Favorable notices of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong are now appearing in such quantity that I’ve stopped trying to keep up with them. I did, however, take special note of Louis Bayard’s review in the Washington Post:
Maybe we need a half-century’s distance to see this gifted man without the filter of politics, to regard his grin not as an accommodation to the white world but as the distillation of his soul. In the end, true goodness may be the hardest quality to pin down, or to accept, in art, but that is what Armstrong’s music abounds in, even at its most commercial. He was, in Teachout’s lovely phrase, “a major-key artist,” whose “lavish generosity of spirit was part and parcel of his prodigal way of making music.” That prodigality is our gift, and Louis Armstrong, I am happy to report, is still grinning at us. Upon finishing this definitive life, the reader is instructed to flip to the discography, download every last song, listen and grin the hell back.
I was no less pleased by a review in the Seattle Times that made an equally important, insufficiently mentioned point about Pops:
To state the obvious: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong had a seminal role in the development of jazz. Wall Street Journal critic Teachout makes that case anew in this sympathetic, musically astute bio–but with none of the grinding axes marring some recent biographies of a revered trumpeter-singer called “Pops” by his fellow players.
I’ve also done a couple of dozen radio interviews about Pops in the past couple of weeks, with still more to come between now and the end of January. Two that I especially liked were aired by KUSC, the station of the University of Southern California, and WILL, the station of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Both are now available on line, and you can listen to them by going here and here.