Oliver

Meet the Next Louis Armstrong
May 04, 2012

People uncowed by the tyranny of history should take up the jazz trumpet. Others would be smart to try another instrument—or avoid music, where the specter of the past is always looming, and seems to loom larger and larger in the Youtube era. In jazz, the trumpet has a privileged status, and one of the privileges it carries is that of terrorizing expectations, by way of association with the music’s past masters.

That is So! That is So!
February 22, 2012

The Sense of an Ending By Julian Barnes (Knopf, 163 pp., $23.95) Is it worth it? Life, I mean—is it worth it? Julian Barnes isn’t sure. “I am certainly melancholic myself,” he says in Nothing to Be Frightened Of, a memoir-cum-meditation-on-death, “and sometimes find life an overrated way of passing the time.” Martha Cochrane, in England, England, thinks about “the thinness of life, or at least life as she had known it, or chosen it.” “She had done little in her time,” Jean Serjeant thinks in Staring at the Sun, and Gregory, her son, had done less.

The Road to Mastery
September 22, 2010

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong By Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 475 pp., $30) Duke Ellington’s America By Harvey G. Cohen (University of Chicago Press, 688 pp., $40) Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original By Robin D.G. Kelley (Free Press, 588 pp., $30) Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone By Nadine Cohodas (Pantheon, 449 pp., $30) I. During one of his engagements at the Cotton Club in the mid-’30s, Duke Ellington spotted Leopold Stokowski sitting near the stage a short time before the start of the show.