Harlem Renaissance

Casey Eweroke and Josh Colon

Louis Armstrong

One of the most famous musicians of the Harlem Renaissance was Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong was invited to move to Chicago in 1922 to play the second cornet in a Creole Jazz Band. Two years later, Armstrong moved to New York City and began playing his music with the FLetcher Henderson Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. In 1929, he made his first appearance on the Broadway stage. He is also famous for his unique voice. He often improvised while singing with random syllables or sometimes without words. This was called scat singing. Singers used this technique to imitate instrumental solos. He influenced and created a new kind of Jazz with his recordings.

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith was the most popular and successful female singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and an important influence on other african american singers. Smith defied racial barriers through the force of her strong personality and self-confidence in her work. Smith started as an exceptional blues singer at a time that was around the time of the commercial recording industry. Smith's notorious private life contributed to the glamorizing of self-destructive behavior often associated with jazz, blues, and rock performers to the present day. Smith's drinking, violent temper , and predatory sexual life involving both men and women were boundary breaking, even by the standards of free-living musicians of the Roaring Twenties.

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington is one of the best jazz artists in American history. In 1917 Ellington formed his first band, called "The Duke’s Serenaders", which played in dance halls in the Washington D.C. area. Ellington came to New York when jazz started as the most popular musical style of the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz included a lot of improvisation. Ellington noticed the change in musical styles and tastes and attracted to the Washingtonians some of the greatest jazz musicians in the country. The Washingtonians including Bubber Miley, Trick Sam Nanton, Harry Carney, and Johnny Hodges. He also wrote music that fit each player’s style. By 1927 the Washingtonians played at Harlem nightspots like the Club Kentucky, the Exclusive Club, the Plantation Club, and most importantly, the Cotton Club. When they played at the Cotton Club, people began to hear more of his music. In 1931 Ellington’s all-African American band went on the road playing jazz shows across the United States and even Europe. They recorded albums and appeared in movies.