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Why Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” is Important

Louis Armstrong is special for far more than his music. His story, to a great extent, is the story of America. Click on the image (Amazon) for the great bio, “Pops,” that was written a few years ago by The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout. Click here for a CD of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, Armstrong’s ground-breaking bands of the 1920s.
West End Blues by Louis Armstrong is one of the most important songs in jazz. A YouTube poster named pandasthumb describes the piece. It’s definitely worth checking out. Here is one paragraph from the post:

From the very first note of “West End Blues,” a tune composed by Joe “King” Oliver, one can immediately sense the shift that was occurring in jazz through Armstrong’s influence. From his introductory, fanfare-like opening to his solo later in the recording, Armstrong displays his power, range, and unique personality on the trumpet. Pianist Earl Hines is also featured.

Pandasthumb annotates the video with a terrific description of what is going on and why it is special.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.