I know, I know, when it comes to jazz and Harlem, the phrase "A Great Day in Harlem" has become as cliche as it comes. But I can't deny it: last Saturday, January 7, WAS a great day in Harlem....or more specifically, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. For four hours (not a typo), I moderated a panel that consisted of David Ostwald, Dan Morgenstern and George Avakian. Seriously. I'm sorry if my gushing gets tiring, but a few years ago, I would have quit my job to just be at something like this (and I would have been too bashful to open my mouth). To be moderating it? There are no words except pure gratefulness.
And the audience was packed, too, including Michael Cogswell of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Phoebe Jacobs of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Ray Carmen of the Duke Ellington Society and many more, the majority of whom stayed the full four hours. Here's a picture I will cherish til the end of my days:
For those keeping score at home: (Top row, L to R) Gwen DeLuca, Dan Morgenstern, Jackie Harris, Michael Cogswell, David Ostwald, Ray Carmen (Bottom row, L to R) Phoebe Jacobs, George Avakian and your truly. When I told Michael Cogswell who was on the panel, he joked that he felt uncomfortable, bringing up how the President and Vice President never ride together in the same car. "If someone were to blow up the building," he said, "it would set Armstrong scholarship back 40 years!"
I could keep going on and on about the proceedings but I won't and for a very good reason: you can hear it for yourself. Yes, not only is the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is a beautiful place for simply putting on these type of programs almost nightly, but they do an excellent job of recording them and posting the audio on their website. So here it is, broken into 4 parts ranging from 44 minutes to 57 minutes: Louis Armstrong Panel Audio.
What will you find if you choose to devote 3 1/2 hours of your life to listening to it? Plenty. I had my trusty iPod in my hand at all times so when Dan Morgenstern talked about certain moments of the Slivovice interview, I had them cued up or when George Avakian talked about "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy," I had specific outtakes ready to play (and yes, the same outtakes and unissued alternates that I wrote about in my book, the ones I couldn't share on the blog but with George, who gave me the permission to copy them for my research, sitting next time, how could I not!?). And pay attention to David Ostwald, too. Many know him simply as the tuba player with the vaudevillian lines who leads the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland every Wednesday at 5:30. But I've gotten very close with David over the years and I've talked enough Pops with him to know that he has some tremendous insights into the man. He did not disappoint on the panel (and some thought he stole the show with his answer about Louis as a civil rights pioneer in the first part....don't miss it).
Once again, thanks to Loren Schoenberg and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem for making this stuff happen and extra special thanks to my esteemed guests and esteemed audience who made it such a special day. And for those in the NY area, don't forget that I'll be giving three more lectures on Louis at the Museum on Tuesday the 17th, 24th and 31st, each one beginning at 7 p.m. Enough from me...happy listening!