Indirect ListeningApr 23, 2020
Every six months or so, I put on Louis Armstrong and wait for two of my main philosophical impulses to slug it out. On the one hand, I'm for listening to the things that just hit you on a gut level. Be honest with yourself about what you really like, follow that path to its various logical conclusions, and you'll find more than enough cool music to listen to, and develop your own aesthetic priorities in the process. On the other hand, everything is based on something else, and it's a reasonably safe bet that certain artists' names come up over and over for a reason. So in the case of someone who looms as large as Armstrong, I just assume that if I continue to be play and listen to the kinds of music I play and listen to, a reckoning with Armstrong is in the cards no matter what. The fact that I don't have a visceral response to it yet bugs me, so I keep returning to his music, waiting for the lights to go on. It's not that I don't like it. It just hasn't ever done what other music does to me without my even trying. I didn't have to try and like Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," Ray Bryant's Alone With The Blues or Charlie Christian on "Six Appeal," any more than I had to try and like the opening notes of Sgt. Pepper or Duane Allman's playing on "Statesboro Blues."