Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A book review

In case you haven't read my review on, here's what I wrote about Terry Teachout's new book, Pops, which is about Louis Armstrong. Teachout is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal who doesn't write specifically about jazz, but often touches on the world of jazz in his cultural musings column, Sightings. This book was really interesting, had a lot of previously unpublished photos, and was a really keen look at the inside of the jazz world in its formative years. The sections about Louis and Miles Davis are strangely compelling and scary (they didn't get along), but cast in the light of one generation leading to another, jazz fans will see they should be thankful for both of these trumpet greats in the context in which they played and developed their own music. Anyway, it's a very good book and I highly recommend it to any jazz aficionados looking for a good way to kill a few hours of free time over the coming holidays.

"Among regular contributors to the Wall Street Journal, there are a number of jazz writers who are almost legendary in the jazz world. That makes this book by Wall Street Journal columnist Terry Teachout all the more extraordinary, as Mr. Teachout is not specifically a jazz critic. Although his "Sightings" column has been known to cover many jazz subjects, one wouldn't necessarily expect the level of scholarship and depth that Mr. Teachout achieves with "Pops". But for me, what makes this book so good is that he is able to relate the life of Louis Armstrong through the music that Louis made. Not only the when and where, but the who and the why are covered in no small detail. (If you are a fan of Armstrong or jazz and don't have his recordings, you can pick up something like The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings to listen to the songs that Mr. Teachout documents so well.) It makes for fascinating reading (and listening), and yet, the information is contains is enough to qualify it as a textbook on jazz history. Anyone who reads this book will definitely come away with a great respect and awe for Mr. Armstrong, but that reader will no doubt also have a better light shining into the dark closet of jazz that allows him to see the evolution of the music as well as the development of some of the legendary jazz performers (and producers, and wanna-be's) of Armstrong's time. Being "late to jazz" as I am, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do to learn more about jazz music and history, but after reading this book, I feel like I not only caught up, but I might be ahead of quite a few individuals as well. Anybody who is looking for an interesting biography, or a window onto the world of music entertainment in the 20th century, or of course, jazz, would do good to buy and read this book. Mr. Teachout has written a great book that I'm sure will be enjoyed by many."

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