Top 50 JAzz Blog

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jazz Sainthood

This is a tough one. Previously, I've gone on about separating the music from the musician, something which seems hard for people to do. At its worst, people actually impute specific psychological characteristics to a person on the basis of his/her playing-Such a beautiful player must be a beautiful person. Musicians are just people. They're not their music. Yes, I know about all the cliches and there may be some truth in the cliche that to play it you have to have lived it, but I'm not even convinced about that one. 

This arises yet again because of a discussion about a fairly new book called Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, by Thomas Brothers (who is caucasian). People who know far more about Armstrong than I do, even though I know a lot, have taken exception to the implication that Armstrong "sold out" to get the white audience. I don't think Brothers is saying this, but I don't think the disagreement is really about that. Selective quotations can be chosen to buttress either side. I think it's about Armstrong's status as jazz saint and whether any imputation of his motivations is acceptable.

I love Armstrong, more and more as the years go by. I think he was an extraordinary musician and in many ways, an extraordinary person. I'm also ready to see him as occasionally callous, venal and sometimes motivated by an ego that drove his choices.

No comments: