Pioneers of the Jazz Avant-Garde​

The Importance of Mentorship in the Black Community

Soon after blues and ragtime made their debut from the deltas of the Mississippi, Chicago, Detroit and NYC, jazz emerged from the bayous of New Orleans. Louis Armstrong, born and raised in Louisiana during 1901, had an esteemed calling at an early age. He purchased his first brass instrument at the age of 10 with funds saved from working a low wage job. His childhood and adolescent years were muddy waters; neighborhood violence, economic hardship, and social injustices experienced from simply being a young black man in America. Although the obstacles were deemed as daunting, Armstrong somehow morphed into a lungfish. He bang to learn how to professionally play the cornet from his detention center teacher, Peter Davis. After being released from the Waifs’ Home for Colored Boys, Armstrong ran into his lifelong mentor and friend: Joe “King” Oliver. Two small acts of advocacy and mentorship from Oliver and Davis truly changed the world as it formally was. Specifically, these two men played an influential role in catalyzing the Jazz Age through Louis Daniel Armstrong. Peter Davis was a vital man in the black community of New Orleans, being a seasoned musician from World War I, he often volunteered and taught other young black men how to play instruments which ranged from the piano to the trombone. Also in Oliver’s case, his apprentice Armstrong was brought to Chicago to play second cornet in the Creole Jazz Band because there was a certain brilliance that radiated from Louis Armstrong. In the black community, there is a high prevalence of elitism, colorist, and classism in the contemporary landscape now. Then, most worked hard, especially elders, to ensure the youth could succeed with the resources and opportunities they had available. The advocacy of mentors for young black children to excel in the arts, humanities, and sciences is illustrated so vividly amongst Armstrong and his mentors. If it were not for their contributions to guide him into becoming a renown musician and a man, the so-called “Jazz avant-garde” would have not played a critical role in creating the actual roar of the 20’s to come. 

(Pictured – Far right: King Oliver, Middle: Peter Davis and Louis Armstrong, Below: Louis Armstrong)

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