At an age when most of us are playing with imaginary friends or real toys, the lovely musician Enrico Tomasso was playing BASIN STREET BLUES for Louis Armstrong and — in that famous photograph — receiving “The Kiss Of Joy” from Louis. So when Marc Caparone refers to Rico as “anointed,” he speaks the truth.
August 9, 2017, was a very special day for me, for Enrico and his family — his wife Debbie and daughter Analucia — thanks to Ricky Riccardi, the Ambassador of Louis and Louisness. For it was on that day that Rico came to the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College, my idea of a holy place, to sit among the wonders. I was there, with my camera, and recorded what happened, for all to see. The opening videos of this segment are narrative: Rico, Ricky, and family, looking at Louis’ scrapbooks and photographs. But Rico has marvelous stories to tell: this isn’t “history”: it’s very much alive.
First, Rico’s stories of New York and New Orleans, 1971, with glimpses of Dizzy Gillespie, George Wein, and Big Chief Russell Moore:
Then, going back a bit, stories of Louis in England both in 1933 and 1968. You’ll want to hear what Rico’s mother told him, and that Louis called Rico, “my little trumpet player”:
Looking at one of Louis’ scrapbooks — and there’s a great punchline at 4:25:
And what I find very touching, the scrapbook that Lucille Armstrong kept of letters and notes of condolences sent to her after Louis’ death. I asked Ricky to read out the note from Spike Mackintosh, which is touching beyond words:
A little mouthpiece-talk:
“Now here comes the beautiful part”: Enrico Tomasso playing Louis’ trumpets. Much of the memories above have shown us the grown man reliving parts of his childhood, completely dear and alive — but now we move into the much more vivid present, even though Rico says that he has “holiday chops.”
Here are excerpts from DINAH, STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT, SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, POTATO HEAD BLUES, a story Bob Wilber told about the 1947 Town Hall Concert, a cadenza, and I USED TO LOVE YOU — which the young Rico learned and sent on a tape to Louis:
And a little extra taste:
When someone, as a loving gesture, says, “Have a blessed day,” I have a good sense of where that utterance is coming from. I usually say, “You too! I already am.” But August 9, 2017, with Enrico, Ricky, Analucia, and Debbie, was an especially blessed day. The kiss of joy that Louis gave Rico in 1968 — Rico has returned to us for decades. And this was another glowing unrestrained example of love in the form of sound, from Louis, from Rico: a great gift that warms us like sunshine.
And there will be more music from Rico and friends to come.
Rico and Louis at Heathrow Airport, 1970.
May your happiness increase!