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Public statue of w:Louis Armstrong in New Orleans, LA. One of two in the city; this one is at Algiers Point, the other is in Armstrong Park.
Statue of Louis Armstrong at Algiers Point in New Orleans, Louisiana.
We kicked this off last year, in July 4th Louis 'Pops' Armstrong birthday celebration, and I hope we can make it a tradition.

Louis Armstrong, the world's best-known jazz musician, was born in New Orleans Louisiana, in 1901. He says he was born on July Fourth, and no matter what later historians say, I'm stickin' to the day Pops celebrated until he passed on July 6, in 1971.

So, like I do every year, I'm celebrating with Pops. I have the grill (and my laptop) out on the back porch, and the sound of a trumpet is blasting.  

Feeling good, and like Pop's said, "It's a wonderful world," in spite of all that confronts us.

Join me for more Pops below the fold.

Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter
Before you head out to a barbecue or a parade, I hope you can make a cyber stop at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and its archival collection, which has been called "the largest publicly held archival collection in the world devoted to a jazz musician" by author Terry Teachout.

If you happen to live in the New York City metro area, or are planning a visit, there are a host of summer events:

Louis Armstrong House Museum is THE place to be this summer. Come for a tour and learn about the life and career of Louis Armstrong. Be sure to check out these fab events too including our annual Hot Jazz / Cool Garden Summer Series, free concerts and more. Details here!

Louis Armstrong's Birthday Bash Kicks Off Hot Jazz / Cool Garden 2014

Our famous summer concert series is here: Fri. July 4 Satchmo's Birthday Bash with Emily Asher's Garden Party, Sat. July 19 with Bria Skonberg Quartet & Sat. Aug. 16 with Gordon Au & the Grand Street Stompers. Red beans & rice and sweet tea served up at each concert just the way Pops liked it.

If you are in the New Orleans, Louisiana, area, you can head on out to Congo Square/Louis Armstrong Park:
Located at 701 N. Rampart Street on the edge of the French Quarter, the park is dedicated to one of the City’s most celebrated native sons and to the tradition of jazz in the City. The park is located in the Tremé neighborhood, birthplace of many of New Orleans' most famous jazz musicians.  The National Park Service has an active presence in the park.

Within the park confines is historic Congo Square. Formerly known as Place de Negres, it took its name from the tradition of slaves who gathered there on Sundays, their day off, to sing, beat drums, sell home-made goods, and celebrate.

Thanks to youtube for your listening pleasure we have a full album, "The Best of Louis Armstrong":

00:00 On the Sunny Side of the street
06:04 A Fine Romance
09:58 Summertime
14:55 When the Saints Go Marching In
17:41 Mack the Knife
21:05 April in Paris
27:49 La Vie en Rose
31:13 Tea for Two
35:59 Cheek to Cheek
41:55 Just a Gigolo
45:10 Blueberry Hill
48:08 Dream a Little Dream of Me
51:16 C'est si Bon
One of the many versions of "West End Blues," recorded by Armstrong, this was performed in Milan in 1955:

From last year's diary:

This is neither a biography, history, or musical treatise on Armstrong's body of work and influence on the course of jazz. There are musicologists and jazz historians who have written reams about him.  

It's a celebration.

I did want to share one part of his history that relates to today, since we will hear the Star Spangled Banner, and other patriotic tunes played across the nation.

Armstrong became enmeshed in media frenzy when he spoke out publicly for the first time about racism and segregation. In his personal, musical life he had always demanded in his contracts that he would refuse to play if forced into segregated facilities, and his quiet insistence on being treated equally to white musicians opened doors for those who came after him. Yet there were those who lambasted him for his not taking a more active stance in the growing movement for civil rights.

In 1957, that changed.

In September 1957, Armstrong first spoke publicly about race relations in America. During that month, the entire country’s attention was on Little Rock, Arkansas, where state Governor Orval Faubus and a band of local segregationists were defying a Supreme Court ruling desegregating the city’s Central High School. Two weeks after nine black students, known as the “Little Rock Nine”, were first barred from the high school, the jazz trumpeter was on tour with his band, The All Stars, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Larry Lubenow, a 21-year-old reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, was assigned to interview Armstrong at the Dakota Hotel on the night of Sept. 17, 1957, shortly before a jazz concert. Lubenow’s boss laid out some ground rules that strictly prohibited any discussion of politics with Armstrong, the first black man to stay at what was then the best hotel in town.

Lubenow was first told that he couldn’t talk to Armstrong until after the concert. Eager for a story, with the help of a hotel porter he sneaked into Armstrong’s suite, posing as a room service waiter, complete with a lobster dinner. The reporter revealed himself to Armstrong who granted him an interview. Within minutes Lubenow brought up Little Rock. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country,” Armstrong said. President Dwight Eisenhower, he charged, was “two faced”, and had “no guts”. As for Faubus, Armstrong called him an “uneducated plow boy”.

Armstrong also recounted some of his experiences performing in the Jim Crow South. He then sang the opening of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, inserting obscenities into the lyrics. At that time, Armstrong had been contemplating a goodwill tour to the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department. He would go on to cancel the tour.

“People over there are going to ask me what’s wrong with my country,” Armstrong said. “What am I supposed to say?”

For approval Lubenow showed Armstrong what he had written.

“Don’t take nothing out of that story,” Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.” He then wrote “solid” on the bottom of the story and signed his name.

Armstrong referred to himself as "black" and I always think of that when I hear his rendition of the Fats Waller tune "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue (1955)."

book cover Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout
For those of you who might want to do some reading after doing some listening, check Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout:
Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. He was a phenomenally gifted and imaginative artist, and an entertainer so irresistibly magnetic that he knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts four decades after he cut his first record. Offstage he was witty, introspective, and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshiping fans ever knew.

Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous biographers, including hundreds of candid after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography.

I'm going to close with "Saint James Infirmary":

Hope you'll join me and share some favorite Louis Armstrong tunes.

Happy Pop's Day!

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and Protest Music.

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