Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Louis Armstrong's Sound

Perhaps there is a certain element of backlash in my returning to old Louis Armstrong recordings after having explored possible parallels between Ornette Coleman and Edgard Varèse.  While I am not one of Pops’ most enthusiastic fans (having caught the attention of one of his biographers, Ricky Riccardi, for taking issue with the phrase “the greatest jazz musician of the 20th century”), I would be the last person to raise any dispute over the cleanliness and clarity (not to mention prodigious range) of the Armstrong trumpet sound.  One might not say the same about his vocal skills;  but I have never seen any problem with approaching his singing in terms of character, rather than musicianship.  Furthermore, while his voice may have occasionally ventured into his own personal take on Sprechstimme, the pitches coming out of his mouth were almost as solid as those from his trumpet.  I have to admit that I do not put as much time listening to my Armstrong recordings as I allocate for my Thelonious Monk collection (let alone all the different interpretations I have of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven);  but It always seems to happen that, when I do put on some Armstrong sides, I find myself more pleasantly surprised than I anticipated.

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