[Dixielandjazz] Was Louis Armstrong the greatest?

ROBERT R. CALDER serapion at btinternet.com
Sat Nov 3 13:48:10 PDT 2007

It all depends on what you're looking for.  I am not talking about 'ear of the listener' since there is nothing in anybody's ear but some sensory receptors and a bit of wax. In one of his excellent books Humphrey Lyttelton points out the tendency of jazz musicians to think about other musicians in the way research scientists do about reading and about facts. If they aren't in his line of research, aometimes he's not at all interested.  Armstrong is just so much larger than anybody else, compare a year of him (1926) with all the Keppard you can find,  and you still have another possible comparison, for instance with Amstrong 1928.  Or 1930.

Of course Milt Hinton began and stayed with a preference for Jabbo Smith rather than Armstrong.  I suppose  the bassist, for whom the most important thing was 'time'  (you need that, he says, and once you have it there's only the relatively simple matter of finding where to put your fingers) liked the flow of Smith, the sort of thing to be heard in Dewey Jackson and Roy Eldridge -- and Roy didn't take immediately to Armstrong !!!!!  

Of course the marketeers like to exaggerate and grow tumors on such notions as that of Armstrong (for example) being the greatest and therefore unique.  It helps to sell him as an unrepeatable commodity, and forget tradition and a whole lot more.  Sell him as sheer novelty. Like a wind-up toy of unique design 

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