Thursday, October 22, 2009

Catching Up

Hello faithful readers. My goodness, how many times have I opened up a blog with an apology? You know, "Sorry I haven't written in a while, I had a baby....went on vacation...started a job....bought a new computer....wrote a book," etc. It's always something. Well, here I go again as it has officially been two weeks since I wrote anything fresh on Pops and that is a crime. But with the new job starting last week and a trip to Jack Bradley's in Cape Cod in the middle, writing blogs has been about the farthest thing on my mind. To give you an idea of a day in the life of me, take yesterday: I worked, went to Dan Morgenstern's 80th birthday celebration at Birdland and finished off the night giving a lecture on Armstrong for an appreciative crowd at the Duke Ellington Society. I left my house at 7:30 a.m. and got home at 12:15 a.m. Wife? Baby? Zero. Blog? You gotta be kidding...

And never mind blogging, I have very nice readers who have written very nice letters and even some of those, I'm at least a month behind. But as the song goes, what can I do after I say that I'm sorry? The answer? Write some fresh blogs. Thankfully, it looks like I have some free time over the next few days and I'm planning on stockpiling some new material, including a couple on "When You're Smiling." But for now, I just wanted to pop my head in and thank you all for being patient.

In other news, my job as Project Archivist continues to be dream up at the Louis Armstrong House Museum at Queens College. There's really no need to use this blog to describe my daily activities at work, but I do want to spend a little time and share some photos from my visit with Michael Cogswell to Jack Bradley's house in Cape Cod last week. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, I'm pretty much in charge of the preservation and cataloguing of Jack's collection. And what a collection it is. Holy geez, what a collection. It's the largest private Armstrong collection in the world and after five trips in five years, just about all of it is now held at Queens College. Amazing.

I've spoken to Jack many times over the phone but getting to meet him and him and his terrific wife Nancy was simply an honor. Suffice to say, Jack's house if a bona fide jazz museum. The crazy part is, after five years of removing all the Louis-related material from the house, it literally looks like we took nothing. Films, pictures, periodicals, albums, CDs, everything spilling from room to room, shelf to shelf, filling up the attic and wrapping all the way around the impossibly large basement.

Don't believe me? I have some photos to prove it. First, here's a shot of the records in Jack's living room, with a small sign atop marking it as a "Vinyl Resting Place"

These signs, "Disaster Area" and "Bless This Mess," were located in the basement. Directly to the right, two Armstrong records hanging on a wall. Why wouldn't they be?

My biggest project was sorting through Jack's massive 16mm film collection to cull out the Armstrong films. I think we came back with almost 40 reels. Here's a picture of me in action:

Once out of the basement, Michael insisted that I had to see the attic to believer it. He wasn't kidding:

Here's Michael, somewhat in disbelief at the treasures lurking around every corner:

Photos and posters took up almost all the visible space on Jack's wall. I had to get a shot of this two-fer: Louis and Jack together on the left and (hide the children), naked Louis on the right:

I also had to get a shot of this t-shirt, which I think summarizes Jack's feelings towards his hero:

Here's Jack, Nancy, Michael and myself, enjoying dinner at the 400 East:

And here's Jack with a trusty Kodak disposable camera, ready to shoot. Don't knock the camera; he won an award for a photo he took with one of those last year!

Parting with his Armstrong collection has been extremely emotional for Jack, but he did take a chunk of the money he got for it and purchased a beautiful 1937 Oldsmobile:

Finally, after a lovely Friday afternoon featuring an emotion oral history interview with Jack, it was time to say goodbye. Here's Jack and myself in front of the packed cargo van:

And here's Jack, saying farewell to this the fifth, and almost final batch of his life's work:

MIchael and I left Cape Cod early on Saturday morning and had everything loaded into the Archives by 11 a.m. This is what awaited me on Monday morning:

And that's only one pile! But everything is now back on the shelves and I've already begun the process of sorting through and preserving the photos, contact sheets and negatives. In two years, when the Louis Armstrong House Museum Visitors Center is open, Jack Bradley's entire life's work will be safe, secure, preserved, organized and much of it will be on display. Stay tuned for that.

Thanks again to Jack and Nancy for their hospitality. I hope you enjoyed this photographic look at what turned out to be an unforgettable there-day trip for myself. I'll be back on Saturday with a special post. I'll be commemorating Dan Morgenstern's 80th birthday with the complete audio of the famous 1965 "Slivovice" interview. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, see you on Saturday!

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