12 Nov 2011, 11:16pm
Jazz music vocalists

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  • Louis Armstrong’s Sunlit Art

    A few weeks ago I finished reading “Pops,” Terry Teachout’s beautiful biography of Louis Armstrong. The book was sitting on a chair in my living room, and I went to put it away. It opened at my touch to the page describing Louis’ recording of “Star Dust.” I read these words:

    “Armstrong’s vocal is a paraphrase of Carmichael’s tune and Parish’s lyric, whose words he reshapes with a desentimentalizing freedom that delighted the composer: SometimesIwonderwhyIspendsuchlonelynight (oh, baby, lonely nightnnnmmmmm) / Dreaming of a song (melody, memory) / And I am once again with you. Even for him it was a daringly imaginative transformation, much more so than the instrumental portion of the record, in which he mostly stays within earshot of the tune. The fact that he takes the song at a danceable lope suggests that he was regularly tossing off similar musical miracles on the bandstand in the winter of 1931.”

    So I thought, “Well. That sounds like it’s worth a listen or two.”

    It is:

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