Louis Armstrong:el arte de la improvisación

LouisArmstrong¿Qué es el jazz? Si tienes que preguntarlo, nunca lo sabrás.

Louis Armstrong.

Dentro de la laberíntica historia del jazz hay muchos puntos de inflexión. Uno de los imprescindibles es la Creole Jazz Band de King Oliver, pues es justamente en este punto que el jazz comienza a tener una identidad propia separada del blues y de otro tipo de “música negra”. Si antes de la Creole se valoraba más la igualdad entre los miembros de una banda y una textura musical unificada, después de ella cobra mayor importancia el individualismo y la ruptura: la improvisación se convierte, pues, en la esencia del jazz.

Daniel Louis Armstrong nació el 4 de agosto de 1901, en el barrio pobre de Perdido, en Nueva Orleans. Cantó en su juventud en cabarets por cuestiones económicas. En ese tiempo fue alumno de corneta en la clase de Bunk Johnson, un cornetista reconocido en la ciudad. En 1913, el día de San Silvestre, Louis festeja balaceando al cielo con una pistola y es llevado a una casa de corrección llamada Waif’s House. Allí estudia una vez más corneta, aprende a leer música y se introduce en un pequeño grupo musical.

Al salir de la casa de corrección, Louis se pone a vender periódicos, luego a transportar carbón, después trabajó en una lechería, para actuar, posteriormente, como reemplazante en los conjuntos de danza de su ciudad: al final se hizo músico de jazz.

Si se tuviera que ubicar a Louis Armstrong dentro de la línea histórica del jazz, que bien podría ser un nudo, sin duda alguna debemos hacerlo después del quiebre que realizara la Creole de King Oliver en los albores del siglo XX. Satchmo, abreviación de su apodo: Satchmouth, además de tener una excepcional técnica, fue un extraordinario improvisador, tanto con la trompeta como con el scat de su voz ronca.

No obstante, la improvisación de Armstrong estaba muy lejos de ser una mera variación o interpretación arbitraria sobre la marcha. La improvisación del jazz que nos hereda Louis Armstrong es la perfecta integración, en un solo instante, entre el instinto de azar rector y la maestría en la ejecución. Así le ocurre, por ejemplo, en la época del segundo Hot Five (1928-1929), en piezas como Skip The Gutter, West End Blues y la admirable Tigh Like This; y más tarde, en los dúos con Ella Fitzgerald en Cheek To Cheek (1956), el uso de la voz y el scat alcanza su mayor esplendor.

Armstrong murió en 1971 en Nueva York, no obstante regaló al jazz una voz propia que no ha muerto y que sigue influyendo en los músicos de jazz contemporáneos.

AM/RL

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