hyde Street from 1949 to 1963, or the Keystone Korner, which flourished in North Beach from 1972 to 1983. Fans loved the intimate atmosphere, but these small operations couldn’t weather downturns in the jazz economy. SFJAZZ is built on a much larger scale and, like the symphony hall and the opera house, is designed to last.

“The nightclub model is not one that you can transfer into the nonprofit approach,” explains founder and artistic director Randall Kline. “We needed to turn to other role models—symphony, opera, ballet.” He built this remarkable organization and facility despite skepticism from those who believe that jazz is in a terminal state of decline. “I have been asked how I can hope to succeed when others haven’t,” he recounts. “But I never thought there was a fixed limit to the jazz audience. I hate the phrase ‘Keep Jazz Alive,’ ” Kline says. “You hear that during pledge drives and fund-raising campaigns. Jazz couldn’t be more alive than it is right now. The goal is to push forward, not look back.””

Can you believe it?

A concert hall dedicated to Jazz!!

Another aspect of the changing dynamics associated with Jazz “legitimacy” can be found in the way the music and its makers are now studied, academically.

Thanks to the foresight of a number of archivists, scholars, bibliographers, discographers, biographers, and edited anthologies, companions, studies, treatments, critiques, compilations, essays, articles and books on the subject of Jazz, many new insights about the musicians who have contributed to the evolution of the music during its first century of existence are now available that broaden our knowledge and awareness of what’s involved in the Act of Creation known as Jazz.

Into this mix of Jazz academia comes the newly published Creating the Jazz Solo: Louis Armstrong and Barbershop Harmony by Vic Hobson [Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2018]. You can locate the university press website at

Throughout his life, Louis Armstrong tried to explain how singing with a barbershop quartet on the streets of New Orleans was foundational to his musicianship. Until now, there has been no in-depth inquiry into what he meant when he said, "I figure singing and playing is the same," or, "Singing was more into my blood than the trumpet." Creating the Jazz Solo: Louis Armstrong and Barbershop Harmony shows that Armstrong understood exactly the relationship between what he sang and what he played, and that he meant these comments to be taken literally: he was singing through his horn.

Understanding how Armstrong, and other pioneer jazz musicians of his generation, learned to play jazz and how he used his background of singing in a quartet to develop the jazz solo has fundamental implications for the teaching of jazz history and performance today.

The author, Vic Hobson, was awarded a Kluge Scholarship to the Library of Congress in 2007 and a Woest Fellowship to the Historic New Orleans Collection in 2009. A trustee for the National Jazz Archive, his own work has appeared in American Music, Jazz Perspectives, and the Jazz Archivist. He is author of Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues, also published by University Press of Mississippi.

What follows is the Preface and first chapter of Vic’s book in which he lays out his arguments and how he plans to substantiate them.


Ii is a daunting prospect to write a book on Louis Armstrong.

There is a wealth of literature about Armstrong's life. So much has been written about him that it might seem there is little more to add. Although Armstrong's contribution to twentieth-century music making has been widely discussed, surprisingly little has been written about why he played what he played.

In recent years, the availability of transcriptions of Armstrong's recordings and analysis of his playing has increased. This has enabled analysts to describe what he played — to identify "blue notes" and recurring motifs — but why he played as he did is less explored.

In order to consider Armstrong's development as a musician, this book does not get beyond the 1920s, and I have made no attempt to cover all aspects of Armstrong's life during this period. I have only considered those aspects of his life that may have significantly affected his development as a musician.

In Creating Jazz Counterpoint, I attempted to bring together the historical record, oral history, and musical analysis to show how barbershop harmony is at the root of blues tonality and jazz counterpoint. At the time, this seemed a controversial claim. It is far less so only a few years later. Lynn Abbott had argued back in 1992 "A Case for the African American Origins of Barbershop Harmony."

In the intervening period, few researchers have followed up on Abbott's research. One notable exception is lames Earl Henry in his PhD thesis: "The Origins of Barbershop Harmony: A Study of Barbershop's Musical Link to Other African American Musics as Evidenced Through Recordings and Arrangements of Early Black and White Quartets."

Despite the paucity of research since Abbott's essay, the consensus has decisively shifted. I was fortunate to be present at the 2015 convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society held in New Orleans when Lynn Abbott was awarded life membership in the organization for his work in understanding the origins of barbershop harmony. Given that there is growing evidence that barbershop harmony is of African American origin, and that barbershop harmony played a significant role in blues and jazz tonality, the focus of this book is not to argue whether barbershop harmony influenced the emergence of jazz and blues, but rather how it influenced the emergence of jazz; in particular, how it influenced Louis Armstrong as the first great soloist of jazz.
To do this it is necessary to use music notation, music theory, chord symbols, and barbershop theory and practice. This too brings challenges.
I am conscious that not everyone is musically literate. I am also mindful that not many people know how barbershop harmony functions. For this reason, I have decided to transpose many of the musical examples in this book into the key of C.

I justify this for two reasons. The first reason is that it makes the argument easier to follow for readers who do not have a grounding in music theory.
Jazz has always been a music that is approachable to musicians with very little understanding of music theory. It seems reasonable that it should be possible to explain how it functions in an approachable way too.

The second reason for transposing most musical examples into the key of C is that early jazz musicians were not concerned with absolute pitch; they were, however, concerned with relative pitch. All schools in New Orleans used a common music syllabus based on the solfeggio system where each pitch is assigned a syllable. In this system, Do is the first note of the scale, Re is the next, and Mi is the next, and so on. Any note could be the start note of Do, and therefore absolute pitch was not as important as the relationship between the pitches.

Louis Armstrong made many recordings. Some have been transcribed in full, others in part, and some not at all. A transcription of a recording can only be an approximation of what was played. It would test even the most skilled transcriber to notate every nuance and inflection of even just a single note; a complete solo would be impossible.

To what extent a transcription is acceptable depends on the type of analysis required. If a transcription is to be used to analyze how a musician imparts a swing feel in his or her playing, it may be necessary to introduce finer subdivisions of time from simple eighth, sixteenth, or thirty-second notes and instead consider percentages of swing.

In a similar way, ethnomusicologists often divide pitches such that 100 cents are equal to one semitone of conventional music theory. This level of detail is not necessary for my purposes. My reason for using transcriptions is to explore the relationship between melodies, countermelodies, obbligatos, solos, and harmony.

To avoid any possibility of prejudicing the evidence, I have decided to use wherever possible published transcriptions by other people. The only exception to this is Armstrong's vocal chorus on "Basin Street Blues" (Example 47), as I know of no published transcriptions.
There is a difference between the notation of popular music and jazz in the early twentieth century and the way it is written now. Contemporary jazz
musicians tend to use chord symbols. These chord symbols provide a shorthand way of relaying a lot of musical information. Chords are constructed by selecting alternate notes of a scale and sounding those notes together. A chord of C major seventh (Cmaj7) informs a musician that the chord contains the notes of C (the root), E (the major third), G (the fifth note of the scale), and B (the major seventh note of the scale).

Early jazz musicians did not think in terms of chord symbols and they rarely appear in sheet music of the early twentieth century unless for ukulele or other stringed instruments. For the benefit of readers who may be more familiar with chord symbols than with notation, I have added chord symbols to the musical examples where required to make it easier for contemporary musicians to follow the argument.”

Chapter 1 - “Singing Was More Into My Blood, Than The Trumpet”

“Louis Armstrong is perhaps the most influential instrumentalist and singer in the history of jazz. He is credited as being the first great soloist, one of the earliest jazz singers, and reputedly invented scat singing. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday (based upon the belief that he was born on July 4,1900, when it was actually August 4,1901), tributes from the greats of jazz arrived in the offices of Down Beat. Cootie Williams observed, "Louis Armstrong is the greatest trumpet player I ever heard in my life."' Fellow trumpeter William "Cat" Anderson said, "Louis Armstrong is the greatest horn player that ever played." Speaking for his later generation, Dizzy Gillespie argued Louis was "the cause of the trumpet in jazz.... He's the father of jazz trumpeting." This was supported by Thad Jones: "I think he's probably the greatest living influence in trumpet playing today." The saxophonist and trumpeter Benny Carter acknowledged, "He influenced so many instrumentalists—and not just trumpeters." This point was emphasized by saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, who claimed Armstrong as "our first important jazz soloist."

Armstrong's contribution to jazz was not only as an instrumentalist. As reed player Herb Hall opined, "He started it — both trumpet and jazz singing." For reed player Franz Jackson, Armstrong "seemed to make everyone sing, even people who could never sing. He made it sound so natural. Nobody ever did anything like that with their voice." Saxophonist Harry Carney said simply, "The sound of his voice makes you happy.""

Today Armstrong's singing is appreciated in equal measure to his playing, but while much has been written about Armstrong's playing, rather less has been written about Armstrong as a singer. One of the reasons for the initial resistance to acceptance of Louis's singing is that his singing has been rather more controversial. In his early career, both Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson, according to Armstrong, were "afraid of letting me sing thinking maybe, I'd sort of ruin their reputations, with their musical public.""

In April 1923 Armstrong began his recording career, cutting forty-two sides with Oliver. He did not sing on any of these recordings. Later he joined Henderson, and ignoring the fact that Joe Oliver did not let him sing either (at least on record), Louis complained, "Fletcher didn't dig me like Joe Oliver. He had a million dollar talent in his band and he never thought to let me sing."  Armstrong had more opportunity to sing when he began recording under his own name as Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five in 1925. Less clear is how his recorded output from these years is representative of the music he was performing and singing in the dance halls, clubs, and vaudeville shows. Although he probably had more freedom to sing in live performance after leaving Fletcher Henderson's band, it was not until he was performing at the Vendome Theater in Chicago around 1926 that singing is known to have become a mainstay of his live performances.

By the late 1920s, Armstrong had already expanded his Hot Five to the Hot Seven, and by 1929 he was recording under the name Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra. The Great Depression of the 1930s fundamentally changed the music industry, and Armstrong had to adapt. In the 1920s Armstrong recorded for record companies that catered to the expanding black populations of the cities of Chicago and New York, and the African American population in the South.

With the Great Depression, a focus on niche "race" marketing was less attractive to record companies that preferred to sell to the mass market. The rise of radio as a cheaper alternative to costly phonograph records and the decline of vaudeville also began to affect the type of material that was recorded. With the rise of the mass market, and with radio providing a cheaper alternative to records, lyrics needed to be suitable for a wider audience of all ages,'" It is no coincidence that blues songs in Louis's recorded output reduced dramatically after the Wall Street Crash- In the years 1929 to 1931, Armstrong did not record a single twelve-bar blues."

The advent of "talking" pictures in 1927, with The Jazz Singer, also hastened the decline of the touring vaudeville shows. Armstrong was quick to capitalize on this trend. His earliest films were Rhapsody in Black and Blue (1932) and a Betty Boop cartoon of the same year. In his first film he sang "Shine" dressed in a leopard skin with the opening lyric "Oh, chocolate drop, that's me." He also appeared in the Betty Boop cartoon in a jungle scene dressed as a cannibal. The question that these films raise is the extent that racial attitudes have hindered serious investigation of Armstrong as a singer. While it can be argued that Armstrong's trumpet playing in these films "transcends the racist trappings" of his environment, to make the same argument about Armstrong the singer and entertainer is, on the surface of things, a little more awkward."

Succeeding generations of commentators have approached Armstrong's role as an African American in segregated America somewhat differently. It is likely that many African Americans of Armstrong's generation would have viewed Armstrong as something of a race champion. The song "Shine," for example, was written by black composers Ford Dabney and Cecile McPherson, and its lyrics can be interpreted as an assertion of black identity." This could explain Terry Teachout's observation that, in the film Rhapsody in Black and Blue, Armstrong "comes out less like Uncle Tom than Superman."'"

However, this assessment would not have been universally accepted by African Americans at the time. Hampton Institute educator and author Robert Russa Moton in 1929 claimed that "shine" and "darky" were only slightly less offensive than "nigger," and by 1933 the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, considered all three to be equally offensive. However progressive the song "That's Why They Call Me Shine" may have been when it was first performed in 1910, by the 1930s some black intellectuals rejected popular culture and took a different view.

After World War II, the bebop generation also took a different view of Armstrong's role. Although he would change his mind later, Dizzy Gillespie initially criticized Armstrong for being an "Uncle Tom . . . grinning in the face of white racism."'' For some in the bebop generation it was possible to confront racism more directly than it had been just a few years earlier. In recent years there have been attempts to cast Louis as someone who transcended the racist society of his time: through "subversive comic art... disrupting from the sidelines," as though a "trickster, 'winking' at the audience."

Postmodern scholars may argue that Armstrong's scat singing "points at something outside the sayable ... evading or going beyond the racial and political structures of the time," but published lyrics were very much of their time. Minstrelsy and "coon songs" were a mainstay of American entertainment for both black and white audiences in Armstrong's early years. And more than anything else Armstrong wanted to entertain.

There is little evidence in what Armstrong said about the lyrics that he sang that he saw them as either offensive or conveying subversive messages. Armstrong responded to his critics: "There you go! See, now what's wrong with 'Shine'? I mean, the people are so narrow minded, they're worrying about the title, they forgot to listen to all that good music!... And I think if we just take it in a little easier stride, I don't know—a lot of people worry about a whole lot of unnecessary things and they don't do nothing about it."

One song he recorded many times was "When It's Sleepy Time Down South." In his early recordings, he sang the published lyric "darkies are crooning." When he was persuaded to change these lyrics to "people are crooning," at a subsequent recording session, he is remembered to have asked, "What do you want me to call those black sons-of-bitches this morning?"

In a radio interview in 1956, Armstrong discussed his views on the lyrics and titles of some of his songs: "Now pertaining to titles and things, I remember the time we made a record called 'Shine,' 'Black and Blue,' things like that, why people would—you know, especially our people, the Negroes—they'd probably get insulted a little for no reason at all."" There seems little reason not to take Armstrong at his word. He was brought up in a period when racism permeated all aspects of show business, and Armstrong saw himself as an entertainer whose job it was to please the public. For him, the lyrics of his songs were not significant, but for others they have been, and this may have prevented Armstrong's singing being explored with the same rigor as his trumpet playing.

And then there is the question of Louis's vocal style: white audiences, in particular, needed persuasion to accept Louis as a singer; this is evident from Armstrong's first autobiography Swing That Music (1936)- Rudy Vallee wrote an introduction praising Armstrong's trumpet playing before describing the "utterly mad, hoarse, inchoate mumble-jumble that is Louis's 'singing.'" But, Vallee encouraged readers, if they studied more closely they would come to see that his singing is "beautifully timed and executed," and acknowledged that he had "perfect command of time spacing, of rhythm, harmony and pitch."

John Petters has argued, "Satchmo more or less invented the art of jazz singing." He would go on to say, "the body of work Louis laid down in the 1930s for Decca, where he performed mostly pop songs of the day, amply showcased this unique talent." However, Armstrong's eagerness to please the public with popular song throughout his career often distanced him from those promoting the acceptance of jazz as an art form, and this too affected study of Armstrong's singing."

Music critics often judged Louis's singing inferior to his playing. In 1962 jazz writer Leonard Feather reflected on how to explain Louis Armstrong's contribution to music to a generation reared on modern jazz. He concluded that it "might be easier" were it not that the "personality who, as a singer and comedian rather than a trumpeter . . . had already [by the 1930s] forsaken the blues almost entirely in favor of popular songs." He went on to complain, "Singing once incidental on his records (many of the Hot Five sides had no vocals), became indispensable." This was written before Louis Armstrong's biggest hit: "Hello Dolly." Melody Maker headlined this recording as "The Hit No One Wanted."

On one level, the Melody Maker story was a celebration of the persistence of Armstrong's manager, Joe Glaser, to get the record made. But the headline can also be interpreted as a prediction of the reaction of many jazz critics. As Gunther Schuller lamented late in Armstrong's career, he "embraced singing as a full-time commitment, equal in its allocation to his trumpet playing. And it was as a singer—of songs like 'Hello Dolly’ and 'Mack the Knife' — that a large public was finally to know Armstrong in the last decade or so of his life. One cannot help feeling that his genius and art somehow deserved better than that!"

Louis's singing also had a utilitarian role. Barney Bigard remembered that in the late 1940s and early 1950s "Louis worked so hard that his lip gave out — just like that. It lasted for about two weeks and he got mighty worried. But you know him, he just went along, did a lot of singing and eventually his lip got back into shape."" From the 1930s onward, singing provided a way to rest his lip between playing trumpet passages.

In his lifetime, the abiding image is of Louis Armstrong as a man of two exceptional talents. His first talent was as a trumpet player — the first great soloist of jazz — and the second a singer whose unique approach to singing was generally appreciated in its own right, but due to commercial pressures and the effects of age on his lip, had come to dominate Armstrong’s later years. After his death on July 6, 1971, a one off special collector's magazine was published. Stanley Dance summed up the prevailing view: "The original Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter par excellence who threw in humorous vocalizations as a kind of bonus."

After his death opinion on the significance of Armstrong the vocalist began to change. Gunther Schuller, writing in 1986, observed:
“To the listener orientated to "classical" singing, Louis's voice, with its rasp and totally unorthodox technique, usually comes as a complete shock. The reaction is often to set the voice aside as primitive and uncouth. Actually, Louis's singing is but a vocal counterpart of his playing, just as natural and inspired. In his singing we can hear all the nuances, inflections, and natural ease of his trumpet playing, including even the bends and scoops, vibrato and shakes."

Some writers would acknowledge Armstrong's influence on other singers. In a chapter titled "Armstrong the Celebrity," in their book Jazz: From Its Origins to the Present (1993), Lewis Porter, Michael Ullman, and Edward Hazell observe, "His singing while continually entertaining, is not to be dismissed artistically: It influenced Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and a host of others.""

By 2001 Gary Giddins felt that he was being redundant in saying that the genius of Louis Armstrong "can be relished in 'Hello Dolly’ as well as in 'West End Blues.' But there I go again making an argument I just said no longer needed to be made."

Although Armstrong's vocal contribution is now generally seen as of equal significance to his cornet playing, with very few exceptions the prevailing view is that his singing and playing are not related. Brian Marker's otherwise excellent assessment of Armstrong's recordings of the 1920s argues that Armstrong's "singing had little direct effect on the transformation of jazz in the 19205 from an ensemble based music to a solo based music."43 It is this assumption that this book challenges. I argue that Armstrong's singing did have a direct influence on Armstrong's ability to transform the earlier ensemble jazz to a solo based music that he played on his cornet.

The connection between Armstrong's singing and playing will be developed, in part, through Armstrong's own explanations for his musical development. Armstrong believed singing was the nexus of his musicianship. He proclaimed flatly, "Singing was more into my blood, than the trumpet." The reason, he explained, was "I had been singing, all of my life. In Churches, etc. I had one of the finest All Boys Quartets that ever walked the streets of New Orleans."

This is an important point in understanding Armstrong as a musician. He thought of himself first and foremost as a singer who played the cornet. However much he loved his horn, to Armstrong his instrument was an extension of his voice. What is more, when he said "I figure singing and playing is the same," he meant that he applied the same principles to his phrasing and note choices as a singer that he did when he played cornet.

He explained in some detail the relationship between his singing and his playing in an interview in 1960. Armstrong was asked about how all of the members of his band could be improvising at the same time. His answer to this question makes it clear that when he said that playing and singing were the same he was not speaking figuratively. In essence, what the questioner asked was how collective improvisation functions. This is a question that has confounded musicologists, but Armstrong's answer was very clear: "In the early days in New Orleans they always had one in the band that could read. Either the trumpet player, or the cornet player, or the piano player maybe, we always had one." The reason for this, as Armstrong explained, was that somebody in the band needed to play the lead part: the melody as published. He continued, "So we'd go down to the music store, in the days before radios. and get the new piano copies, tunes that just come in New Orleans, and all you'd do is just run the lead down once."' Once the lead part was mastered, "We'd woodshed on the weekend just blowing."

He went on to explain how the other instruments would find their harmony parts: "If you'd sing in a quartet, you ordinarily get your harmony, if you sing baritone, you sing tenor, and I'm gonna sing the lead, you bass. Do you understand? So if I sing 'Sweet Adeline,'" (sings the melody), "right now you gonna sing 'Sweet Adeline,'" he then sang a harmony part, and that's "the same every number. So you've got to practice."” Having discussed the methods used by a vocal quartet to find their harmony parts, he then explicitly related this to instruments: "If you do it on the instrument then love the instrument."

What Armstrong described in this single interview was how a barbershop quartet rehearses and how the same practices were applied in New Orleans to a jazz band and its instruments. This also explains why singing was "more into" Armstrong's blood than the trumpet. His formative years were spent singing in quartets. It was in quartets that he developed his ear for music and learned how to construct the lines that he would go on to play on his horn.

In part the argument made in this book for the connection between Armstrong's singing in a quartet and his cornet solos will be developed by analysis of his recorded solos.

In his solos, Armstrong often played "blue" notes associated with blues tonality. These blue notes are characteristic of particular voices in a barbershop quartet. Armstrong often sang tenor in his boyhood quartet. The tenor voice sings a third above the lead voice, often alternating between minor and major third. This gives rise to what later theorists would describe as "blues thirds." Similar distinctive progressions in the baritone voice in a quartet result in flatted seventh notes in this voice. The flatted third and seventh are the two most common "blue notes" identified in Armstrong's cornet playing.

Armstrong also often arpeggiated chords, implying harmony that is not commonly found in European music. Later jazz musicians would describe this practice as chord substitution: where one chord could be replaced with another. Given that improvising the harmony around a melody is foundational to barbershop practice, chord substitution in Armstrong's playing also provides evidence of the connection between his singing barbershop harmony and features evident in his cornet playing.

In the early chapters of this book, the connection between Armstrong the singer and Armstrong the musician will be made by placing him in context with other musicians who also used the same barbershop principles to inform their playing and compositions. When Armstrong was young, barbershop singing was a mainstay of recreational and professional music making. People sang in quartets, at home, in bars, on street corners, and on minstrel and vaudeville stages. People sang as they worked and they sang in their worship. This was the culture that Armstrong grew up in, one he knew well, and one in which he excelled. Singing was his musical foundation: it was his life.”

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