meeting Gary Giddins // Louis Armstrong, rebel trickster

Happy Sunday, folks. ‘Tis the season of the US’s finest holidays–Halloween & Thanksgiving–which remain secular for the most part, and of course provide a modest share of us to be thankful for what we have. Within a matter of hours, though, a less modest share of us descend upon the strip malls and big box stores and completely lose their shite.

I am especially grateful this week for having met and chatted with Gary Giddins, whose long-standing column in the Village Voice inspired me in the early 90s to imagine life as a jazz historian. (It didn’t quite work out that way, but I did write about swing-dancing and Ralph Ellison, whose own writing on jazz set the bar damn high.) Giddins was in town to present a lecture on jazz and photography, which should appear on Vimeo before too long. (I’ll update here and tweet anew if that happens.) Here’s a nice intro to a handful of jazz tunes by Giddins.

LouisArmstrong_joint
Armstrong, relaxing.

One of my favorite tales from the Giddins collection recounts, apropos, a tale of Louis Armstrong, when he was hired to accompany a pianist at a birthday party for a big figure in the mafia (probably in the early 1960s). It’s not difficult to imagine that maybe, just maybe, the don’s partygoers didn’t recognize Armstrong in all his human complexity, and got under his rather thick skin. In response, the pianist recalled, during a rendition of some pop standard, Armstrong started to scat, much to the amusement of his audience–and the gut-wrenching amusement of the pianist, who apparently was the only one in the room able to decipher the three syllables of the scat refrain: “Kiss my ass. Kiss my ass.” Armstrong smiled, and tears of sublime joy rained upon the piano keys, as the pianist kept due time as his tear ducts open (and kept his own mouth shut).

If you’re curious to see the latest news on Stealing All Transmissions, check out the latest reviews here. If you reside in Northeastern Ohio, and you’re available on 5 Dec for a book reading + dance party, send me a note at djaphasia [at] gmail for details.

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