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Louis Armstrong's New Orleans
Thomas Brothers
Adult Nonfiction ML419.A75 B78 2006

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In this many-sided chronicle of Armstrong's early life, Brothers (Louis Armstrong: In His Own Words) paints a passionate, intimate picture of the teeming musical brew of early 20th-century New Orleans and how it was uniquely suited to nurture both jazz and Armstrong's exceptional musical talents. "Armstrong lived a childhood of poverty, on the margins of society, and this position put him right in the middle of the vernacular traditions that were fueling the new music of which he would eventually become one of the world's greatest masters," Brothers writes. As he shows in his erudite narrative, "Little Louis" was influenced by a number of local factors: the heterophonic singing in his mother's Sanctified church; the blues music of "rags-bottles-and-bones" men who played on three-foot-long tin horns; the sights he witnessed peeking into Funky Butt Hall, where "chicks would get way down, shake everything"; and the ubiquitous marching bands that provided music for parties, dances, parades and, famously, funerals. Brothers's contention that Armstrong was immersed in this vernacular music comes across more strongly than it does in other biographies. Armstrong's music, Brothers says, was "shaped by the complex social forces surrounding him," ranging from Jim Crow oppression to Creole separation. The integration of biography, musical history and cultural study make this a rich, satisfying and thought-provoking read. 16 pages of illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Brothers (music, Duke Univ.; Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings) examines the social context of trumpeter Louis Armstrong and early New Orleans jazz. The influence of outdoor parades and park concerts, the Sanctified Church, itinerant street musicians, and the influx of former slaves into the Crescent City from 1880 to 1910 all come into play, as does the importance of the decidedly male basis of jazz and the national ragtime craze. Throughout, Brothers interweaves the personal history of Armstrong, including his stay in the Colored Waifs Home for Boys and his work on riverboats with jazz pianist and bandleader Fate Marable. Describing New Orleans as a focal point of racial and social diversity, the author concludes that Armstrong succeeded as a musician by coupling the African traits of polyrhythms, call and response, and blues improvisation with the Eurocentric harmonies and melodies of the Creoles into an innovative style-jazz-that could be accepted by whites, well-heeled Creoles, and lower-class African Americans alike. This well-researched and -written study helps explain the genesis and popularity of both a seminal genre and a seminal musician. Recommended for music fans and social history scholars.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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