As we continue on with songs that I’ve used fragments of in my videos, we come to Louis Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World.” When I was younger, I loved the song. Now it kind of makes me sad. I do love his voice and there are times that I quite agree with the lyrics of the song. The world is wonderful in many ways and we need to remember that and be grateful.
Just the same, I don’t like the fact that even for people my age, Louis Armstrong is only “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello, Dolly!” Armstrong was, in fact, one of the most important figures in the development of jazz. I understand: that New Orleans jazz music can sound dated. But try to listen to it fresh. It sounds amazingly modern. And when they go crazy, you hear counterpoint that you won’t hear on Top 40 radio.
Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
I want to highlight Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. The band consisted of Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Johnny St Cyr on guitar/banjo, Lil Hardin Armstrong (Louis Armstong’s wife at the time) on piano. All of them are legends in their own right. One thing that comes across really well in all those Hot Five recordings is that it is a collaboration. Sure, Louis Armstrong is the star, but they are making music together that is incredibly pleasing, and so much more interesting than most popular music that came before.
There’s a curious structure to the arrangements too. The piano and the banjo work as a team, but interestingly, mostly it is the banjo that holds things down. Lil Armstrong gets to play a lot around what St Cyr is doing. Similarly, the horn players act as a unit. It’s lovely to listen to. Here’s Lil Armstrong’s song “Droppin’ Shucks.”