Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; US: Dec 2009)
Most people know Terry Teachout from his theatre criticism at The Wall Street Journal and essays at Commentary, but the writer actually began his career in the arts as a professional jazz musician. Hence, he comes at the subject of America’s pre-eminent jazz artist with both a thorough knowledge of jazz performance as well as the rigorous research and smart writing of a top cultural journalist. Pops is an engaging read and the first fully-sourced biography of Louis Armstrong, featuring many photos published for the first time ever.
Teachout says, “I’m the first biographer to have had access to 650 reel-to-reel tapes that Armstrong made during the last quarter-century of his life, many of which contain astonishingly candid recordings of his private after-hours conversations.” The result is the most nuanced written work on this seminal figure in American cultural history. Indeed, this book is designed for far more than the jazz fan or Armstrong admirer; anyone interested in African-American culture and the nature of creative genius period will find this book a page turner.