Tag Archives: Louis Armstrong House Museum

“THE UNFINISHED WORK”: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, 1958

Louis Armstrong, 1969. Photograph by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

Pause, listen, consider, and share.  Words and feelings for these times.  We know the words but perhaps hearing them again, thanks to Louis, will make them more real, as they need to be now.

Thanks to Ricky Riccardi and to Judy Smith for inspiration.

May your happiness increase!

IN THE JAZZ BOROUGH: DENNIS LICHTMAN’S QUEENSBORO SIX, PART TWO (August 29, 2015)

Manhattnites think theirs is the jazz borough: Harlem, Fifty-Second Street, the Village.  Sorry, but no.  It’s Queens, home to Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Clarence Williams, Count Basie, Milt Hinton, Bobby  Hackett, Illinois Jacquet, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Benny Goodman, John Coltrane, Lester Young, Ben Webster . . .

QUEENS map

And the jazz glories of this borough aren’t only historical (read: dusty).  Dennis Lichtman proved that vividly in his concert — with his Queensboro Six — at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (34-56 107th St, Corona, Queens, by the way) on August 29, 2015.  The band was Dennic, clarinet, compositions, arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes, trombone; Nathan Peck, string bass; Dalton Ridenhour, keyboard; Rob Garcia, drums; Terry Wilson, vocal, with guest stars Ed Polcer, cornet; Tamar Korn, vocal.  And there were luminaries not on the bandstand: Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi, Brynn White, Cynthia Sayer, Jerome Raim, among others.

Here‘s the first half of the concert for those who missed my posting.  And now the second.  Dennis explains it all, so watch, listen, and savor.

UNDECIDED:

MIDNIGHT AT THE PIERS:

STOMPIN’ AT MONA’S:

I CRIED FOR YOU (vocal Terry Wilson):

BLACK AND BLUE (vocal Terry):

THE POWER OF NOT-THEN:

I’D REMEMBER HAVING MET YOU IF I’D MET YOU:

WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO (add Terry WIlson, Ed Polcer, Tamar Korn):

May your happiness increase!

IN THE JAZZ BOROUGH: DENNIS LICHTMAN’S QUEENSBORO SIX, PART ONE (August 29, 2015)

Manhattnites think theirs is the jazz borough: Harlem, Fifty-Second Street, the Village.  Sorry, but no.  It’s Queens, home to Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Clarence Williams, Count Basie, Milt Hinton . . .

QUEENS map

And the jazz glories of this borough aren’t only historical (read: dusty).  Dennis Lichtman proved that vividly in his concert — with his Queensboro Six — at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (34-56 107th St, Corona, Queens, by the way) on August 29, 2015.  The band was Dennic, clarinet, compositions, arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes, trombone; Nathan Peck, string bass; Dalton Ridenhour, keyboard; Rob Garcia, drums; Terry Wilson, vocal, with guest stars Ed Polcer, cornet; Tamar Korn, vocal.

And there were luminaries not on the bandstand: Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi (who does the introduction), Brynn White, Cynthia Sayer, Jerome Raim, among others.  Dennis, and we, thank the Queens Council on the Arts for their support that made this concert possible.

DENNIS LICHTMAN poster

Here’s the first half of the concert.  Dennis explains it all, so watch, listen, and savor.

CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME:

ROAD STREET PLACE COURT AVENUE DRIVE:

FOR BIX:

BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU (vocal Terry Wilson):

SQUEEZE ME (vocal Terry Wilson):

WALTZ FOR CAMILA (Dennis, Dalton, Nathan):

7 EXPRESS:

SWING THAT MUSIC (add Ed Polcer):

The second half will arrive (on the express track) shortly.

May your happiness increase!

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: DENNIS LICHTMAN / MISS IDA BLUE (August 29, 2015)

Just hold on a moment.  Before you start packing the car to flee somewhere pastoral for the final weekend of August, may I inform you of two delightful reasons to stay in (or visit) New York City on Saturday, August 29, 2015?

The first concerns our friend Dennis Lichtman — virtuoso on clarinet, fiddle, and mandolin.  I first heard and met Dennis in 2009 when he was a member of the Cangelosi Cards, then heard him in other contexts around the city — always playing marvelously, with a bright sound and memorable creativity, whether sitting in with a hot band or leading his own group, the Brain Cloud.

Photograph by Bobby Bonsey

Photograph by Bobby Bonsey

At 2 PM on Saturday, Dennis will be celebrating his tenth year as a resident of the borough of Queens, New York — in music.  He and a great band will be offering a concert celebrating the history of jazz in Queens . . . the result of his first grant project, “Queens Jazz: A Living Tradition.”  Thanks to the Queens Council on the Arts, he will be presenting “original music inspired by this borough’s jazz heritage.” In addition, there will be classic songs associated with Queens jazz masters of the Twenties to the Forties. (Think of Clarence Williams and Fats Waller, among others.)

The concert — the FREE concert — will take place at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th Street, Corona, New York, (718) 478-8274.  In case of rain, it will be held at the Queens Public Library, 40-20 Broadway, Queens, New York.

Lichtman Queens Jazz

Dennis has assembled a wonderful band: Gordon Au, trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes, trombone; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Terry Wilson, vocal; Nathan Peck, string bass; Rob Garcia, drums.  You can keep up with Dennis here and here is the Facebook event page for the concert.

But that might leave you at liberty in mid-afternoon on a beautiful Saturday.  What to do?

I will be heading towards lower Manhattan for evening music of a most soulful kind: Miss Ida Blue and friends (including Dan Block, reeds, and John Gill, guitar) will be hosting an evening of the blues at Joe’s Pub.  The photograph below also shows Andrew Millar, drums, and a figure I assume to be the heroic Brian Nalepka — you hear his sound even when you can’t see him.

Photograph by Steve Singer

Photograph by Steve Singer

Here is the Facebook event page for this concert.  It’s a one-hour gig, starting at 9:30.  And Miss Ida and Joe’s Pub go together spectacularly, as I have written here about her triumphant May 15 gig.  I first heard her delivering the blues like a superb short-order cook — hot and ready — with the Yerba Buena Stompers, and I look forward to more of that spicy cuisine at this year’s Steamboat Stompwhich will begin in New Orleans a little more than a month from this posting.

Miss Ida Blue debut blues

I note with pleasure that Miss Ida has two pairs of dark glasses in this photograph.  Obviously the energy she unleashes is so powerful that wise listeners might want to bring extra protection — aural sunscreen.  But don’t be afraid: her power is a healing joyous experience.  And you might hear songs associated with blues monarchs Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Robert Johnson, Sister Wynona Carr, and others, all performed with conviction, invention, and ingenuity by our own Ida.  To purchase tickets ($15), click here.

Now you know it all, and can make plans.  For me, a suburban New Yorker who commutes to Manhattan and Brooklyn for pleasure, I can occupy my spare moments in the next two weeks with the philosophical calculus of transportation: drive to Corona in the morning, enjoy the concert, then choose — take my car into lower Manhattan on a Saturday night and attempt to find street parking, or go home after Corona, take the commuter railroad in . . . matters of time, finance, ease.  Such things should be my (or your) largest problems.  I hope to see friends at both concerts!

May your happiness increase!

“HE CONQUERS THE WORLD”

Don’t let the commercial at the start put you off . . . here is a young hero, Ricky Riccardi, speaking on television about our shared Hero, Louis Armstrong and his House, here.

Doing it “for posterity.”

And if you’re looking for a good book, I suggest this.

May your happiness increase!

THE LOUIS ARMSTRONG ETERNITY BAND at BIRDLAND (Dec. 11, 2013) PART ONE

David Ostwald takes Louis Armstrong very seriously — not only as a philosophical model, but as a musical beacon.  That’s why he’s created and led a small hot jazz group devoted to Louis and the music he loved — now called the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band — that has had a regular Wednesday gig at Birdland for fourteen years.

But sometimes honoring Louis takes David off the bandstand.  On December 11, he stopped in at Birdland to say hello to everyone before heading to the Louis Armstrong House Museum gala which was honoring Quincy Jones and Dan Morgenstern.  But David wanted to make sure that the music at Birdland would be right on target, so he asked his friend and ours, Brian Nalepka, to lead the band.

Brian brought his string bass and sang on a few songs, and had the best assistance from Danny Tobias, cornet; Tom Artin, trombone; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Vinny Raniolo, banjo; Kevin Dorn, drums. Here’s the first half of that delightful concert for Louis.

SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH / INDIANA:

OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE:

STAR DUST:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:

BODY AND SOUL (featuring Pete Martinez, King of Tones):

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

Many first-class songs associated with that Armstrong fellow, and what a band!

May your happiness increase!

WOW! BRIA SWINGS IT at THE LOUIS ARMSTRONG HOUSE (July 4, 2013)

“Yeah, man!” is the only apt response to this performance — captured live at the Louis Armstrong House in celebration of the day Louis believed was his birthday.  Here the effervescent Miss Bria Skonberg swings out (thinking of Valaida Snow, perhaps) with Dalton Ridenhour, keyboard; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet; Darin Douglas, drums; Jared Engel, string bass:

The sound of muted trumpet and clarinet over a rocking rhythm section is so warmly a reminder of Swing Sessions — think of Joe Marsala’s bands.

Recorded and preserved by Jim Balantic — another errand boy for Rhythm!

May your happiness increase!

CELEBRATE LOUIS, the EARREGULARS, GEORGE, and YOU! (June 2012)

There are always reasons to celebrate, but the news is more brightly-hued these days.

The Partners in Preservation grant contest advisory committee awarded the Louis Armstrong House Museum $150,000 — funds that will be used to preserve Louis’s Garden. Your votes showed the committee how much people from all around the world love Louis and Lucille’s home and treasure their time there.

This funding initiative will help keep Louis’s legacy alive in Corona, Queens — and when the weather is hot, so is the music at the LAHM.  Click Satchmo to learn more about the summer programs in the Garden!

This Sunday, June 17, the EarRegulars — that New York institution founded by Matt Munisteri and Jon-Erik Kellso — will be celebrating their fifth anniversary of glorious Sunday-night improvising at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City): the charter quartet will be Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass . . . prepare for high spirits, guests, and fine jazz!

Another celebration is taking place this week, and it’s remarkable.  George Avakian is celebrating his ninety-third birthday.  And he is doing it among friends: at Birdland this coming Wednesday, June 20, from 5:30 to 7:15, hot music provided by the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band led by David Ostwald.  Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street, New York City, and the phone number is (212) 580 3080.

When we attended one of George’s birthday celebrations with the LACB, the line formed early and it was long . . . so make plans early!

The musicians scheduled to be there include David, tuba; Marion Felder, drums; James Chirillo, banjo; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Jim Fryer, trombone; Randy Reinhart, cornet . . . and I am sure there will many musicians who want to pay tribute to George as only they can.  Don’t miss this party!

May your happiness increase.

“ISTEN VELED, KEDVES BARÁTUNK!” or “GOODBYE, DEAR FRIEND”: FOR JOE MURANYI

Michael Cogswell of the Louis Armstrong House Museum has just told us that the memorial service for Joe Muranyi will take place on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, from 7-10 PM.  It will be held at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, in New York City.  I will provide more details when I know them.

I will have just come back from the Sacramento Music Festival, but I am sure that some JAZZ LIVES readers will be at the memorial service — to honor Joe, to hear good music, and to enjoy his presence through anecdotes and more.

Thanks to the fine swinging Tamas Itzes for the Hungarian farewell-from-the-heart.  And here’s a musical embrace — from Joe, for Joe:

This sweet, sad rendition of NEW ORLEANS features Joe with one of my favorite bands, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys: Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Ole Olsen, string bass; Michael Boving, banjo / vocal.  It was recorded in 2009 by one of my generous-spirited video comrades, Flemming Thorbye.

Goodbye, Joe!  We celebrate you.

May your happiness increase.

BLOSSOMS AND TREES: CLICK HERE FOR LOUIS!

As a recovering homeowner, I remember working in the suburban garden . . . without much pleasure.  It’s all a blur of shovels and gloves, pine bark chips, perennials and annuals.

But now you and I have an opportunity to make a garden grow — without raising a blister or breaking a sweat.  Perhaps you will also grow enthusiastic about this project when I remind you that it is the garden of the Louis Armstrong House Museum I am referring to.

If you like a logical Mobius strip, let me propose this one.

Louis Armstrong continues to make us happy even though the medical examiner said he was dead on July 6, 1971.  We can do something to make him — wherever his spirit is — happier by moving our respective computer mice.  And we are alive . . .

The Louis Armstrong House Museum was named one of forty historic places by American Express and the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation. There’s a competition  — which began on April 26, 2012.   New York City’s first-ever citywide grassroots preservation contest will run through May 21st, 2012.

Partners in Preservation asks the public to vote online for the preservation project they like best.

And — no surprise — the Louis Armstrong House Museum is the only preserved home of a jazz legend in the contest!

“We are honored and excited to be among 40 organizations to compete in this preservation grant contest,” noted Michael Cogswell, Executive Director of the LAHM. “If we win, and we hope we do, the funds will preserve Louis and Lucille’s garden.” Louis Armstrong celebrated his 71st birthday in his beloved garden, two days before his death.

The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a living memoir of Louis and Lucille Armstrong: the house where they entertained friends; the den where Louis practiced, ate sardines, had a good time for nearly thirty years. LAHM, a non-profit 501c(3) organization, is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. All of its furnishings are original and have been preserved, giving visitors the feeling that Louis and Lucille just stepped out for a minute. The Louis Armstrong House Museum holds collections of photographs, sound recordings, letters, manuscripts, instruments, and artifacts, making it the largest publicly held archival collection in the world devoted to a jazz musician.

Until May 21, 2012, anyone 13 years of age and older, anywhere in the world can vote online for the Louis Armstrong House Museum either from their web-enabled mobile device, online or on Facebook.

The best way to vote is at http://www.facebook.com/louisarmstronghousemuseum.

Votes can be cast directly at http://partnersinpreservation.com/

Everyone can vote once a day for Louis Armstrong House Museum for 26 days up through May 21. On May 22, the top three vote-getters and the grants for their preservation projects will be announced.  Money will also be awarded for the most imaginative campaign . . . which we hope this is!

American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee, will review the votes of the remaining sites along with each site’s monetary and preservation needs to determine how the rest of the $3 million in grants will be awarded.

“We are thrilled to bring this important preservation program to New York and highlight this city’s many historic treasures while emphasizing the importance of grassroots preservation efforts,” said Stephanie Meeks, President, the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Preservation of our historic places helps strengthen communities, generate jobs and build sustainable cities and towns. We hope Partners in Preservation will foster a deeper interest in protecting New York’s important historic and cultural sites for many decades to come.”

What does this mean to JAZZ LIVES readers, people who (I assume) love Louis and his music? It means we all have a chance to honor and help Louis and Lucille and their house . . . with a click of a mouse.

Spread joy — as Louis did — even if you never picked up a rake, a bag of fertilizer, or a trumpet. I’ve done my daily click. Won’t you?

Here’s a swinging pastoral reward for your good works:

May your happiness increase.

“A FORCE OF NATURE”: RICKY RICCARDI TALKS about LOUIS on AL JAZEERA (April 29, 2012)

Louis Armstrong was Ambassador Satch, spreading joy and enlightenment throughout the world.  An ambassador inspired by him, our own Ricky Riccardi — the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archivist and author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years –appeared on Al Jazeera English this afternoon to discuss the new recording “Satchmo at the National Press Club,” the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and Louis’s role as a civil rights pioneer:

Good deal!

Please remember to keep voting for the Louis Armstrong House Museum at www.partnersinpreservation.org daily through May 21 to help restore Louis’s garden!

May your happiness increase.

CLICK, YOU CATS! (FOR LOUIS AND LUCILLE)

Suppose you could give something important — for free — to the spirits of Louis and Lucille Armstrong and their beloved Corona house . . . with just a click?

Read on!

The Louis Armstrong House Museum was named one of forty historic places by American Express and the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation.  There’s a competition starting today, April 26, 2012, New York City’s first-ever citywide grassroots preservation contest, which will run through May 21st, 2012.

Partners in Preservation asks the public to vote online for the preservation project they like best.

And — no surprise — the Louis Armstrong House Museum is the only preserved home of a jazz legend in the contest!

“We are honored and excited to be among 40 organizations to compete in this preservation grant contest,” noted Michael Cogswell, Executive Director of the LAHM. “If we win, and we hope we do, the funds will preserve Louis and Lucille’s garden.” Louis Armstrong celebrated his 71st birthday in his beloved garden, two days before his death.

The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a living memoir of Louis and Lucille Armstrong: the house where they entertained friends; the den where Louis practiced, ate sardines, had a good time for nearly thirty years.  LAHM, a non-profit 501c(3) organization, is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. All of its furnishings are original and have been preserved, giving visitors the feeling that Louis and Lucille just stepped out for a minute. The Louis Armstrong House Museum holds collections of photographs, sound recordings, letters, manuscripts, instruments, and artifacts, making it the largest publicly held archival collection in the world devoted to a jazz musician.

Here’s Louis and Claudine Panassie in that very same garden in the summer of 1969:

Now here’s the beautiful part! 

From April 26 to May 21, 2012, anyone 13 years of age and older, anywhere in the world can vote online for the Louis Armstrong House Museum either from their web-enabled mobile device, online or on Facebook. 

The best way to vote is at http://www.facebook.com/louisarmstronghousemuseum.

Votes can be cast directly at http://partnersinpreservation.com/

for the Louis Armstrong House Museum as well.

Everyone can vote once a day for Louis Armstrong House Museum for 26 days up through May 21.  On May 22, the top three vote-getters and the grants for their preservation projects will be announced.

American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee, will review the votes of the remaining sites along with each site’s monetary and preservation needs to determine how the rest of the $3 million in grants will be awarded.

“We are thrilled to bring this important preservation program to New York and highlight this city’s many historic treasures while emphasizing the importance of grassroots preservation efforts,” said Stephanie Meeks, President, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Preservation of our historic places helps strengthen communities, generate jobs and build sustainable cities and towns. We hope Partners in Preservation will foster a deeper interest in protecting New York’s important historic and cultural sites for many decades to come.”

What does this mean to JAZZ LIVES readers, people who (I assume) love Louis and his music?  It means we all have a chance to honor and help Louis and Lucille and their house . . . with a click of a mouse.  

Spread joy — as Louis did — even if you never picked up the trumpet.  I’ve done my daily click.  Won’t you?

And here’s some music to click by:

May your happiness increase.

PARADISE ON EARTH: VISITING THE LOUIS ARMSTRONG HOUSE MUSEUM

This past Monday I spent yet another pleasant afternoon at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens.  The house is closed on Mondays, but it was a special occasion.  I was there to train as a volunteer docent, someone who would give guided tours of the house.  Being a volunteer in service to Louis Armstrong is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me, because I could never repay my debt to the man who has given me so much, not only his music but his attitude towards life*.

The LAHM needs volunteers, but they are precise in their requirements: there’s an application form to fill out, an interview (pleasant but serious), references to provide, and several training sessions.  The prospective volunteer is asked to make a six-month commitment and offer her / his services to the LAHM for one day a week, 10-5. You can fill out the application online: thatsforme.   Serious stuff, but they don’t let just anyone take care of holy places.

Yet it is absolutely uplifting to be allowed into Louis and Lucille’s house, to climb the stairs that they climbed, to see the mirrored bathroom and the dining room — with an Asian painting on the wall whose pictographs, translated, are PARADISE ON EARTH.

The extraordinarily shiny mid-century turquoise kitchen; the shiny mylar wallpaper (Lucille dug wallpaper and the insides of the closets are wallpapered in different patterns); the exhibit room with Louis’ gold-plated trumpet; the den where Louis spent much of his time listening to music, making his tape-recordings, talking on the telephone, practicing his trumpet, singing his songs.  A portrait of Louis by Calvin Bailey; another by some Italian fellow.

One of the most touching aspects of a visit to the LAHM is the soundscape.  (How could you have a tour of Louis’ world in silence?  Impossible.)  Moving from room to room, one hears excerpts from Louis’ homemade tape-recordings.  Early on, Louis was thrilled by getting it all down “for posterity.”  He knew his worth, and without immodesty, he knew that we would be listening to his life after he and Lucille were gone.

I heard, once again, the sweet story of how, when Louis and Lucille were newly married in 1942, she wearied quickly of “the road,” of living out of suitcases, and decided that the new couple should have a home.  She knew of a house in Corona, Queens, for sale — even then a comfortable blue-collar neighborhood, but one in which African-Americans were welcome  — and purchased it without Louis having seen it.  He was on the road perhaps 300 nights a year.

When he was going to be in New York, Lucille told him about the house and gave him the address.  Very early one morning in 1943, Louis caught a cab and had the driver take him to an 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens.

Because he hadn’t seen any photographs of the house and it seemed extremely grand to him, he asked the driver to wait there, in case there was some mistake.  He climbed the steps that I climbed on Monday, rang the doorbell, and there stood Lucille, in her dressing gown, as pretty as a woman could be, saying the words every man or woman longs to hear, “Welcome home, honey.”

Louis couldn’t believe this was his home at first, but he was convinced.  And he lived in this house with his wife until his death in 1971.

I write all this with a lump in my throat — for gladness, because Louis is my hero.  I told Michael Cogswell this (because I had the same feelings while in the House), “Louis is my saint and we try to be his apostles.”

You may not want to be a docent at the House — that’s fine.   Some of my readers will find the commute to Corona a bit taxing.  But if the idea appeals to you, click wonderfulworld.

But I encourage you to visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum and be in the spiritual presence of the man who changed and created so much of the music we love.  You might want to absorb the aura of his great humanity, his generosity, his love for the music and his fellow men and women (including miniature Schnauzers).  Or you might want to come and look at the wallpapers!  (Lucille loved wallpaper and the house is a marvelous specimen of the best mid-century modern American interior decor, and that’s no stage joke.)  Here’s the information you’ll need about the forty-minute tours:  louis.

The LAHM also needs your financial support . . . but you don’t need me to tell you this.  Become a member or make a contribution:  swisskriss.  These days, everyone’s bucket has a hole in it, but holes can be patched.

Just to get you in the mood, here is Louis performing that pretty song, HOME.

Louis and Lucille Armstrong loved their neighbors — the neighborhood kids ate ice-cream in the living room and watched Westerns on television.  If they were alive today, they would be inviting friends to the house for good times.

The House itself welcomes you.  Within its tidy rooms Louis and Lucille are alive.

Make a date with yourself and your Beloved to pay them a call in the most down-to-earth shrine you will ever visit.

*And here’s what I mean by Louis’ attitude toward life — I wrote about it some time ago: what-would-louis-do.

TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, THE GRAND STREET STOMPERS VISIT THE LOUIS ARMSTRONG HOUSE MUSEUM (July 30, 2011)

Some of my favorite people playing hot jazz in a sacred place.  The video comes to JAZZ LIVES through the gracious permission of FORTNIGHT JOURNAL, where you’ll find other audio and video creations by Tamar in Edition 2 here

The video finds Tamar with Gordon Au, trumpet; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Nick Russo, guitar; Rob Adkins, bass.  A House concert, I’d call it.  Feast your eyes!

The video was shot by Ian Campbell, and edited by Johan Hesselgren.

And FORTNIGHT JOURNAL is a new pleasure: visit them here.

CONSIDER THIS, DEAR FRIENDS!

It is now December 21, 2011, so I wish all of you a happy Solstice! 

But if the evidence around me is to be taken seriously, many people are rushing around in search of the perfect last-minute holiday gifts.  I have a great deal of ambivalence about this, although I haven’t renounced materialism entirely.  The holiday season intensifies the loud drumbeat of the online entreaty BUY THIS NOW AND BE HAPPY!  Once you are past childhood, you sense that some purchases lead to nothing more than January remorse.  How many sweaters does anyone need, especially when we know that some people don’t have sufficient clothing to keep them warm?

But — even with all that in mind, I wish to quietly offer a few last-minute JAZZ LIVES  suggestions for gifts that won’t be tossed aside on December 27.

Tops on my list is a membership in support of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.  Here’s the link: LOUIS!  There are benefits and perks to becoming e member, supporting the best museum I know.  But even if you don’t have the minimum amount for membership, generosity is possible on a smaller scale.  If everyone who ever was moved by a Louis Armstrong recording or video sent the museum a dollar, it would make it possible for the LAHM to keep the legacy of Louis vivid and tangible in this century. 

Perhaps you would like something for your contribution?  If you live close enough to Corona, Queens, New York, to pay the LAHM a visit, paradise awaits those who walk through the front door, in the gift shop.  Alas, the SATCHMO box sets have all been bought up, but there are racks and shelves of Louis-related gifts, from bags of rice with his picture on them, boxes of Swiss Kriss (something for Secret Santa at work, perhaps?), wonderful books by Ricky Riccardi, Michael Cogswell, and Jos Willems, DVDs and compact discs. 

Did someone say “compact discs”? 

The LAHM is the only place on the planet that has Gosta Hagglof’s lovely Ambassador series of discs — a wonderful labor of love, documenting Louis’ great work in the Thirties and Forties (and beyond) — with the Decca recordings, broadcasts, and more.  In fact, several of the Ambassador CDs contain music you can’t find anywhere else: the “Dancing Parties” one, devoted to Louis’ live recordings with Sidney Catlett, many of them from the Cotton Club, is extraordinary, as is the first volume of Louis and the All-Stars in Philadelphia 1948.  Unfortunately, the LAHM can’t ship you a boxful . . . you’ll just have to come to Corona in person, which is a life-changing experience. 

Other jazz gifts? 

Michael Zirpolo’s new Bunny Berigan book is a wow.  Find out more here

So is Dr. Judith Schlesinger’s feisty and compelling THE INSANITY HOAX.  Check it out here

Dawn Lambeth is coming out with a new DVD (hooray for Dawn and Chris Dawson) and there is a DVD documentary devoted to Marty Grosz, RHYTHM IS HIS BUSINESS.  Details to follow! 

Another possibility — giving thanks directly — is to go to a local jazz club.  Listen closely to the men and women swinging so deliciously.  Put something more than a dollar in the tip jar.  Buy a CD or DVD directly from the players.

And if all of this is beyond your capabilities, make sure you have jazz playing in your house . . . to lift your spirits, to make the rafters ring ‘way up to Heaven, and to enlighten your visitors.  If one more person gets to hear the 1938 Basie band, or George Wettling, or any jazz that makes you tingle, we are that much closer to creating and maintaining the wonderful world Louis sang about.

Happy holidays, dear friends!

BILL WOOD, SELMA HERALDO, PAUL BLAIR: “NO-ONE CAN TAKE YOUR PLACE”

There are people, memorably important in the Land of Jazz, who never pick up instruments or sing a hot chorus.  Three of them, dear to me in their own ways, have died in the past weeks.  This posting is by no means the full-scale memorial or obituary each one deserves.  It’s just something I have to write so that JAZZ LIVES readers will know.

Between 2004 and 2010, whenever I went to Jazz at Chautauqua, I inevitably ended up spending time and money at a table where a large quantity of sheet music was laid out enticingly — to admire and to purchase.  Bill Wood and his younger partner Greg Laird came to greet me, to be amused by my comments on the sheets I bought and refused to buy, and I expected to see them there year after year.

Bill looked as if he would have fit in perfectly as a small-town druggist or the wise fellow behind the hardware counter in a small-town store that had refused to be bought up by a chain.

He wasn’t there in 2011, and I missed his quiet, amiable presence, overseeing the coming and going of people and pages of Thirties pop songs.  In mid-November, Greg told me Bill had died: “Bill loved going to Chautauqua and providing his great collection of sheet music.  He loved the music and the people.  He was truly one of the nicest men I have ever known.  Even when he couldn’t use the computer any more, I still read to him what everyone was doing through your blog.”

Now, whenever I go through the stack of sheet music on the piano, I will think of Bill Wood with even more gratitude: someone who made it possible for me to bring home new music to learn, to admire, to enjoy.

Selma Heraldo, who died a few days ago at 88, received less attention than she deserved.  She was a fixture at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, because she had been Louis and Lucille’s next-door neighbor for decades.  Although she was the size and shape of an old-fashioned elementary school pointer, it would have been a mistake to underestimate her.

Had Selma lived in Hollywood, she would have been a renowned character actress, and that’s no stage joke.

She had a lovely wry grin, a nearly theatrical forwardness, and no tolerance for inaccuracy or self-promotion in anyone.  If someone else in the room claimed an unmerited glory, Selma would set the person — and everyone else within hearing — straight.  She was a delightful storyteller, and I will cherish forever the tales she told of her mother making Louis a fried-egg sandwich in the Heraldo kitchen when he came home from the road, wanting something plain to eat.

Selma was a shameless vaudevillian, incomparable in the art of mock-serious flirtation.  On September 22, 2011, she was seated at our table in the pleasant garden of the LAHM, eating dinner al fresco before Ricky Riccardi did his presentation on the Gosta Hagglof collection.

In an instant Selma decided I was both her comic foil and male door prize, leaning forward to ask if I would go home with her. “Not later, today.  I live next door,” she winked at me.  When I demurred, saying (as is my habit) that I was so sorry to turn her down, that I was already in a relationship, that perhaps I would disappoint her, she kept the game at a high level.  “Your wife better keep a close eye on you, handsome,” she said.

I did my best to keep the level of things high by asking Selma where she had been seven years ago when I had been at liberty and would have taken her up on her offer, and she giggled happily.

Being the object of Selma’s attention, even for a minute, was like hearing Louis launch into a second chorus of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING: she was a master improviser, able to negotiate any turn with comic timing that would have pleased Jack Benny.

Paul Blair, the dear editor at HOT HOUSE — the great New York jazz magazine, died of a sudden heart attack.  He would have been 70 in January 2012.  I met him through the Beloved, who had gone on several of his jazz walking tours, and he welcomed me to the magazine.

Although I sometimes chafe against editing, cherishing my own peculiarities, working with Paul was a writer’s dream.  He was careful, witty, tactful — but his suggested changes were so good that I took them without a word of fuss.  Reading my prose, he quickly saw what it might be and moved speedily yet gently to make that ideal possible.  I also enjoyed the witty emails he sent me — often with information I hadn’t known.

I only met him once in person: I had been urging him to come to The Ear Inn to hear The EarRegulars, and one night he did.  I didn’t recognize him in person, but he found me and we had a conversation that began in laughter and ended in an deep friendly empathy.  A casually-dressed man who easily made himself comfortable, he sat near the band and I could see him enjoying the sounds of the music: his face clearly reflected what was being played.  I could see that he was a perfectly intuitive listener, which is why  he was such a fine editor.

Paul was also master of the unexpected sweet generosity.  Once, with no prelude (after he had come to know my taste) he told me of some cassettes he had, recorded at a jazz party in the Seventies, featuring jazz pianists, some of whom are now dead.  Would I like these cassettes?  I was enthusiastic; they arrived a week later; he wanted nothing in return.

With the deaths of Bill, Selma, and Paul, my circle of people I love and admire has constricted, and my world is a little smaller.  I will do them the only honor I can — remembering them with love and hoping that others do so also.

And although I hope to make new friendships with other people memorable for their generosity, their style, these three will not be replaced or forgotten.

LOUIS IS IN THE NEWS! (and so am I — with RICKY and DESLYN and BALTSAR)

Fame — and for such good reasons!

Think: Corona for Christmas!

Read about it here

Thanks to Ricky Riccardi and Sam Levin and Deslyn Dyer and Baltsar Beckeld and Michael Cogswell . . . and of course Louis.

SO LITTLE TIME (A Shopping Pilgrimage to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Corona, New York)

I was very excited to read all the good press surrounding yesterday’s blogpost by Elvis Costello where he urged his fans to buy the ten-CD Louis Armstrong box set, SATCHMO: AMBASSADOR OF JAZZ, instead of his own (overpriced) one.

Hooray for Mister Costello’s candor and love!

But I didn’t own a copy of SATCHMO.  And that bothered me.  I have some of the music on other sources, but I felt like a hypocrite.  How could I urge my readers to get to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York, if I wasn’t ready to go there myself, unsheath my trusty credit card, and walk out with a box for myself?

This afternoon I made a Jazz Pilgrimage to the LAHM, and I can report that the Universal Music box is sitting next to me (like a well-trained rectangular puppy) as I write this.  I feel richer rather than poorer.  That’s the good news.

The less-than-good news is that the LAHM is the only place you can buy the box — it was produced in the United Kingdom in limited quantities, and they bought the remaining stock from the distributor.  Today I found out that there are fewer than forty copies for sale.  And when they’re gone . . .

So don’t wait for January 2012 to lament that the boxes are no longer available (although I am sure someone is planning to buy a few to sell on eBay at inflated prices).  The LAHM opens at 10 AM!  Here’s the link to contact them:

http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/visiting/overview.htm

Now, what’s in the nifty box seen above?  The first seven discs are a comprehensive survey of Louis’s recorded career, from the Creole Jazz Band’s 1923 JUST GONE to two tracks recorded at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival.  Then, there’s a seventy-five minute segment from Louis talking with friends Dan Morgenstern and Jack Bradley in 1965, with some assistance from Papa Slivovice.  And — courtesy of our very own Ricky Riccardi, there are two discs of material — unissued and alternate takes — no one’s ever heard before, including scorching material from a Hollywood Bowl concert that concludes with a version of WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN that has the All-Stars joined by the Norman Granz JATP troupe; much new material with Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson . . . and on.  I have attached Ricky’s marathon blogpost about the set — complete with track listings and explanations — for your dining and dancing pleasure:

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2011/07/satchmo-louis-armstrong-ambassador-of.html

And if you can’t get to Corona, can’t afford the set, but love Louis, call the LAHM anyway.  They are wonderful people down there, full of ideas on how to make the legacy of Louis continue in soaring shape.  (There’s the gala on December 6, and any monetary contribution would come in W.C. Handy.)

CELEBRATE THE ONLY MUSEUM THAT SWINGS! (December 6, 2011)

Who was Dorothy?

Jazz listeners, whether they acknowledge their indebtedness or voice their gratitudes aloud, celebrate Louis Armstrong in every bar of music they enjoy.  Louis lives on in his own music, whether one is tenderly playing a red-label OKeh 78 or savoring the Ambassador CDs as they pleasingly rattle one’s earbuds.  To think of Louis reverberating through the universe is one of the most pleasant thoughts I could ever have.

The tangible embodiment of the great man and his happy later life is, of course, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, New York.  Quite simply, it is a down-home shrine: a sacred place full of music, domestic bliss, and contentment.  Parallel to it are the Archives housed in Queens College: the repository for all things Louis — a wonderful place, where one can hear and see treasures beyond my powers to describe.

Such enterprises need our loving support.  And while this is not a “they need money” solicitation, expecting the house and the archives to go on without bucks (or “brucks,” if you have “S.O.L. Blues” in your memory) would be at best unrealistic.

The LAHM has created its first-ever gala celebration — to honor Louis, of course, through the music of Jon Faddis and a stellar rhythm section — but also to pay homage to George Avakian, at 92 our patriarch and wonderful storyteller, and Dr. James Muyskens, the president of Queens College.   The gala will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, at the 3 West Club: located at 3 West 51st street, New York, NY 10019.  My friends Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi will be there, too!

What began as a stack of 72 shipping cartons of “Satchmo’s stuff” has grown to become the world’s largest research archives for a jazz musician.  The Armstrong House is completely preserved, restored, and open to the public six days per week.  People from all over the world come to visit.

After providing services and programs for 25 years, LAHM will hold its first annual gala on Tuesday, December 6, 2011.  Every cent raised will go to fund operations; including the historic house tours, jazz performances, free children’s concerts, and making the archives accessible to the public at no charge. 

A who’s who of the jazz and cultural world is expected to attend.  The event will honor George Avakian, a legendary jazz record producer who recorded some of Armstrong’s greatest albums.  Jon Faddis, one of the world’s finest trumpeters past and present.  And Dr. James Muyskens, the ninth president of Queens College/CUNY, the parent organization of the Museum.  Under his dynamic leadership, the college has enjoyed a period of outstanding growth and achievement.   Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 pm followed by an awards ceremony and dinner. The evening will conclude with a performance by Jon Faddis, accompanied by David Hazeltine (piano), Todd Coolman (bass), and Dion Parson (drums). 

Tickets are going quickly!  To purchase Gala tickets and sponsorships contact Nayelli DiSpaltro at 718-997-3589 or by visiting www.louisarmstronghouse.org

If I may be so bold . . . .

I know many readers of JAZZ LIVES might be saying to themselves, “I adore Louis and admire his friends, but a Gala is beyond me.”  I understand.  But in the words of “Shoe Shine Boy” — one of my favorite Louis recordings — every nickel helps a lot.  If everyone reading this blogpost sent the LAHM one dollar, it would mean more than a lot.  Please consider this — with Louis, every day’s a holiday — at least if we remember to make it so.

Thanks to Chris Tyle for letting me know about this photograph.  Lucky Dorothy, I say.

“KEEP UP THE GOOD WORKS”: GOSTA HAGGLOF’S LOUIS ARMSTRONG COLLECTION IS HERE!

Earlier this year, the Louis Armstrong House Museum held the world’s largest archives dedicated to a single jazz musician.  But those holdings have just been enlarged substantially with an astonishing collection of rare recordings, videos, photographs, and unique memorabilia — the collection of a man who devoted sixty years to celebrating Louis.

Gosta Hagglof might not be familiar to those who don’t collect Louis Armstrong’s music or know something about superb international hot jazz.  But Gosta, who died in 2009,  proved again that you don’t have to be a performing artist to advance the cause of the art you love.  And he kept learning how to be generous from the example of Louis — so that he left his entire collection to the LAHM.

From 1949 until his death, Gosta (born in Sweden) devoted himself to Louis Armstrong because of “the heartfelt beauty of his music.”  A few days ago, on Sept. 22, 2011, the fine jazz scholar Ricky Riccardi gave a presentation on the riches of Gosta’s collection which now reside in the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College.  Typically, Ricky’s presentation was witty, pointed, full of new stories and music even I had never heard before.  (Don’t let the oddity of watching a video of a man playing music through a computer scare you off: I can promise you a short segment of Louis, Jack Teagarden, and Sidney Catlett that few have ever heard.)

The mention of Jack Teagarden leads me to point out that there, in the front row, was a fellow intimately acquainted with Big T — his son Joe, a charming and gracious man visiting New York for a few days from his native Atlanta.  I felt honored to meet him — a man as friendly and unassuming as his famous father.

The presentation was for the jazz press only, but (if you don’t tell anyone) I can sneak you in through the medium of my video camera.

And where did all this take place?  In Corona, Queens, in the house (now a museum) where Louis and Lucille lived from 1943 to 1971 — and where Lucille continued to live until her death.  It’s a National Historic Landmark administered by Queens College — the only historic site devoted to a jazz musician that is warm, welcoming place, and the news is that people can get married there . . . what a wonderful idea!  To be married in the garden of Louis Armstrong’s house . . . what a way to begin wedded bliss!  For details, contact Deslyn Dyer (deslyn.dyer@qc.cuny.edu) or Baltsar Beckeld at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (they will make sure everything is festive — and I am sure they would make great witnesses).  Don’t forget to book a swinging band — I can suggest some likely suspects.

I’ll have more to say about the LAHM in a future post — for now, make sure that you’re free December 6, 2011.  You won’t be sorry, now or someday.

And now — here’s a wonderful chain of devotion, music, scholarship — from Louis to Gosta to Ricky to us:

And the conclusion:

And for those of us who want to hear every scrap of the music Louis made, one of Gosta’s generosities was his own Ambassador CD label: he issued more than a dozen CDs that document Louis’s work from 1935 into the early Fifties — primarily the Decca recordings (which no less an authority than Ruby Braff thought Louis’s finest work).  The Decca period has been well-documented on the Mosaic label, but Gosta’s CDs can be bought one at a time, and they include broadcasts and other rarities — including an entire CD of material, rarer than rare, featuring the best of Louis’s big bands from 1939-1943, spurred on by Big Sid Catlett, and a more recent release of the All-Stars in Philadelphia (Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, Catlett, and Velma Middleton) with the best sound I’ve ever heard and accurate speed-correction.

The Louis Armstrong House Museum is at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York, and it’s open every day except Monday.  The staff conducts forty-minute tours through the house Louis and Lucille lived in — worth the trip from far away.  And the Museum is creating a Vistors’ Center across the street from the house — $15 million has already been raised for design and construction: it will begin to take shape in early 2012.  If you think that Louis — man and musician — helps make this a wonderful world, please consider joining the LAHM: visit www.louisarmstronghouse.org. 

PLAYING FOR KEEPS: REBECCA KILGORE QUARTET with TIM LAUGHLIN at SWEET AND HOT 2011

I mean my title literally.  This band is at its easy playful best — but what they offer us won’t erode with time.  The music that Rebecca Kilgore, Tim Laughlin (clarinet), Dan Barrett (trombone and cornet), Eddie Erickson (guitar, banjo, vocal), and Joel Forbes (string bass) created at the September 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival will last.

It’s energetic, personal, lively, sweet, as you;ll see and hear.  And Ms. Kilgore, our Becky, is in top form — her opening choruses are thirty-two bar seminars in melodic invention over a swinging pulse; her second choruses say, “There’s always another way to sing these words and these notes,” and I know she could go on from one set of subtle variations on the theme to another all night long. (A Kilgore chorus has the same subtlety and structure as the solo of a great instrumentalist.)

Dan, Eddie, and Joel work together beautifully — their inventiveness, pulse, and swing — but the guest star, the limpid-toned Tim Laughlin, fit in as if he’d been working with this group for years.  Maybe he should be!

This nimble quintet began their set with an old favorite — but one whose optimistic message is always needed — BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD.  With the little Louis-touches, that backyard might well have been the garden next door to his house in Corona:

Because of Tim’s home town and the love it evokes from all the musicians in this idiom, Becky called for DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:

Then, the perennial Harold Arlen – Ted Koehler declaration of fidelity (based on BASIN STREET BLUES, more or less), AS LONG AS I LIVE:

The jazz pedigree of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS goes all the way back to Louis with Fletcher Henderson.  Often this song is played as the last one of the night — I’m glad there was more to come in this set.  And the Barrett – Laughlin riff behind Becky’s first chorus is somewhat reminiscent of “With no pants on” in some versions of THE SHEIK.  Listen to Becky’s pearly phrasing, then dig the hilarious horn conversation of Dan and Tim — bringing Vic Dickenson and Ed Hall into the twenty-first century, with the best aupport from Eddie and then Joel:

I had the original Kapp 45 of MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW by the Kenny Ball Jazz Band — but with all respects to them, this version is even better.  Dan is one of the finest cornetists you’ll ever hear — careful and headlong at the same time, while Tim weaves leafy lines around him, Eddie and Joel rocking the room without strain:

Readers of JAZZ LIVES know the name of Edgar Sampson (as well as his main instrument) but it’s always lovely to hear IF DREAMS COME TRUE again, with its echoes of Billie, James P., and Dick Wellstood:

I wonder how many listeners get all the clever Thirties references in the lyrics of TANGERINE (look up Lilly Dache sometime) but the song stands on its own, sinuous and sly — let’s raise a toast to Becky’s choice of tempo and Joel’s eloquent playing:

And as a tribute to New Orleans and the romping early days, the band closed with THAT’S A PLENTY — fitted out with tongue-twisting lyrics perhaps thirty years after its initial recording — Buster’s gang came to town, with Eddie adding his smooth voice in sweet harmony:

This was such a superb set — the only thing missing was a rendition of IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON (appropriate to the decor): maybe next year?

‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN CORONA, QUEENS (June 26, 2011)

Louis Armstrong was (appropriately) born in Louisiana, but his country is everywhere someone is humming a few notes from BLUEBERRY HILL or remembering that his face (in the words of Ida Melrose) radiates “kindness and compassion.”

But perhaps the capital of the land of Louis, the vortex, is in the garden of a brick house in Corona, Queens, where he and Lucille lived for over twenty-five years.   It’s now called the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and it will be the site of jazz concerts and other celebrations this summer: check out http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org. for the good news.

Louis and the neighbors in Corona, celebrating on July 4, 1969

What could be more appropriate than assembling there, among friends, for a Sunday afternoon celebration of Ricky Riccardi’s moving new book, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS? 

Here are three video clips from Ricky’s presentation.  Hide the children: Louis himself utters a naughty word . . . . but with good reason, as the story is one of his being treated in a demeaning way because of the color of his skin.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Thank you, Ricky, for working on that beautiful book and telling us all about it.  Thank you, Louis, for being!