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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Louis Armstrong's House

I'm on disk nine of the Ken Burns History of Jazz 10 DVD set. Even though it is a VERY mainstream slice of the highly dangerous and beautiful art form of jazz, one of the main things that I have taken from it is that Louis Armstrong is an American Bach. In the Court of King Oliver he is the successor of the throne. The improvisations and innovations of Armstrong spawned an entire art form, an entire way of understanding rhythm and melody.

Louis Armstrong is widely misunderstood as just a mere entertainer because of his showbiz aesthetic yet in fact he is a Patriarch of Jazz, a complete virtuoso and innovator on the trumpet, and a musical force so huge I now refer to him as the fountain head, or the Holy Grail.

I was in New York last weekend and I made a point to make a pilgrimage to his house in Queens. It was a sad tourist trap that should be converted into a temple/shrine and upheld with silence and reverence and yet it was still amazing to stand in his den and pay homage to the founder of jazz, the real King of Swing.

Here is a photograph that I took of his doorway because I was not allowed to take pictures inside. I think it is an appropriate metaphor somehow :)


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