LOUIS ARMSTRONG by Louis Armstrong


In His Own Words
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These writings from jazz great Louis Armstrong swing with the same warmth, rhythms, and inventive phrasing that made his music so popular. Armstrong toured with a typewriter and used it often for journals, writing letters to friends or strangers, and supplying reporters with material about his life. Eavesdropping backstage on Armstrong and his bandmates would make worthwhile reading for any jazz fan or historian, regardless of Armstrong’s ability as a writer. But Armstrong writes well, in a style completely his own. Editor Brothers provides context and insight through short introductions to each piece. But he has a deep respect for Armstrong and has interfered as little as possible with his idiosyncratic writing. Armstrong developed a unique usage of quotation marks, commas, dashes, and underscoring that gives the writing its rhythm. In a letter to his manager, Joe Glaser, he writes “I—Just, Love, Your, Checks, in, My POCKETS——OH— They look so pretty, until, I hate like hell to cash them.” Armstrong uses jazz argot, much of it now assimilated into the language, translating when he thinks it necessary: “Here’s how we were busted (arrested to you) . . .” Of some sharp sight-reading musicians he writes, —They might read a Fly Speck, if it get in the way.” The collection covers Armstrong’s entire life, from his poor beginnings in New Orleans to his heyday in Chicago to his last years in Corona, New York. But the most compelling reading comes from Armstrong on his passions for music, —gage— (marijuana), and laxatives. He even signed a telegram to President Eisenhower (offering to take “those little negro children personally into Central High School”) “Am Swiss Krissly Yours . . .” Swiss Kriss was the herbal laxative to which Armstrong credited his health. This collection transcends jazz and conventional grammar, revealing the humor and spirit of a legendary entertainer. (29 halftones)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-19-511958-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000


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