A man who played from his heart, born in the delta city of New Orleans, Louisiana, Daniel Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1900-1971) grew up to the sounds of ragtime. Hailed as the most influential jazz musician of all time, his trumpet and voice were magnificent.
"My whole life has been happiness," he said. "Through all the misfortunes... Life was there for me and I accepted it."
Born poor in the vieux carre (old quarter), he was raised on the rough streets. Music saved his life. By age six, Armstrong was the tenor of a quartet that sang on the streets for tips. He earned enough money to buy his first cornet it 1915.
Ten years later the world of jazz music was forever changed when Armstrong began his most important series of records, the Hot Fives, named for the small-group sessions between 1925-1928.
A genius who knew the beat, Armstrong created the (soon-to-be standard) 4/4 "swing" tempo. In turning jazz into a soloist's craft, he defined the theme-solos-theme format and became an international legend.
"Never play a thing the same way twice," said the artist who followed his instincts and recorded his improvisational song Heebie Jeebies, which introduced listeners to scat.
"Louis Armstrong invented a new style of playing," explained musician Wynton Marsalis. "He created the coherent solo, fused the sound of the blues with the American popular song, (and) extended the range of the trumpet... Everybody on every instrument tried to play like him."
Armstrong had a wide smile that radiated passion. With delight, he made jazz an art form and celebrated life with his music. He observed, "Musicians don't retire; they stop when there's no more music in them."
"Each man has his own music bubbling up inside," the great man said. "When I blow I think of time and things out of the past that give me an image of the tune...What you hear from a man's horn is what he is."
"If ya ain't got it in ya, ya can't blow it out," he said.
Play from the heart.