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Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong Hardcover – 4 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Publishers,U.S.; 4th Edition edition (4 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151010897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151010899
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.1 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 679,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"POPS is the book we have been waiting for: essential reading for anyone curious about music, American culture, and one man's ability to inspire the world." Michael Cogswell, director Louis Armstrong House Museum" --Michael Cogswell

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper on 1 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
My starting point for POPS was Hot Fives and Sevens, which sustained me recently during my workouts at the gym. (I'm the skinny mature guy on the recumbent bike.) My reaction to these CDs was: Lots of this is really good. But what exactly am I listening for? Well, POPS turned out to be an outstanding guide for my listening experience, since it contains remarks from many of Armstrong's contemporaries, as well as terrific analysis from Terry Teachout, explaining why his music is exceptional. For example:

o Jazz historian Gunther Schuller: "...a dazzling lesson in how to mix primary thematic material with purely ornamental passages without ever losing the sense of the overall melody."

o Pianist Teddy Wilson: "It was a privilege to hear that man play every night. He was such a master at melodic improvisation, and he never hit a note that didn't have a great deal of meaning. Every note was pure music."

o Teachout: "...dispense almost completely with Arlen's melody, substituting instead a series of rhythmically free phrases that lead upward to a high B-Flat. Four times he falls off from that shining note--and then comes the fifth fall, at the bottom of which he changes course and swoops gracefully upward to a full-throated high D whose vibrancy..."

Armstrong had a very long career, which is the primary subject of POPS. In following this subject, Teachout shows the phenomenally talented young Armstrong emerging from a New Orleans style of jazz, where teamwork dominated, and developing a form of jazz (now called classic) where the solo is king.
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By Barry McCanna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I began reading this book with high expectations, and for the most part they were fulfilled. The author details Armstrong's early life, and the factors which helped shape his character, with a sympathetic touch, without descending into the sort of psychobabble that seems fashionable nowadays. Louis had a symbiotic relationship with Joe Glaser, which afforded him protection and relieved him of responsibility for the day-to-day running of his affairs. The downside of their agreement was that Joe also relieved him of much of his earnings, and kept him hard at work to the point of exhaustion. Whilst much of this was already in the public domain, it's set out here in a very clear and concise fashion, yet Teachout's approach is not judgemental, leaving readers free to draw their own conclusions.

The 12 chapters run to just under 400 pages, augmented by an appendix of 30 key recordings, around 50 pages of source notes, a select biography, and a 25-page index. My only criticism of the book itself is that whilst the paper is adequate for the print, it fails to do justice to the photos, which should have been reproduced separately on gloss quality sheets.

The author seems to have accepted Louis' account of how he came to scat on "Heebie Jeebies", a story which has always struck me as inherently suspect. When the number was published the following July it carried a photo of the Hot Five on the cover (the only piece of sheet music ever to do so) together with a complete transcription of Louis' "skat chorus", but that is not mentioned.
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Format: Hardcover
In Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, Wall Street journalist and author, Terry Teachout traces Mr. Armstrong's youthful journey through the winding streets of New Orleans at the turn of 20th century: from the jook joints and bordellos to a Christian boys home for wayward youth and a solitary, but beneficent Jewish home to the highest pinnacles of musical and artistic success. This was a biography that was done right.

*Why another biography?
**Two (2) historically unanswered questions about Louis Armstrong
***A brief review of Armstrong's Life
****Louis Armstrong vs. Miles Davis and Nat King Cole
*****Concluding Thoughts

*Before I read a biography, I typically find myself struggling internally like two wrestlers wanting the dominant position because biographies and, especially, autobiographies are rarely truthful or forthcoming. I generally ask myself, "Do I really want to know this person?" Or, "Will this person's life-experiences really provide me with constructive and, hopefully, universal information for my own use?"

The dilemma becomes a lot more complicated, if the person is well known and many things have already been written about her/him. What's new here that hasn't been written before considering Mr. Armstrong, himself, wrote three autobiographical volumes?

**With regards to Mr. Armstrong, there are two (2) questions that have never been answered to my satisfaction (but then, who am I to make such demands anyway?) but I'll still ask.

1. What is it about "Louie Armstrong," The Performer, which made him so beloved that even a Wall Street Journal writer would consider chronicling another chapter of his life, four decades since his passing?

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