As you listen to Louis Armstrong’s recording of Hotter Than That (1928), write down your thoughts. Describe what you are hearing, what instruments are playing and what they sound like. Use your own words. Musical jargon is not necessary. Pay particular attention to Armstrong’s trumpet solo. Describe the tone quality and how he moves from note to note (ie. does he jump around, are all the notes next to each other, does he play high or low or is he in the middle, etc.). Describe the rhythm. Tell the reader how the music makes you feel.
Then listen to Bix Beiderbecke’s recording of Singin’ the Blues (1927). Again, describe what you are hearing, this time paying particular attention to Beiderbecke’s cornet solo. Then compare the two recordings. Describe the differences in tone quality between the two brass soloists and the differences in the rhythmic approaches in the two recordings. Are there differences in the ranges used (high, low and middle notes) and the way the notes are connected (or not connected).
Jazz is often described as a mixture of African musical ideas and European musical ideas filtered through the American experience (see Chapter 3). Armstrong’s band was composed of all African-American musicians and Beiderbecke’s band was composed entirely of European-Americans. Therefore, I would like you also to describe in your discussion how either performance differs in the degree of influence of African and European musical ideas, if at all.
Finally, tell the reader which recording you liked better and why.