On the Beat

March 31, 2014

Louis Armstrong and Archibald Motley, together at last

Louis Armstrong’s jazz trumpet and Archibald Motley’s brightly colored urban-landscape paintings go together like pancakes and syrup.

There is no evidence to suggest that painter Archibald Motley and jazz great Louis Armstrong ever crossed paths when they both lived in Chicago. But both men had their most artistically fertile periods in the Windy City in the years between World Wars I and II; and both were revolutionary enough to deserve the term “modernist.” So it is that there’s a show playing at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art right now called “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist”; and Duke professor Thomas Brothers has just published an outstanding Armstrong biography, “Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism.”

Armstrong’s groundbreaking, exuberant trumpet solos and Motley’s brightly colored urban-landscape paintings of Chicago nightlife fit together perfectly. And Thursday evening, they’ll be part of the same program. As part of First Thursday, Brothers will be at the Nasher to discuss Armstrong, introducing a program of jazz by the always-reliable John Brown Trio. Admission is free, and it’s the perfect opportunity to examine Motley’s paintings with the soundtrack they deserve. For details about the Nasher event as well as Brothers’ appearance at the upcoming NC Literary Festival, see this story from Sunday’s paper about Brothers’ Armstrong book.

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David Menconi
News & Observer music critic David Menconi's random (and we do mean random) musings about all things related to music and culture of the popular variety.

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