Hot Jazz vs Cool Reflective Music

The lightness, easiness, vigor, and optimism of jazz music amaze many listeners worldwide. Louis Armstrong and Leon Bismark Beiderbecke, known as “Bix,” are the outstanding representatives of the jazz age. The composition of orchestral music encompassing wind instruments with loud and jolly melodies reflects the entertaining atmosphere of this age. Although the social conditions in the USA changed after the Great Depression, jazz penetrated the hearts of listeners. Yet, the differences in living conditions impacted the composition of music and the way musicians performed melodies and songs. Social peculiarities and personal experience made Louis Armstrong more outstanding than Bix Beiderbecke. Nevertheless, Beiderbecke’s contribution to the development of jazz was significant as well. Louis Armstrong’s and Bix Beiderbecke’s works reveal their world outlook and represent the result of the direct impact of their living conditions upon their creativity.

Bix Beiderbecke’s Musical Background

Inborn talents of numerous musicians found its reflection in jazz music. Many bands accepted musical professionals such as Bix Beiderbecke. Jazz music established its fashion, and its growing popularity made the show business of that time. Still, the problem of racial discrimination because of the presence of numerous nationalities and the mixture of mentalities mattered in the sphere of music. African Americans’ extraordinary talents and musical as well as composing abilities made black representatives more popular compared to the whites (Byrne and Allen 85). The determination not to play jazz music at college balls is the reason for viewing jazz as the music of African Americans. The growing problem of social inequality and the changes that followed 1930 and further years greatly influenced racial groups living in the USA.

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The American people living in the competitive and changing material world and suffering tremendous losses of human lives needed motivation not to abandon hope. The new epoch of Romanticism promoted the growing popularity of jazz (Davis 219). That is why jazz music composed by Bix Beiderbecke represents the mixture of talent, understanding, and feeling of joy penetrating the minds and hearts of all listeners regardless of their race, age, and social background (“Bix Beiderbecke: The Happy Summer;” Jazz n’Blues Experience). Admirers of music did not regard Bix Beiderbecke as the representative of white race and viewed his music as the masterpiece of composing, form, and structure.

The musical background of Bix Beiderbecke is based on good schooling. Although his works were not as popular as those of Louis Armstrong, his impact remained strong after World War II. Beiderbecke’s music education and his “cool” reflective tone in music bore similarity to classics (“Bix Beiderbecke Played with Lyric Beauty and Had a Different Influence than Louis Armstrong”). Europe impacted his creativity and established his unique style later regarded as “cool” and “reflective” jazz. The classical music education and musician’s ability to feel music like Europeans made his composing linear and soft. Born in 1903 and raised in the middle-class family, the boy was a dreamer and his character influenced his music career. He was a lazy student, and his teachers had to make efforts to awaken his talents. The musician’s character later became the reason for his inability to overcome his problems with alcohol. He was not a down-to-earth person. Such personalities tend to experience more emotions and pain. That is why the crisis that stroke in 1929-1930 led to alcoholism and caused his untimely death in 1930 (“Bix Beiderbecke Played with Lyric Beauty and Had a Different Influence than Louis Armstrong”). Nick LaRocca, the cornet player of the Dixieland Jazz band, proved to be influential and determined Bix Beiderbecke’s style. Nevertheless, the musician’s character, lifestyle, and possibilities also influenced his creativity and life in general.

Louis Armstrong and His Musical Background

Social environment and the conditions of the upbringing of future celebrities determine their personality and ability to achieve success. The lack of schooling and natural motivation was peculiar to Louis Armstrong who grew in poverty. Unlike Bix Beiderbecke, his personality was completely different as harsh conditions of survival made the boy become down-to-earth without ever imagining that he could become the influential individual in the jazz world.

Born into a very poor family in 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the future jazz musician grew without his father (“Louis Armstrong Biography”). Louis had to leave school to support his family and work as a street singer. The boy managed to earn a living. The Jewish family, the Karnofskys, liked Louis for his inborn talent for singing. After some time, his mother got married for the second time. The boy’s stepfather could not become his family. On one New Year’s Eve, the boy was arrested for firing his stepfather’s gun. The colored Waif’s Home for Boys became the place of his music education as the teachers admired his talent for playing the cornet. In spite of hardships, the boy continued to play and develop his talent. As a result, he became respected and liked by his friends and teachers. His diligence, socialization, and will to survive and struggle for better living impacted his future life. Out of the home, he started playing music with some bands and by 1910, he became the popular jazz musician.

The “hot” style of his music is rather energetic. No matter what the idea the song or melody conveys, Louis Armstrong’s performance fills it with new strength. His stable status of a skillful musician helped him to travel around Europe after moving to Los Angeles in 1930. He managed to avoid the crisis, gained new impressions, and promoted the development and popularity of jazz music worldwide.

“Hot Jazz” by Louis Armstrong vs. “Cool Reflective” Music by Leon Bismark Beiderbecke

During the jazz age, there were some renowned people who impacted music trends. The long music career, social tendencies, and changing interests of different inhabitants of America required unification. Movie industries started to produce pictures about jazz music. Some Like It Hot is among the most outstanding movies that proved the high popularity of jazz among the white population. Still, the beginnings of jazz music and undeniable leadership in the development of jazz belong to such composers and musicians as Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke.

Taking into account the contribution of musical works by Louis Armstrong, many people consider him to be the leader in jazz music development. In particular, in his study of Armstrong’s impact, Patrick Hughes regards the musician as the initiator and leader of “hot” jazz music. Analyzing Louis Armstrong’s life, the writer uses the systems approach to the composer’s personality and arranging work with people and situational context, “ However, there are times when leadership emerges and is it not until after close examination of the situation a leader is recognized” (Hughes 236).

The sounds of pipes crashing in the orchestra make listeners feel passion. At the same time, such music style was peculiar to singing in churches, thus, the moral component and the righteousness of the religious understanding became peculiar to Armstrong’s works as well. The outstanding usage of religious verses from the Bible as well as the idea of enslavement, which was important and painful for African Americans, found their reflection in his famous song “Let My People Go” (1958). The demonstration of music variation in combining voices with wind instruments reflects the pain and suffering simplified by modern music. The listener perceives the extract from Exodus and understands the need for freedom of the people of Israel admiring the beauty of the combined voices (Teachout 165). In spite of heart attack in 1959, the composer created such nice works as “Hello, Dolly” (1969) and sang “What a Wonderful World” (1967). Satchmo Plays King Oliver is the only movie made by the composer (“Louis Armstrong Film, Studio Recordings Discovered”).

Unlike Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke had the significant impact on the development of “cool” jazz music. His life, creative works, and composing remain the issue of profound scientific interests of numerous specialists. Though the musician died young, his impact mattered in the jazz world in 1920-1930. The influence of his “cool” style remained profound even after World War II. Smooth, gentle, and beautiful “cool” jazz represents the reverse side of the style. Melodic flows combined with relaxing rhythm also awaken the feeling of calm and equilibrium. As romantic tendencies were peculiar to the music of the 1920s, the entertaining character of Bix Beiderbecke’s music remained obvious (“Jazz n’Blues Experience).

The cool manner of performance peculiar to Bix Beiderbecke went beyond jazz music. The 28-year-old musician attempted to play different keyboard instruments and experimented in his style during his last years. Disregarded during his youth and underestimated in 1920-1930, Bix Beiderbecke managed to gain appreciation posthumously. His admirers survived the war and experienced the hardships of restoring. Knowing the value of life and understanding the disasters of war helped listeners to value the impact of Bix Beiderbecke.

The available data on Bix Beiderbecke’s life still lacks the proof that his impact was as profound as that of Louis Armstrong. Racial differences between the composers also represented Beiderbecke as the unusual individual presenting the music unfamiliar to the whites. The rapid rhythm of “hot” jazz and slow music of “cool” compositions represent the unity within the style by showing the opposite way of presenting feelings. Numerous concerts and emotions that Beiderbecke delivered to his listeners are remarkable and unique. This person greatly promoted the development of jazz. The romanticism of Beiderbecke’s individuality lies in the dream-like character of his music compared to vigorous emotions aroused by Louis Armstrong. The disappointment and dissatisfaction with further events of Great Depression broke many creative personalities, among which was Bix Beiderbecke.


The social conditions of 1920-1930 represent the stark contrast between prosperity and poverty. The interwar period in the USA gave birth to many literary and music works reflecting the reaction of various people with different mentalities who witnessed numerous historic events and arranged their living within one country. The optimism of jazz music rooted in the American desire for freedom, hopefulness, and fraternity.

Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke show the way jazz music should be performed and created. Both musicians made a tremendous contribution during the jazz age. Their works remain popular today as well. The spirit of jazz lives in the American society as well as global music development and embodies the constant feeling of happiness, holiday, and joy. The leading position of Louis Armstrong owing to the number of his creative works in spite of health problems proves that he dedicated his life to making music. The romantic character of Bix Beiderbecke’s works is also respected and admired by many listeners throughout the world.

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