Comparative Analysis Of Leon Bix Beiderbecke And Louis Armstrong

Over the years, jazz has become increasingly popular due to the influence of key figures in the music industry. Louis Armstrong and Leon Bix Beiderbecke both had distinct styles that influenced generations of musicians. Beiderbecke had an important role in jazz history, but Armstrong came from a completely different background. Their styles and popularity were influenced by their differences.

Both artists came from very different backgrounds that shaped them. Bix Beiderbecke grew up in a German-speaking middle class family from Davenport, Iowa. Beiderbecke’s ability to play piano was evident at an early age. In his early musical training, his mother exposed him to French composers Maurice Ravel & Claude Debussy. These influences would be evident in his later musical works. Beiderbecke was inspired to learn the cornet when he heard Armstrong on the riverboat. Beiderbecke began to learn to play with recordings of The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Beiderbecke found music to be a temptation that he could not resist in his early years. The music would eventually cause him to miss school. Bix’s parents were not so infatuated by his love of music and decided to send him to a Chicago preparatory school. This was seen as an effective way to break his habit. Ironically, they chose Chicago because it was a hub for jazz and he would continue to love the music. Bix was expelled shortly after for sneaking off to listen to music by heavyweights such as Joe “King” Oliver and Armstrong. Bix had to join a band sooner or late. The first one he joined was The Wolverine Orchestra. Bix became famous as a cornetist for two orchestras. First, there is the Jean Goldkette orchestra. Beiderbecke made his name in two orchestras. The first was Paul Whiteman. Beiderbeckes was a short-lived man, as his problems with alcohol would lead to him dying from alcohol-related lung pneumonia. Beiderbecke’s legacy will live on long after his short life.

Louis Armstrong grew up in a very different environment than Beiderbecke. Armstrong was brought up in a boys’ home in New Orleans’s poorest region. Armstrong’s first serious forays into music would take place at this boys home. His life would be forever changed. Peter Davis, who was the music instructor at the home, encouraged Armstrong’s musical talent to blossom by encouraging him to join his boys’ homeband. Joe Oliver was impressed by Armstrong’s raw talent. Oliver was an acclaimed New Orleans cornetist and took Armstrong as his protégé, realizing his potential. Armstrong joined Oliver’s band soon after and went on to Chicago – the Jazz Mecca. Armstrong’s career took off in Chicago when he began playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. He even recorded Dippermouth Blues as a tribute to the smile he was known for. Armstrong decided to take a different direction and create his own band Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five & Hot Seven. Armstrong played and led bands into the late 1960s. He died of a heartattack in 1971 while sleeping. Armstrong’s sad death shows how important music was in his young life. He played the horn from a very early age and he kept it near him until he reached his sixties. The legacy of his music will continue as a tribute. Armstrong’s legacy will continue to live on as a tribute to his love for music.

Both musicians left a lasting impression on Jazz, with styles that influenced generations to follow. Armstrong’s hot jazz style was described by many as Beiderbecke’s cool jazz style. Their music would be defined by many factors that made it unique. Armstrong preferred the high and middle registers on his cornet, with a strong brassy tone. Armstrong’s full-bodied cornet sound comes from this control. Armstrong’s rhythm evolved from the early ragtime beat, incorporating swinging eight-note patterns as well as syncopated patterns that gave the music its swinging quality. Armstrong also had a unique singing style that he developed after an incident occurred during recording Heebie Jeebies. Armstrongs’s member of the band compared it to a wildfire, causing scats singing. The controversy that began soon turned into admiration for his work. Armstrong’s improvisational style, which would forever change jazz music, is perhaps his most important contribution. Armstrong broke away from New Orleans’ traditional group improvisations and popularized solo improvisation. Solo improvisation showed that a thoughtful, solo performance could be as powerful as a group’s. Armstrong was a great soloist, as evidenced by his double-time solo breaks and high note endings. Armstrong’s solo-improvisational style was soon to be seen as the future for jazz. Louis Armstrong became a legend because of his outstanding musical ability and willingness to experiment outside the jazz mold. Armstrong set new rules for music, proving that it didn’t need to be defined by traditional rhythmic patterns and group improvisations.

Beiderbecke had a unique toolkit for jazz. He was a very different player from Armstrong and possessed radically different technique and formal training. Beiderbecke’s lack a formal training in cornet playing was what really defined his style. He favored lower register ranges as well as unorthodox technique. Beiderbecke’s cool and bluesy sound was a result from this kind of cornet style. While Armstrong had a more advanced technical level, Beidebecke was able to demonstrate a greater understanding of advanced harmonic thinking. This came from his understanding impressionist techniques used by composers Ravel & Debussy. Beiderbecke’s rhythmic style was not as advanced, despite his harmonic advancement. Leon Bix Beiderbecke’s opportunity to showcase his unique musical approach and to contrast Armstrong was given by playing with Paul Whitmans orchestra. One player compared the sound of his music to “pearls in velvet”. Beiderbecke was the other side of Armstrong. Both are jazz lovers and, while Armstrong is often credited as the trailblazer of jazz, Beiderbecke has developed a unique style.

Beiderbecke lived and worked in an era of racial tensions, civil rights activism, and social movements. Armstrong, who was born in 1878 and lived until 1939, was not only a musician for the African American community but also “America’s beloved grandpa jazz” with his gravelly voice. The Afro-Americans regarded him as a symbol of status, and he became a fixture in the United States because of his jazz career. White audiences viewed him as a fantastic jazz musician, while black audiences saw him as a powerful and poised figure. Armstrong’s idealistic image was not universally shared. Kopkind was a New Orleans-based journalist who once said in a paper that Armstrong “occupies a special place among Negroes all over the country as a success symbol, culture hero, and an racial excuse”. Armstrong’s role as a black symbol was not universally accepted. Some people praised him for his efforts to represent black people, while others criticised him. It was also because he played for mostly white audiences in the world during the Civil Rights Movement. Armstrong was subjected to a lot of racism in his life, and even by police. Armstrong even once found himself on the scene of an explosion during a tour. Armstrong said, “I played the horns in 44 years without any trouble”. Armstrong picked his battles wisely. When he heard that some thought he supported whites, Armstrong responded by saying “I never socialize with society’s top dogs after a performance or a dance ,”…. “These people can lynch Negros around the block.” Armstrong loved his music. He wasn’t as much of a pioneer for racial issues as some wanted him to be, but he did seem to unite the two sides. Armstrong’s success as a singer was due to the fact that he straddled an extremely thin line, and was perceived as both a status sign by each side.

Bix Beiderbecke’s career was not as successful as Louis Armstrong’s, partly because no one was rooting for him. Beiderbecke was a brilliant musician for a very short time, but his career paled compared to Armstrong. Armstrong played at sold-out shows all over the world during his longer career. Armstrong was known all over the world by the time he died. Beiderbecke did not have the opportunity to play in so many countries.

Louis Armstrong’s music and that of Leon “Bix”, Beiderbecke, was almost entirely different. Their unique styles would inspire many musicians. Armstrong was more popular than Beiderbecke in the jazz world, and both had large followings. Armstrong would be so popular, whereas Bix is still a mystery. These two jazz greats showed the future of jazz and inspired many more generations.


  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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