First Session – 1901 – 1924 – The Early Career
This first session will set the scene for Louis Armstrong’s remarkable life, starting with his rich early years growing up in New Orleans. Armstrong’s early musical influences–from King Oliver to Enrico Caruso–will also be discussed. Eventually, Armstrong conquers Chicago with Oliver and New York with Fletcher Henderson and eventually, conquers the world with his first recordings.
Second Session – 1925-1928 – The Hot Fives and Sevens
The most vaunted recordings in jazz history! In addition to examining masterpieces such as “Cornet Chop Suey” and “Potato Head Blues,” Riccardi will also showcase Armstrong’s budding showmanship and comedic nature on these recordings, as well as examining the trumpeter’s performing life in Chicago during this period. This session will climax with Armstrong’s historic 1928 recordings with pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines.
Third Session – 1929-1934 – The Big Band Years
After becoming a hit on Broadway, Armstrong begins touring with big bands, all the while turning pop songs into future standards with his series of recordings for OKeh and Victor in this period. In a few short years, he completely changes the way people sing and solo on the songs that would eventually turn into the “Great American Song Book.”
Fourth Session – 1935-1949 – Decca Years and Birth of the All Stars
As jazz become’s America’s popular music in the Swing Era, Armstrong hits new peaks of popularity appearing in films, on the radio and on a series of recordings for Decca that found him teaming up with everyone from Sidney Bechet to a group of Hawaiian musicians. But after World War II, the big band era comes to an end, allowing Armstrong to form a small combination, the All Stars.
Fifth Session – 1950-1960 – Ambassador Satch
As “Ambassador Satch,” Armstrong hits new peaks of popularity in the 1950s with his recordings for Columbia, Decca and Verve, including landmark albums such as “Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy,” “Satch Plays Fats,” “Ella and Louis” and “Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography.” Beloved oversees, Armstrong also starts taking hits from musicians and critics for being soft on racial issues, something he silences by putting his career on the line to vent about Little Rock in 1957.
Sixth Session – 1961-1971 – Good Evening Everybody
Armstrong continues having hit records like “Hello, Dolly” and “What a Wonderful World,” while battling failing health, fading chops and the abandonment of much of his African-American audience. Through all of his ailments, he heroically continues to perform until his death at home in 1971.