Teachout Discusses Louis Armstrong in Jazz History

January 28, 2010

Terry Teachout
Photo by David Noe

More than 50 students, faculty, staff, and Winter Park community members gathered in Tiedtke Concert Hall on Wednesday, January 20 as Terry Teachout discussed Louis Armstrong's career and influence on jazz.  Teachout, a Wall Street Journal drama and cultural critic, biographer, librettist and author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, is the first featured artist of Winter Park Institute’s spring agenda. The discussion, centered around Mr. Teachout’s insights about jazz and Armstrong’s participation and influence in the genre, was directed by questions from Charles Archard, Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Music, as well as from the audience.

Teachout explained the influence of Armstrong on jazz history. As a young boy, Armstrong was very interested in becoming a trained musician and in developing his technical skill. However, his natural talent allowed him to become proficient in improvisation, which gave his songs a richer and more complex sound. As Teachout elucidates through performance tapes collected during his research, “Harmony resonates; the sound swells.”

Showing the progression of jazz throughout the 1920s, Teachout played 1925, 1926 and 1928 recordings of Armstrong’s group “The Hot Five.” He described the unique elements Armstrong began to bring to his music.  “It’s like he is skipping pebbles along the water,” he explained. And beyond mere musicality “He has a wonderful, genial, expansive personality. It was because of this that his version of jazz got into the bloodstream of Americans.”

Teachout will be presenting several other lectures and discussions: "How to Write an Opera in One Easy Lesson," “The Role of a Critic,” and “The Biographer’s Crafty Art,” to the Rollins and Winter Park Community as a part of Winter Park Institute. For details on future Winter Park Institute events, visit www.winterparkinstitute.org.

-Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011)

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