Within a few months, this "country boy" would begin releasing the most brilliant jazz records yet made (with Joe "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band). Never before had the world heard such hot trumpet playing, with stratospheric high notes and crying, blue-note phrases more eloquent than the human voice. The city's concentration of nightclubs, record companies, publishing houses and national radio broadcasts made him an international star.More than that, Armstrong's ascent put jazz music on the map for good. Jazz had started as a somewhat crude folk music in turn-of-the-century New Orleans; Armstrong's glorious Chicago recordings with his Hot Five and Hot Seven bands in the late 1920s transformed the music into a bona fide art form by giving it the vocabulary it needed to develop. His improvised vocals on "Heebie Jeebies" inaugurated the art of scat singing; his sublime improvisations in "West End Blues," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" and others established jazz forever as a soloist's art.
To be sure, Armstrong did not achieve this alone. The earlier migration of New Orleans musicians, including Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet, made the city a hothouse for new ideas in music. As early as the mid-1920s, the Austin High Gang--an informal group including cornetist Jimmy McPartland and tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman--began to transform the New Orleans sound. The Chicagoans' rhythms and big-city sound set the stage for the ascent of Benny Goodman, who had studied clarinet at Hull House and, by the late '30s, would be known as King of Swing.
But it was Armstrong who lit the fuse. From his breakthroughs came such Chicago contributions to jazz as Earl Hines' piano innovations at the Grand Terrace Ballroom in the '30s; Nat "King" Cole's revolutionary trio of the '40s; the South Side's tough-tenor tradition of saxophonists, including Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and Von Freeman; Sun Ra's "free jazz" musings with his Arkestra; and the birth, in 1965, of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which gave the world such innovators as Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill.