The Story Of...West End Blues
The defining characteristic of most popular music of the 20th century is commonly termed the groove. You can hear it in almost all musical styles – from swing to rock, from soul to hip hop - and it’s marked by a shift away from the formal, steady beat of marching bands to a more lilting one in which the rhythm seems to sway either slightly behind or just ahead of the dominant beat. More formally known as ‘modern time,’ it’s the beat that makes music ‘swing’ – it’s as ubiquitous today as electricity or the sound of the engine – and it was defined by jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
It's an extraordinary thing to be responsible for, but for Louis Armstrong, who died 50 years ago this month, it is but one of a series of musical firsts that define him as the outstanding genius of 20th century music. No other musician has done more to shape, refine and perfect a musical genre the way Armstrong did Jazz - and in so doing he also helped lay the cornerstone for every genre that bloomed out of jazz - rhythm & blues, soul and rock n' roll.
And he did it all in a relatively short space of time - despite a career that lasted some 60-plus years. But his work in the 1920s and early 1930s is the highpoint of his creative genius - including a track he recorded in 1928, West End Blues.