Sorry for invoking a lame college essay with the lame title of this posting, but I thought I should offer up a quick explanation of my recent disappearance. I mean, it's September 24 and I've only put up two blogs this month....the shame, the horror! Honestly, I feel pretty bad about putting the blog on the back burner but it comes with good reason: I have spent the last week or so in a state of lockdown to put the finishing touches on my book.
Once Pantheon decided to delay it from May 2010 to May 2011, I was put on hold, which I didn't really mind because it allowed me to insert all sorts of new findings into the manuscript. But last week, I received the call of duty from my editor and just like that, I was whisked into an undisclosed location (okay, it was my basement) and when I finally came up for air, I had tightened up every last page of the manuscript, dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" (not manually, there are computer programs for that these days).
I then had to perform photo selection, obtain some permissions and select a photo for the jacket. Yes, there's been a mockup of my jacket on Amazon for almost a year (just look to the upper right corner of that page) but that design inadvertently used two photos that appeared on the back cover of Steven Brower's book on Armstrong collages so I didn't want any duplication. But a wonderful image has been selected courtesy of Swiss photographer Milan Schijatschky (wow, do I have a story about finding him to tell one day!) and a new jacket is being designed as I write this. Thus, keep checking this space to see it when it finally goes public hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
Next stop: the copy editor, who will wrestle with it for about a month, at which point I'll have two weeks to make any last minute corrections. And once I give it the green light, presto, I'll have a galley copy that will actually look like a book and what seems like a lifetime of research and writing will be nearly complete.
So that's where I've been; as to the second part of this title, the where-I'm-going, I would like to share some exciting news: after blabbing and blogging for three years, I finally landed my first liner notes writing gig! And it's a doozy. The Storyville label out of Denmark has been doing wonderful things since founded by Karl Emil Knudsen in 1950. Since Knudsen's death, the label has been turning out various boxed sets, repackaging issued and unissued material on many artists they represent, including Ben Webster, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and most recently, Teddy Wilson.
Well, our dear Louis Armstrong is next on Storyville's list with a release that should probably see the light of day in early 2011. The box will consist of seven CDs and 1 DVD and will pretty much constitute a history of the All Stars from 1947 to 1967. (Honestly, it's pretty perfect as a soundtrack to my book....the timing couldn't have been better!) Some of the material has been released before, such as live Louis sets at the Winter Garden in 1947, the Blue Note in 1948, the Hollywood Empire in 1949, San Francisco in 1954 and Chicago in 1962. But there's a good chunk of material that most Armstrong aficionados will welcome: the All Stars live in Ephrata, Pennsylvania in 1954, receiving an honor and playing a short set in Sweden in 1955, a fantastic, unissued concert from Nice in 1962 and a good chunk of an unissued concert from Copenhagen in 1967. Overall, it's a pretty tremendous set, showcasing the many incarnations of the group (lots of Catlett!) and the large repertoire the All Stars offered through the years (yes, there's some repetition--I hope you like "Sleepy Time," "Indiana" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," to name three, but it's always fun to hear how Louis attacks a number of the years). Throw in a DVD of Louis's Timex television appearances in the 1950s and slap a price tag of about $80 (for 8 discs) and how can you go wrong?
I know I sound like a pitchman, but obviously I'm passionate about the subject and think it's going to be a great set for all serious Armstrong fans, as well as a perfect companion to Storyville's previous "In Scandinavia" box, of which this set repeats, I think maybe six songs. Seriously, between that set and the upcoming set, Storyville has pretty much everything you need to know about the history of the All Stars in two box sets. Kudos, to them.
But as the liner note writer, I have a pretty big job of conveying the importance of this music and to clear up some myths about the All Stars, stuff that makes up a core part of my book. And for such a set, I'll be writing more than notes, I'll be writing an entire booklet so you know it's going to take some time. And because Storyville wants me to hand in my notes by mid-October, I don't know how I'm going to squeeze any new, large blogs in before that's over.
(Remember, I'm still away from home 15 hours a day for my job, four days a week, with a wife and baby waiting patiently for me to spend the weekend with. And the baseball playoffs are about to start. Priorities!)
Because I don't want my reading audience to desert me, I think I'll pull off my old tactic of "revisiting" older blogs, reaching way back to the beginning and re-posting some entries with new audio links (by the way, a few readers wrote in saying they had trouble with some audio links. Is anyone else experiencing this? Everything's working fine on my end but please let me know!).
So that's my life these days, my friends. I really can't complain: to busy to write an Armstrong blog because I had to finish an Armstrong book before writing liner notes to an Armstrong set in between my daily duties at my Armstrong job. I think I'm doing okay! But bear with me a little longer and regular blogging will resume before you know it. Thanks for understanding and for continuing to stick with me as your tour guide through this wonderful world of Louis Armstrong. Til next time!