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Terry Teachout’s “A Cluster of Sunlight: The Life of Louis Armstrong”

Posted Jan 14 2009 7:22pm

As I’ve noted before, I recommend daily visits to About Last Night if you are interested at all in interesting, well-written posts about all areas of arts and literature. In addition to the posts, there are always great recommendations for various books, CDs, films, etc. for novices such as myself, and I must also say Mr. Teachout’s longer, more formal writing is excellent as well. I couldn’t read The Terry Teachout Reader fast enough (and I’ve gone back and re-read certain chapters from time to time), and I very much enjoyed his take on H.L. Mencken in The Skeptic.

Louis armstrong With that, I want to point out that my most-anticipated book of 2009 is Teachout’s A Cluster of Sunlight: The Life of Louis Armstrong. I’ve had a growing appreciation for jazz over the last six or seven years, due in no small part to my efforts to learn the guitar, as well as the Burns’ documentary on jazz that ran on PBS. Interestingly, it is to the older jazz greats I’ve gravitated towards, and Armstrong is no exception. What a talent - all the accolades he received during his time were obviously deserved, even to someone who was born far after that era. I regularly have Armstrong playing in my office on the iPod, and I love the idea of playing artists like Armstrong for my kids as they become old enough to begin lessons of their own.

With that, I’ll simply note for now that Mr. Teachout has completed his book, which is set for release next year. You can definitely plan for a review on this page soon after its release. In addition, he has printed excepts from the book on his web page, so check it out if you’re so inclined. This most recent excerpt has to do with illustrations of Armstrong by Al Hirschfeld, the famous caricaturist, and the racial implications of Armstrong’s image as his style of entertainment came into conflict with the next generation of entertainers. Awesome stuff, incredibly interesting.

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