I had the good fortune to see the ebullient pianist / singer / sparkplug Marty Napoleon — born June 2, 1921 — four times. The occasions were widely separated but memorable. The first, my sole sighting of Louis Armstrong, at an All-Stars concert in April 1967, where Marty’s energies illuminated the huge room. I didn’t even think to bring my Instamatic camera, so I have no evidence to share with you. In January 1976, I attended a Louis tribute — with Bobby Hackett, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Marty, and others. I will share the audio from that concert later this year.
The third and fourth occasions — in 2012 — I was able to bring my video camera, thanks to the kindness of the musicians and of Marty’s great friend, advocate, and photographer Geri Goldman Reichgut.
Here’s Marty, sitting in at Harry Allen’s gig at Feinstein’s, with the much-missed Joe Temperley, Joel Forbes, and Chuck Riggs, in addition to the pride of the Upper West Side, Jon-Erik Kellso:
and a BLUES IN F:
Later that year, Geri arranged it so that I could record Marty on his home turf in Glen Cove with Ray Mosca and everyone’s friend-hero, Bill Crow.
Here are some of the sounds. First, CARAVAN:
Then, a medley celebrating Marty’s years with Louis:
And a righteous take on THE PREACHER:
Finally, PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE — amusingly ironic in this case, since Marty will never entirely be “gone” as long as someone hears his music, and knowing him even a little bit, he surely is glad to be talked about:
Marty didn’t make it to one hundred: he left us in 2015. But his lively presence lives on in the memories of the many people who saw him in person and those who can see these video performances now.
May your happiness increase!