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on 13 January 1998
Louis Armstrong, An Extravant Life is superb because it recreates the man and his times--and how the man changed his time. Laurence Bergreen details the poverty of Storyville, New Orleans: its honky tonks and violence, and the surprising sustenance a resilent child found there. We see how Louis Armstrong found his family among the white, Jewish Karnovskys, and in the stern Waif's Home where he became a musician.
Bergreen shows us the shameful racism of the South (and North), and how Louis' exuberant personality and music helped transcend it. The Armstrong we come to know is humble, humorous, brimming with the energy of jazz itself. We learn how Armstrong invented solos and scat singing, and how his jazz went beyond even music. That is, he mesmerized America with a personality that brought rich and poor, black and white, hip and square together.
Armstrong's blowing and singing, his restless amiable spirit, is a bracing ode to being alive. Bergreen's meticulous empathy lets us share the extravagance.
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on 22 July 1997
An Extravagant Life is much more than a biography of Louis Armstrong. Having been born at the turn of the century, in New Orleans, this book is a travelogue of that city from a unique perspective (the underside), a history of jazz, a snapshot of race relations and segregation in America for this entire century, AND a rich tapestry of the life of a man who started out with no advantages except his musical gift and a positive attitude.

Armstrong was a man of very strong tolerances: alcohol, marijuana, food, women, gansters, laxatives, and music, to name just a few. The essence of Louis is captured in Bergreen's book: We like him, we care for him, we pity him, and we almost understand him. We are definitely fascinated by him.
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on 12 February 2004
This book is quite simply fabulous! packed full of funny stories and written in an entertaining fashion, especially for such a long book. You do not need to be a jazz enthusiast to enjoy this book. Louis's warm charactor shines through and you really feel you know him when you have finished. You can't help but love him.Right from all the humble beginnings which are fascinating, through his musical life to his later years and his constant fight against racism which fills you with boundless admiration. Apart from that it's just a wonderful read.
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on 14 December 2014
What a great book about a great musician. I grew up around jazz music but only really began to fully appreciate it as an adult. In the past few years I've made it a point to read about the jazz greats as much as possible. (My all time favorites are Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk). Admittedly I've always misunderstood Louis Armstrong. I thought that he was a bit of a sell out with his wide eyed grin (which in my youth I labeled in a most unflattering way). But thanks to educating myself, this is not true at all. He was a man who deeply honored and respected who he was and where he came from. To this day no one can touch his artistry and innovation. I enjoy listening to his recordings especially with the history of them, which this book presents so well.
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on 20 January 2017
This book falls into the usual cliché's associated with Louis Armstrong. Up until the late 30's early 40's this is a very detailed book on Louis's life, and from that point should be highly recommended; however it loses interest around there, as if Louis's work (and life) beyond that appears deemed insignificant, or of lesser quality and therefore brushed over in a relatively short part of the book in comparison.

So only read if you intend to read further about Louis (Ricky Riccardi's What a Wonderful World; The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years makes a good companion) but disappointing as a stand alone book.
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on 4 August 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Unlike many other biographies which are sometimes boring lists of events, this was written almost like a novel. It was lively, colourful and extremely interesting (that might be because I was once a professional musicial myself!) I recommend this book for anyone interested in the birth of jazz, racism in America at the beginning of the 20th century and what it was like for black musicians in those times.
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on 15 October 2014
Fabulous life story of a fascinating gifted man who grew up in New Orleans in poverty at the time that jazz was being created. He grasped every opportunity, worked hard and loved life. His devotion to his music always superseded his commitment to his wives of which there were four. His meticulous letter writing over the years gave the author unusual access to his story which added authenticity to this biography. A real joy to read.
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on 17 October 2014
A very interesting read about an excellent musician. If you like reading about famous people you will like this book.
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on 11 May 2014
Great read, book title explains contents
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on 3 August 2014
Great priceand quck delivery
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