After Freddie Keppard, the next master of the cornet was Joseph "King" Oliver(1885-1938). King Oliver was said to have multiple primary instruments: the cornet and the mute. While the mute isn't actually an instrument, King Oliver used the mute to manipulate his cornet would so well that it essentially his second instrument. Around this time, the central hub of jazz was already shifting from New Orleans to Chicago. In 1918 King Oliver moved his band up to the Windy City. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band consisted of, but was not limited to, Lil Harden (pianist and Louis Armstrong's second wife), and Johnny Dodds on drums. In 1922, King Oliver had sent for Louis Armstrong to move to Chicago. Shortly after the request Louis did move and joined the band with their frequent gigs at the now retired Lincoln Gardens which was in South Side Chicago.
Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) was born in a very violent area of New Orleans referred to as "The Battlefield." Growing up without a father, the Karnofsky family saw that Louis needed some guidance so they would give him odd jobs and essentially had him join their family. Louis learned a great deal about how the Jewish were discriminated against and always wore a Star of David pendant in remembrance of them.
From a local pawn shop is where Louis bought his first cornet and began to practice like crazy. At age 11, he dropped out of school and was sent to Warf's Home for firing his step-father's gun. The good that came from this was that Louis was able to join the Home's marching band and refine his ability. Every time the Warf's Home was included in a parade, the people from Louis' hometown would go out to see him because already by this time he surpassed many others at playing the cornet.
King Oliver was Louis' idol and he always longed to play with him. In 1918, Louis did get to join as part of what was called the "Great Migration" of New Orleans musicians leaving for bigger and better things. However he did stay behind for a few years when King Oliver moved to Chicago because Louis had a strong connection with New Orleans and for a long time refused to play gigs out of town. Once this changed however, Louis did move out to Chicago (but only stayed for two years) and during the summers would play on steamboats on the rivers.
Louis established what have now become three truths to jazz: jazz is a soloistic art form, the blues scale was essential to the music, and jazz has to swing. Louis didn't force these down the throats of other musicians though. These all became established by Louis becoming a master of each of these and those following him tried to emulate as much as they could. His solo construction, many would argue, has yet to be paralleled. His use of the blues scale was so flawless in that he could make you sit on the edge of your seat in anticipation simply through his choice of notes to play. As for his ability to swing, again, many say that his sense of time and rhythm has not been matched. His solo on Hotter Than That shows this. At times it feels as if Louis has lost the beat. But when he comes back in, it's extremely apparent that he has a complete total awareness of the beat. For every jazz musician, we strive to have a time feel as perfect as Louis'. It's been said that Louis taught the world how to swing. When I saw swing, it means to play a rhythm of two eighth notes as a dotted eighth and then a sixteenth note. Louis was flawless in his execution of this.
In 1925 he switched to the trumpet. Because Louis was already so popular by this time there was a large shift in people playing trumpet instead of cornet. By the 1930s Louis had definitely been established as a pop icon. In view of this, during the next 20 years or so he reverted back to smaller combos as opposed to bands of about 10 in order to get back to what the music was really about.
On top of everything else he brought to the table, he also introduced scat to the public's ears. The story behind this is up for debate, but interesting non-the-less. It has been said that during a recording session, his music fell off of the stand. Instead of starting the tune over again, Louis just sang what he would have played on his horn. So goes the story of the origin of scat singing.
Louis Armstrong passed away in June of 1971 due to a heart attack. At his funeral, the ballbearers consisted of Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. His legacy will most likely live on as long as jazz is around as a pioneer for so many standard tricks of the trade.
"If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." - Louis Armstrong