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#2- Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues: Improvisation and the Blues


Dear listener,

Where to begin with such an influential piece of music. Michelle believes, “This is about the blues, the blues scale, the blues feel, blues style and form. It’s fundamentally what was groundbreaking about improvisation.”

Karl’s take? “It’s about classical cornet method meeting the rest of that stuff.”

They are of course referring to “West End Blues” written by King Oliver in 1928. By the time Oliver wrote “West End Blues,” his protege, Louis Armstrong, had formed a studio band that recorded as either the Hot Five or Hot Seven, depending on its size.

You may know Armstrong for some of his later hits like “Hello, Dolly” and “What a Wonderful World” but “West End Blues” will always hail as a mile marker in the evolution of jazz. For starters, its 15-second opening cadenza has become one of the most influential and hard-to-copy solos in jazz history.

Tune in to hear more music and ideas, brought to you by Online Great Books.

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