The Ragman’s Trumpet by William Palmer

William Palmer

The Ragman’s Trumpet

 

How about this as a case study for the tabloids? Thirteen-year-old boy, black, rowdy, bunking off school, drinking, carrying a gun, his mother a prostitute. Lock him up and throw away the key? The boy’s name was Louis Armstrong, and Thomas Brothers’s Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans (WW Norton 386pp £17.99) deals with his youth and the city that produced him.

The legend is that jazz originated in New Orleans. Scholarly argument has tried to cast doubt on this theory but, true or not, a disproportionate number of great musicians came from the city, and its diverse racial and cultural mix made it ‘stunningly fertile for music’ and certainly

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