A Development in Depth

Armstrong often used the stage, to which he remained faithful until the end of his astonishing career, for clowning, mugging, and delivering the "good old good ones," but he left evidence of other emotions as well. In a 1961 photograph, William Claxton captured a tuxedoed Armstrong staring into the abyss. Many of his later recordings—among them "Beale Street Blues" on Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (1957) and "Mood Indigo" on The Great Summit (1961), with Duke Ellington—suggest a mixture of triumph and catharsis, as well as continuing development even beyond the 1955 "Black and Blue," reminding us how Armstrong's art could convey life in all its bruising complexity.


More articles in this week's Voice Jazz Supplement.

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