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74 THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
of Emmett Hardy". The latter, who played on the Mississippi riverboats with clarinetist Leon Rappolo, died in 1925 at the age of 22 but undoubtedly was Beiderbecke's informal teacher and influence.
Similarly the style of Louis Armstrong in his early years owed much to his apprenticeship with Oliver. Armstrong reached his peak with a superb series of recordings with a small band in 1928-9. During the 1930s, backed by a big band whose saxophone section he tried to model after that of his favorite orchestra, Guy Lombardo's (the influence is unmistakably present on a number of records), Louis began to play more commercially and to aim his high-note finales and comedy effects at an ever wider audience; but to this day, in his more sincere moments, Louis retains the qualities that endeared him to musicians and led other trumpet players in the 1920s to imitate not only his playing but even his walk, his speech and personal mannerisms, just as other young trumpeters twenty years later followed the behavior patterns of Gillespie. Armstrong's greatness lay in the purity and beauty of his tone, his ability to sustain notes with an exquisitely controlled vibrato, his subtle use of syncopation and rubato, his faculty for combining a basic simplicity of approach with an unremittingly swinging beat. One should no sooner look to Armstrong for harmonic complexity, for brilliant cascades of sixteenth notes against a rapidly changing chord pattern, than to a Palestrina Mass for the intricately fragmented motifs, the dissonances and complexities of Schoenberg. Armstrong's limitations are his strength; it is no mere nostalgia that has preserved, for thirty years, the beauty inherent in records that have little else to offer by any standards.
Louis today, as a man who has passed from the epicenter of jazz into the world of popular entertainment, is a figure in whom, at intervals, the embers of jazz still are occasionally rekindled. He is at once the king and the court jester; the majesty of his tone and phrasing make endurable the long intermissions for clowning and comedy vocals.
Of Armstrong's contemporaries, a few others have withstood the test of time; the late Joe Smith, according to the evidence of his records with Bessie Smith and Fletcher Henderson, could