November 28, 2009
BOOK REVIEW: 'Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong' by Terry Teachout: Satchmo loved to tape parts of his life. That record infuses 'Pops,' a new biography of the jazz great. (Scott Martelle, November 29, 2009, LA Times)
Reporting from New York - In 1947, jazz great Louis Armstrong got himself a new gadget -- a tape recorder, fresh out on the consumer market. It was a big, boxy machine that he set up in concert halls and jazz joints to record his six-piece All Stars so he could listen to each show in his hotel room and thin out the weak spots for the next gig.
Before long, however, this work tool became a plaything -- and, a couple of generations later, a treasure trove for Terry Teachout, author of the new and compelling biography "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong" [...]
While the tapes have been available to scholars since 2002, Teachout is the first biographer to make full use of them, says Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, N.Y. And although Teachout says the tapes don't contain any major revelations, they infuse "Pops" with the insights of an eavesdropper.
"Armstrong, although he was very self-aware, was also a very unself-conscious man," Teachout says in his art-filled apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "He knew what he was. He knew he was a very important figure in the history of American art. And so he saved everything that he could. But in making these tapes, he's entirely unself-conscious. He just records parts of his life. . . . He is the only major jazz musician who has left behind a very large volume of documents of this kind."
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2009 6:38 AM