There probably is no such thing as a definitive biography of anyone, but Terry Teachout’s Pops is likely to remain indispensable to any and all seeking to understand trumpeter extraordinaire Louis Armstrong.
Teachout looks at the jazzman through the lens of his art, which provides the clearest view of the man, for if anyone ever lived by his art it was Armstrong. He may have been “deserted by his father when he was born, raised by a part-time prostitute, and sentenced at the age of eleven to the Colored Waif’s Home, an orphanage-like reform school” in New Orleans, but he ended up lying in state at the Seventh Avenue Armory on New York’s Park Avenue, where 25,000 people filed past his coffin.
The thread running through this “epic journey from squalor to immortality” is the music–and the marvel of Teachout’s book is the way in which his descriptions of that music illuminate the life….
By the way, I agree wholeheartedly with the first half of the first sentence.
• Flavorwire calls Pops “a stunning new portrait of one of America’s most familiar yet enigmatic figures.” My young friends say it’s a very hip place to be, so hooray for middle-aged me!
• I’m departing shortly for WOR’s studios to appear on Joey Reynolds’ WOR talk show at eleven p.m. ET. If you’re in the New York area, tune us in at 710 on your AM dial. If not, you can listen in streaming audio by going here.