Sunday, April 10, 2011

Viva Italia! (And other odds and ends....)

Ciao, you cats. I'm back from my 48-hour stay in Italy, where I'm happy to report that love and appreciation for Pops is alive and well. I took part in the Piacenza Jazz Festival's daylong tribute to Louis and Miles Davis, gracious to be asked to join the lineup of Italian heavy-hitters on jazz Stefano Zenni, Marcello Piras and Enrico Merlin. Big thanks to Gianni Azzali for bringing me out there and for doing such a wonderful job with the festival (it lasts over a month...can you imagine such a thing in the United States?). It was a fantastic time from start to finish and I only had to "work" for about 90 minutes, spreading the joys of Louis Armstrong's later years. Here's a pic of me in action, sitting back and digging Pops.

And here I am with two of the finest jazz historians on the scene, Italian or otherwise, first Stefano Zenni (who acted as my translator!):

And Marcello Piras, who did a wonderful presentation on Louis and Italy, and the influence Italian music had on him and the reciprocal influence Louis had on Italian musicians. Great stuff!

And naturally, only being in Italy for 48 hours, I did almost unheard of feats of eating, attempting to squeeze 14 days of eating into six meals (with many courses). Here I am with a pizza...poor little pizza didn't stand a chance!

For many more pictures of me eating like a fool, find me on Facebook. I guess this is a good time to point out that I have been on Facebook for three years and am fairly addicted to it. More and more readers have found me on there, so please, I encourage anyone interested to find me there. And I should also mention that I recently joined Twitter, at the advice of my publicist at Pantheon. Because I'm so set in my Facebook ways, I've been slow rolling out the Tweets (and have been rewarded for my efforts with 25 strong and faithful followers!), but I promise to do more when the book comes out, especially with news, reviews and tour dates. Look me up @RickyRiccardi and follow away!

Speaking of the book, we're getting closer all the time to the official June 21 publication date. Advance copies have already been sent out and the reviews have been trickling in. So far, all good! Two of my pals, Michael Steinman and Dave Whitney, wrote lovely words about it that really touched me deeply, while Publisher's Weekly wrote a nice blurb about it as well (though the one complaint about minutiae means the author never read my blog!). Here they are in case you want to see what the buzz is all about...

Publisher's Weekly

Michael Steinman

Dave Whitney

Though the book doesn't come out for two more months, it can be pre-ordered on Amazon by clicking the link at the top right of this page. Remember, all proceeds go to needy families....mine. (Joke courtesy of David Ostwald....)

So I know, I know, big shot Ricko is traveling the world, reading book reviews, living the high life...doing everything but blogging! I know it's been patchy, but I think I'm through with the busiest portion of my life, at least until the summer comes, when my wife has a baby, the book comes out and I spend the rest of the summer, changing diapers and hawking the book. But until then, I'll be able to take a breather and hopefully get some blogs cranked out, notably the next in my series on "Muskrat Ramble," hopefully ready to hit on Wednesday or Thursday.

But if I do disappear and you're looking for some Pops online to satisfy your fix, I have some new recommendations for you that cannot miss. First up is Margo Mensing and her fabulous Louis Armstrong Dead At...69 blog. Don't let the cryptic title worry you; the site is the latest in a project that Ms. Mensing began seven years ago. Each year on her birthday, she picks a notable figure who died at her current age and basically spends a year with this person's works, learning everything she possibly can from him or her. This year, Mensing is 69, the age Louis Armstrong passed away in and she has embraced all aspects of Pops since she chose him for her project.

She has actually come to the Louis Armstrong House Museum twice (you'll see some images from our online catalog on her page) and I got to meet her once, a charming visit. She told me that she admired what I do, but she isn't about the nuts and bolts of the music ("what a high note in the fourth bar of the bridge!"). Thus, if you click the above link, you'll find entries on Louis's father Willie, Louis's handkerchiefs, Louis at the typewriter and much, much more. If you want to know more about Louis, go to Margo Mensing's site NOW!

And finally, a plug for my pal Michael Conklin, a fellow survivor of the Master's program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers. Michael's a jazz junkie, writer and teacher who already hosts a fantastic blog on Bill Evans. He has now started a second one with the fantastic title From Basin Street to Birdland, aimed at casual listeners and novice musicians. He dove right in this week with an entry on Louis and a 1959 version of "Basin Street Blues" and has followed with terrific looks at the music of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and James P. Johnson, complete with audio samples. Dig him!

So the blogosphere is swinging these days but don't count me out...I'll be back with more on Louis and "Muskrat Ramble" in just a couple of days. Til then!

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