In the early part of the 20th century, a group of esteemed scholars gathered in Boston to take up an urgent question: Would the United States ever make a unique contribution to music? Could there be, out there somewhere, an American Bach?
They looked far and wide in the places that they knew, they searched for faces that they might recognize, they listened deeply in the idioms in which they were familiar. And they came away disappointed.
The jazz critic Gary Giddins shakes his head as he recounts the tale. If these so-called experts had simply taken a train south from Boston to New York City and stepped in to the Roseland Ballroom on a Thursday night, they would have experienced the American Bach, Dante and Shakespeare all rolled into one: Louie Armstrong.
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