The Influence of Louis Armstrong
Check out this Louis Armstrong-inspired playlist, curated and annotated by Ricky Riccardi, the Louis Armstrong House Museum‘s archivist.
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Frank Sinatra & Count Basie, “Hello, Dolly!”
Frank Sinatra once said, ‘Louis Armstrong had a great effect on me’ in his formative years and he proved it on this 1964 tribute to Satchmo, backed by Count Basie’s Orchestra arranged by Quincy Jones!
Billie Holiday, “Them There Eyes”
Billie Holiday was always upfront about the influence of Louis Armstrong on her singing style, saying, ‘I think I copied my style from Louis Armstrong.’ Her 1939 recording of ‘Them There Eyes’ is a good example of Holiday phrasing a song just as Louis did in 1930.
Ella Fitzgerald, “Basin Street Blues”
Ella Fitzgerald once inscribed a photo to Louis Armstrong, ‘The greatest person I know.’ Armstrong’s impact on her singing can be felt on Ella’s 1949 recording of ‘Basin Street Blues,’ which even includes a chorus of Fitzgerald impersonating Satchmo himself.
Louis Prima, “Basin Street Blues/When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”
Louis Prima remains one of New Orleans’s favorite sons after Louis Armstrong. He based his singing and trumpet playing on Armstrong and paid direct tribute to Satchmo with this 1956 medley of two Armstrong favorites.
B. B. King, “Exactly Like You”
B. B. King might be known as ‘The King of the Blues’ but in 1995, he said, ‘You know, one of my mentors (God, I wish I could be more like him) was Louis Armstrong. I wish I could be the musician he was.’ Here’s King’s take on a song Armstrong recorded in 1930.
Jon Batiste, “St. James Infirmary”
New Orleans-born pianist Jon Batiste describes Louis Armstrong as, ‘One of my biggest musical heroes’ and even spent time in the Louis Armstrong Summer Camp as a youth. Here’s an up-to-date take on ‘St. James Infirmary,’ originally recorded by Armstrong in 1928.
Trombone Shorty, “Laveau Dirge No. 1”
Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews of New Orleans calls Louis Armstrong his ‘idol’ and like him, aims to fuse the sounds of jazz and pop in his riotous live appearances. He appears to have Armstrong on his mind with his trumpet work on this mournful tune from 2017.
Tom Waits, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
Besides their similarly gravel voices, Tom Waits admitted in 2002 that Armstrong was an influence, saying, ‘You can’t ignore the influence of someone like Louis Armstrong. He’s completely natural.’ Waits said this 2002 song ‘was an attempt to kinda tip my hat’ to him.
Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, “The Last Time”
No musician has done more for the legacy of Louis Armstrong than trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, but it might be a surprise that Eric Clapton once named Armstrong as ‘a huge influence.’ Here, Marsalis and Clapton team up on Armstrong’s 1927 tune, ‘The Last Time.’
Dr. John, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Nicholas Payton, “What a Wonderful World”
This soulful rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’ features Dr. John, who has said, ‘Louis Armstrong is my hero,’ plus one of Armstrong’s modern-day disciples, Nicholas Payton, who has referred to Armstrong as ‘the first pop star.’
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