Top 50 JAzz Blog

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

That Damned Armstrong Quote

When asked 'what is jazz?' Louis Armstrong said; “If you have to ask, then you'll never know."

This thing shows up all the time-on websites, tweets, facebook. It shows how abysmal and embattled the state of jazz is that people have to self-aggrandize by declaring: “Look at me. I get it. I’m hip. If you don’t get it, hang your aesthetic tail between your legs and get lost.”

Armstrong probably said it. Why not? He said a lot of things. The point is, this quote is as unrepresentative of Pops as any quote you could possibly find. His life was about reaching out; about achieving an emotional connection with as many people as possible. He didn’t separate himself from the unhip. He drew them into his energy.

People, do you really have to use this music as some kind of emotional crutch, like teenagers arguing over their, like, favorite pop star? If you care that new people come into the fold, look at it this way: Non-jazz people are a lot more likely to be drawn to this music if they don't think the people who love it and support it are snotty jerks.


rob chalfen said...

i think he was just trying to blow off an annoying interviewer from some square mag

Steve Provizer said...

If not that, than something a lot like it.

gmoke said...

Big Bill Broonzy: "All the songs I've heard all my life is folk songs. I never heard horses sing none of them yet."

Steve Provizer said...

I remain agnostic about the original source of that quote.

rob chalfen said...

an alternate version attributed to Fats Waller: "If you don't know by now,lady, don't mess with it!"