Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Louis Armstrong’s birthday

[“Closeup of jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong massaging his lips w. balm to keep them strong for playing his trumpet.” Photograph by John Loengard. New York, 1965. From the Life Photo Archive.]

Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901.
The plaudits will continue for some time yet. But the sift of time is unceasing: soon we shall be looking at Louis over a gap of five years, then ten. The books will come out (how about a selection of his letters?); the wilful tide of taste will turn. Armstrong will become as distant as [King] Oliver. What will the twenty-first century say of him?

Philip Larkin, “Armstrong’s Last Goodnight,” in All What Jazz: A Record Diary, 1961–1971 (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1985).
What indeed? It might say something like this:
Hello all,

This is the twenty-first century speaking. I am happy to report that Louis Armstrong’s music is alive and well in me. I shall now repair to my listening rooms, to listen.

Sincerely yours, &c.
[Armstrong used a salve made by the German trombonist Franz Schuritz. It became known as Louis Armstrong Lip Salve. The physical toll of Armstrong’s trumpet-playing is a grisly story; the index of Terry Teachout’s Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) has sixteen entries for “lip damage.” A book with letters, Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings (Oxford University Press) appeared in 2001. A book of Armstrong’s collages, Steven Brower’s Satchmo: The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong (Harry N. Abrams) appeared in 2009. Like Bird, Armstrong lives.]

A few Armstrong posts
Armstrong and Arlen, blues and weather
The day Louis Armstrong made noise
Invisible man: Louis Armstrong and the New York Times
Louis Armstrong’s advice
Louis Armstrong, collagist
On Louis Armstrong’s birthday (2010)
“Self-Reliance” and jazz

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