(Thomas D. Brothers)
Office—Department of Music, Duke University, Box 90665, Durham, NC 27701. E-mail—[email protected]
Woodstock Country School, Woodstock, VT, teacher of music, 1979-80; University of California, Berkeley, teaching assistant, 1981, graduate student instructor, 1987; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, visiting assistant professor, 1990-91; Duke University, Durham, NC, assistant professor, 1991-98, associate professor, 1998-2008, professor of music, 2008—, director of graduate studies, music.
American Musicological Society, Center for Black Music Research, Society for American Music, College Music Society.
Duke University junior faculty research leave, 1994; Arts and Science Research Council grant, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, and 2004-05; fellow at Research Center for Renaissance Studies, Florence Italy, 1999-2000, John Hope Franklin Institute, 2001-02, and National Humanities Center, 2003-04.
(Editor, with Michel-Andre Bossy and John C. McEuroe) Artists, Writers, and Musicians: An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World, Fitzroy Dearborn (Chicago, IL), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Binchois Studies, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000. Academic advisor, Lives and Legacies: An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World, Oryx Press, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Musicology, Black Music Research Journal, American Music, Plainsong and Medieval Music, Studi Musicali,Musical Quarterly, Brightleaf: A Southern Review of Books, Music and Letters, Renaissance Quarterly, and Journal of the American Musicological Society. Member of editorial board, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 1998-2001, and Black Music Research Journal, 2004—. Associate editor, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 1994—.
Thomas Brothers is a professor of music at Duke University who has written about medieval music in Chromatic Beauty in the Late-Medieval Chanson: An Interpretation of Manuscript Accidentals, and coedited Artists, Writers, and Musicians: An Encyclopedia of People Who Changed the World. He has also written extensively about jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Brothers edited Louis Armstrong: In His Own Words in 1999 and wrote Louis Armstrong's New Orleans in 2006.
In Louis Armstrong, Brothers gathers together letters, articles, diary entries, and reminiscences written by Armstrong. The jazz musician routinely took a typewriter with him while on the road. He enjoyed writing down accounts of his concerts, his life as a musician, memories of his childhood, and his own ideas about music, race, and other topics, including his ex-wives and former girlfriends. He also wrote thousands of letters to his family, friends, and many fans. Some of the material was deleted from Armstrong's autobiography. Brothers provides commentary that puts the texts into context and preserves Armstrong's idiosyncratic use of capitalization and punctuation. The book's first chapter made Tracy Roberts in the Black Issues Book Review uncomfortable. In this chapter, Armstrong expresses his admiration for the Jewish community, while deriding what he saw as the laziness and lack of gratitude of African Americans. Nonetheless, Roberts believed that the book provides "new insight into the musician's life—much more than what most previous biographies have given the reader or fan." Brian Harker in Notes found Louis Armstrong to exhibit "particularly high standards of editorial judgement and fidelity." David P. Szatmary in the Library Journal concluded: "Carefully preserving Armstrong's idiosyncratic style and adding previously unpublished photos, Brothers illuminates the character and times of a jazz icon."
In Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, Brothers examines the musical influences that made Armstrong into an important figure in the development of jazz. Brothers highlights Armstrong's attendance at the Sanctified Church, a sect where spontaneous singing and dancing were commonplace; his familiarity with the raggedy, improvised music played by poor blacks in New Orleans; his experiences at an orphanage; and his early work playing with bands on New Orleans' riverboats. In the 1920s, while playing with the Tuxedo Brass Band, Armstrong melded several styles of New Orleans music into what became the earliest examples of jazz. "The book succeeds brilliantly as a musicological study situated in a historical context," wrote Burton W. Peretti in the Historian. "This well-researched and -written study helps explain the genesis of both a seminal genre and a seminal musician," Dave Szatmary wrote in the Library Journal. The critic for Publishers Weekly found that "the integration of biography, musical history and cultural study make this a rich, satisfying and thought-provoking read." Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, wrote Raymond Nussbaum in the Journal of African American History, "should be attractive to a wide audience. Scholars would appreciate the careful research that shaped Brothers's interpretations, while general readers, especially those with an abiding interest in New Orleans and the evolution of Jazz, would appreciate Brothers' accessible writing style." Damian Rafferty, writing for Fly Global Music Culture, called it "a sparkling and compelling account of one of the most important epochs in the history of music told through the perspective of its most dazzling star." Ray Olson in Booklist advised readers to "place this book at the core of jazz and American culture collections, and don't expect it to be displaced—ever." Writing in the Jazz Review, Lee Prosser concluded: "This is a fine book, well-crafted and well-researched. It entertains and it educates. It offers an accurate look at the young Louis Armstrong and his times in New Orleans. Highly recommended. This book is a joy to read, and savor." Lawrence N. Powell in Duke Magazine found that "no one has handled the sources more intelligently or made better use of theories of gender and identity, in piecing together this vital story than Brothers. This is an astonishingly smart book, one that scholars of jazz and historians of New Orleans can't afford to overlook."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Visions, April, 2000, V.P. Franklin, review of Louis Armstrong: In His Own Words, p. 34.
Black Issues Book Review, July, 2000, Tracy Roberts, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 36.
Booklist, March 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 54.
Down Beat, November, 1999, Jay Weiser, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 73.
Duke Magazine, July-August, 2006, Lawrence N. Powell, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans.
Historian, winter, 2007, Burton W. Peretti, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 768.
Independent (London, England), July 13, 2007, Christopher Hirst, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans.
International Herald Tribune, April 27, 2006, Jason Berry, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 10.
Journal of African American History, summer, 2007, Raymond Nussbaum, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 441.
Library Journal, September 15, 1999, David P. Szatmary, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 84; March 1, 2006, Dave Szatmary, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 88.
Music and Letters, May, 1999, Elizabeth Eva Leach, review of Chromatic Beauty in the Late-Medieval Chanson: An Interpretation of Manuscript Accidentals, p. 274.
New Republic, November 27, 1999, Albert Murray, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 29.
New York Times Book Review, April 22, 2001, Scott Veale, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 32; April 23, 2006, Jason Berry, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 21.
Notes, March, 1999, Peter Urquhart, review of Chromatic Beauty in the Late-Medieval Chanson, p. 645; June, 2001, Brian Harker, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 912.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1999, review of Louis Armstrong, p. 71; January 16, 2006, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, p. 50.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans.
Duke University Web site,http://www.duke.edu/ (May 14, 2008), faculty profile.
Fly Global Music Culture,http://www.flyglobalmusic.com/ (August 5, 2006), Damian Rafferty, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans.
Jazz Review,http://www.jazzreview.com/ (June 14, 2008), Lee Prosser, review of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans.
W.W. Norton Web site,http://www.wwnorton.com/ (June 14, 2008), brief author profile.