Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Gary Giddins on Louis Armstrong

This week?s podcast celebrates the great Louis Armstrong, who was born 110 years ago today. Our guide to his career is the award-winning jazz critic (and Armstrong biographer) Gary Giddins. Giddins is second to none in his admiration of Armstrong; he believes that Armstrong is the single most important person in the development of American music. It is impossible to exaggerate his contributions, both as an instrumentalist and as a singer. He was a virtuoso trumpet player whose improvisations opened the way for solo instrumental performances. He also improvised as a singer, bending melody and lyrics in a way that revealed new dimensions to songs. He had hit songs in five decades from the 1920s through the 1960s, and was a tireless, charismatic performer to boot. As Giddins points out, it really didn?t matter what songs Armstrong played or sang: he always made them his own.

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