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Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism Hardcover – 28 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition edition (28 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065824
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


I was so engaged in Tom Brothers's great storytelling that I did not always notice what a monumental achievement his book is. Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, I can recommend it to just about everybody. --Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

About the Author

Thomas Brothers is a professor of music at Duke University, where he teaches jazz, rock, African-American music and late medieval music.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By knegaren on 25 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting reading, but very academic and with plenty repetition of the author's opinions. Only recommened for aficionados with vast knowledge of the Armstrong literature.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know anyone who doesn't love Louis' music; young or old. But only jazz fans know anything about his life and influence.
This book tells how his character and belief forced changes to America's social system and led to the modern acceptance of non - racial practices; told with a style of the great man. Serious, but with humour; essential reading for all music & humanity lovers.
Pity the photographs are entered in a poor editorial way; but it is only a paperback.hence the 4 stars, not 5.
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By Marilyn Cardozo on 30 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderfully researched informative and entertaining
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A superb book on an important aspect of American cultural and social history 9 April 2014
By John Modell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This extensive and thoughtful book has clearly been a labor of love for its author (a professor of music at Duke University) and both the tightness of its structure and the precision and clarity of its writing reflect this. The book has three fundamental components, quite successfully bound together and mutually supportive. The first of these is a musicologicaly-informed biography of Louis Armstrong himself, roughly in the decade and a half after he left New Orleans for Chicago, and during which both his career and his creativity rose remarkably. The second is a remarkably detailed work of historical research on the evolving entertainment industry over this period, both in music and other entertainments, both local and national, both black and white. The third is a historically-situated account of the extent and implications of racial exclusion of blacks by American whites and of the range of black responses to this continuing inequity.

The interweaving of the three elements of the book strengthens each, and, for me, conduces powerfully to a deepened love of Armstrong's music, which music has given joy to me for much of my life. I have long been put off by the often-criticized careerist accomodations Armstrong made to white racial dominance, but thanks to Brothers' work, my widened understanding, both of the social context of the business in which Armstrong worked and the way this gave him and many musicians of his generation a particular operational meaning to being black, has led me to step back and be less dismissive.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A superb analysis of the genius and growth of Louis Armstrong. 12 Mar 2014
By Barbonestreet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When Louis Armstrong arrived in Chicago in 1922, he was virtually, an unknown musician. Yet a scant ten years later, he was well known by both black and white audiences and routinely billed as “Louis Armstrong Master of Modernism and Creator of His Own Song Style”. Thomas Brothers, in his book “Louis Armstrong Master of Modernism”, describes those ten years, both historically and musically, as they related to Armstrong’s genius as a trumpeter and vocalist who shaped the way jazz was played then and would be played in the future.

I saw the book a couple of weeks ago and thought, “Who needs another book on Armstrong?” But being an Armstrong devotee, I bought it. In my opinion, every jazz musician should read it. And while the many references to chord structure, harmony, rhythm, and intervals might be difficult reading for non-musicians, fans of Louis will be able to more readily appreciate how hard Louis worked to accomplish his goals.

Brothers describes how Armstrong first played the collective improvisational music of New Orleans in black vernacular, for black audiences. His early Hot 5 / 7 recordings were those of a pick-up band aimed at black audiences. Even as later 5 / 7 recordings improved musically, being race records, they went largely unheard by most whites at the time. How then would he realize his ambition of reaching the mass white audience?

Brothers skillfully answers that question as he weaves the incredible story of how an uneducated black man developed his music in a way that brought him fame, fortune and the respect of millions of people around the world. I found myself learning quite a bit about the man even though I’d seen him perform several times, met and talked jazz with him and Alec Templeton who introduced us, and have read just about every book written about him.

Readers will be intrigued with his friendship with Guy Lombardo, resulting from an invitation by Lombardo to be his guest at a white’s only club to hear The Royal Canadians. And his later trying for the Lombardo sound with his sax sections in big bands he fronted. And also by the importance of “Heebie Jeebies”, the “Weather Bird Rag” duet with Earl Hines, “Big Butter and Egg Man” and his vocal on “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”. And by his many non-notated hot solos, though his focus was still on written melody. A good example of that being Cornet Chop Suey, written out before he recorded it.

Musically it all ties together as Armstrong during those ten years first plays for blacks alongside King Oliver’s freak music. Then for blacks and some alligators (white musicians) who routinely came to hear them. And finally for the mass white audience, gained by ragging familiar pop tunes, and by his vocals. All the while continuing to play and sing in black vernacular. It is a fascinating book about his musical journey and I already find myself re-reading it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Joe Oliver Is Still King but Louis Is Still Emperor of the Kingdom of Jazz 5 May 2014
By David C. Greer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In volume two of his biography of Louis we are treated to a day-by-day walk through and evaluation of the career of the greatest musical genius of the 20th century starting at the moment he was summoned from New Orleans to Chicago by King Oliver. Lots of detailed information that every jazz lover should know.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Remarkable study. 3 Mar 2014
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We could not get a more detailed, thorough and scholarly study of the development of Louis Armstrong's musical abilities, especially during this - the most creative phase of his musical life.

Once having absorbed the author's carefully-built argument it is easy to understand the breadth and depth of Louis' influence on Western popular music, let alone his influence on jazz.

This volume will stand the test of time for decades to come, taking its rightful place among the canon of books about Louis.

Hats off to Dr. Brothers. Five stars!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Provides Great Context 8 Jun 2014
By Improviz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It started a little slowly, but the book picked up steam as it began to put out a great amount of information about characters apart from Armstrong who were important in their own right and also as context for the rise of Armstrong. Depending on how widely and or deeply you've read, this will be a source that can fill in a lot of gaps in your knowledge.
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