It’s always a good time to celebrate Louis Armstrong. What would have been his true 110th birthday is coming up on August 4, 2011 — but why wait? The photograph below was taken on March 1, 1949, while the All-Stars were in New Orleans. Louis was feted as King of the Zulus then (a great honor) and ended up on the cover of TIME (an equally great honor). In the photo, you’ll see Jack Teagarden, Louis, Sidney Catlett, Barney Bigard, and Arvell Shaw. Earl Hines and his piano, possibly to the left, have to be imagined.
This photograph comes from the Louisiana State Museum Digital Jazz Collection:
Now, just to make the whole experience more than silent, I propose that you click on this link —
which will take you to Ricky Riccardi’s extraordinary blog, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG. Ricky’s new book on Louis is a treasure (you haven’t bought your copy yet? It fits perfectly well in your beach bag) and he has been providing a soundtrack to the book on his blog. Sounds strange if you haven’t got the book, but the music is priceless. At the link above, you can hear Louis being interviewed on WDSU about being King of the Zulus, as well as two performances from the session depicted above. The two songs are among Louis’s greatest performances, and I don’t say that lightly: an impassioned, sweetly empathic reading of SHOE SHINE BOY and an explosive ROYAL GARDEN BLUES with some of the most ferocious Catlett drumming ever recorded . . . .
Hail, King Louis!