Although no essay in Shadow and Act focuses on Louis Armstrong (1900–1971) alone, Ellison makes reference to him many times throughout the collection, both as a blues master and as a distinctive type of musical performer. In several instances, but most explicitly in ‘‘On Bird, Bird-Watching, and Jazz,’’ Ellison makes the point that although Armstrong’s theatrical, joking, and self-deprecating style is clown-like, it is ‘‘basically a make-believe role of clown.’’ Although other jazzmen, such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, sought to disassociate themselves with the role of such performance in the name of respecting their racial identity, Ellison asserts that Armstrong’s strength of lyric and trumpet redeem his performance and make him ‘‘an outstanding creative musician.’’
See Charlie Parker
In ‘‘The Charlie Christian Story,’’ Ellison calls his friend Christian ‘‘probably the greatest of jazz guitarists.’’ Originally from Ellison’s native Oklahoma City, he led a ‘‘spectacular career’’ with the Benny Goodman Sextet and shares with Ellison his training in classical music as a child in the school band. Ellison goes so far as to charge Christian with giving the guitar its jazz voice, and, in so doing, changing the face of the art forever.
See Mark Twain
(The entire section is 1154 words.)
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