Thomas Brothers's "Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism" receives Irving Lowens Book Award
In awarding the prize the committee writes:
"Armstrong is the central figure in the creation of jazz, and Brothers’ Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism is the first critical study to do him justice. This book follows Louis Armstrong through a crucial phase of his life, from his arrival in Chicago in 1922 through the early 1930s. It is a richly detailed biography, drawing on hundreds of interviews and previously overlooked items in black historical newspapers. It assesses not one, but two major style periods in Armstrong’s life: the “hot solo” of the mid-1920s and the paraphrase model of the 1930s—each of which revolutionized the jazz idiom. It situates his career within the shifting terrain of black cultural experience, including dramatic changes precipitated by the Great Migration and by the rapidly changing entertainment industry that serviced jazz in the inter-war years. Finally, it considers how Armstrong’s ebullient public persona was undermined by the unapologetically racist ideology of mainstream entertainment culture. Brothers' work is magisterial, the product of many long years of research and analysis. The scope of this book, the quality of original research, and the excellence of Brothers’ new interpretations of the work of a major creative figure make this an unmistakable choice for this award."