My ArtsJournal confrere Terry Teachout is writing a biography of Louis Armstrong. If you have read his big biography of H.L. Mencken and his small one of George Balanchine, you know that Terry is a superb chronicler of lives. He is also a skilled musician who understands from the standpoint of musical technique as well as from a cultural perspective why Armstrong was a truly great man. Those qualities of literary and musical accomplishment have coexisted in only one previous Armstrong biographerâ€”Armstrong himself. When TT told me over lunch nearly three years ago about the project, I instantly filled with anticipation that grew today as I read the long interview with Terry by Joe Maita on the Jerry Jazz Musician site. Here is a small excerpt:
JJM : In 1944, Leonard Feather wrote, “Americans, unknowingly, live part of every day in the house that ‘Satch’ built.” Can this still be said?
TT: Yes, it is still true, although today, people are influenced by people who were influenced by Louis, rather than, for the most part, being influenced by him first-hand. To an extent that most people just don’t get, Armstrong created the way that jazz sounds. He didn’t invent jazz, of course, but he set the parameters within which it operates, and had an influence on every other kind of American popular music too. The house that we live in, the house that Louis built, is a rhythmic house. Our idea of what it means to swing is, to a great extent, his doing.
To read the entire interview, go here.