The spring rush continues. Last week I saw five plays, four of them in a row. This week I have two new musicals on my plate, Hot Feet
and The Drowsy Chaperone, and three deadlines to hit between now and Thursday. It’s all a bit much, frankly, but I’m staying afloat–and I even managed to finish editing the fifth chapter of Hotter Than That: A Life of Louis Armstrong in between last week’s shows.
Could I use a rest? You bet, and I’ve got one planned: I’ll be heading for one of my favorite undisclosed locations as soon as I file my last pre-Tony drama column, where I plan to spend a couple of uncomplicated days doing nothing even slightly gainful and thinking no theater-related thoughts. Until then, though, the joint will be jumping, so please continue to bear with me.
For the moment I’ll leave you with a freshly written snippet of Hotter Than That to chew on. See you tomorrow!
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In 1927 Aaron Copland, soon to emerge as America’s leading classical composer, declared that jazz might someday become “the substance not only of the American composer’s fox trots and Charlestons, but of his lullabies and nocturnes. He may express through it not always gaiety but love, tragedy, remorse.” But he later changed his mind, deciding that jazz “might have its best treatment from those who had a talent for improvisation.” By then the symphonic-jazz craze of which Copland was briefly among the most prominent exponents had started to dry up, and he had put his finger on the reason why. For jazz to reach its fullest expressive potential–as well as a truly popular audience–it would first need to find embodiment not in a composer, however gifted, but in a soloist of genius with a personality to match, a charismatic individual capable of meeting the untutored listener halfway.
Such a man existed, and there were those who had an inkling of his potential. When Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael first heard Louis Armstrong playing with the Creole Jazz Band in 1923, they were staggered. Carmichael set down his reaction in his memoirs: “‘Why,’ I moaned,