Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Satchmo Summerfest Recap

The 14th annual Satchmo Summerfest has been here and gone...but it definitely won't be forgotten. A record-breaking crowd of over 57,000 people spent three days basking in Pops and believe me, it was heaven right here on earth. I haven't missed one since 2008 and though I might say this every year, this time it's really true: this was the best Summerfest yet!

I've been posting incessantly about this year's Summerfest on my Facebook page so I don't want to repeat myself here. If you'd like to see over 90 photos of me, my wife, friends, musicians and food, click here. No, for me and my circle of Armstrong nuts, it was all about the seminars, which fortunately were filmed, streamed live and currently housed on the web. There's LOTS of great stuff from historians and scholars such as Bruce Raeburn, Thomas Brothers, Michael Cogswell, Randy Fertel, Wycliffe Gordon and more. You can spend hours and hours and hours reliving it all simply by clicking here.

I've always done multiple presentations but this year, I broke a record: a keynote conversation with Scott Wenzel on the Mosaic set, three video presentations, two joint presentations with Dan Morgenstern and Daryl Sherman, one piano performance with a band of "All Stars" and three presentations where I supplied nearly all the content beforehand or from the sidelines. Phew, I'm tired just writing it out, but I can't really complain because it's all Pops.

The Mosaic set was really the star of the Summerfest. Scott and I had a ball delivering the Keynote as we took turns reading the e-mails we sent to each other during the original planning phase between 2006 and 2011, when I had the idea and basically wore down Scott's resistance until he caved. Mosaic sent 20 sets to the Summerfest....and they sold out within one day!

The Producers: Ricky Riccardi and Scott Wenzel at the Satchmo Summerfest Opening Reception. Photo by Rachel June.
The next day, Scott and I, along with Summerfest Director Marci Schramm, did an interview about the set with Keith Hill on WWOZ. We had a great time and even got to play a few tracks. If you'd like to hear it, here it is in its 45-minute entirety:

But after that, it was seminar time. I already shared the link to the complete set, but here's some of the ones I was involved in if you're interested. First, a screening of the ultra-rare "Satchmo the Great." The quality isn't great as it's basically a camera shooting a TV screen (a modern day kinescope!) but I like it as you'll hear the live audience react to the film:
Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

The next day, I teamed up with Dan Morgenstern to do something on Louis's rich history in Denmark:
Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

I closed day two with some of my favorite examples of Louis Armstrong on television, including some things that have only recently surfaced (some thanks to my pal, Robert S. Bader):
Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

If you need a break from me, the one real can't-miss seminar came from clarinetist Evan Christopher, who discussed and demonstrated the different ways New Orleans clarinetists (Johnny Dodds, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall and Sidney Bechet) played with Louis. Brilliant, brilliant stuff (and I'm always a fan of anything that references the Three Stooges, as Evan does here!):

Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

Then it was music time, as I was made leader (in name only) of the second annual edition of the Satchmo Summerfest All Stars. Besides myself on piano, you'll see and hear Yoshio Toyama and Brice Miller on trumpet, Louis Ford and later, Evan Christopher, on clarinets, David Ostwald on tuba, Keiko Toyama on banjo and Bruce Raeburn on drums. Every band needs a vocalist and this one had two: the great Daryl Sherman and my hero, Dan Morgenstern! In fact, it's been five days and people are still telling me that Dan's vocal on "You Rascal You" was a highlight of the Summerfest! What a joy to play with such fine musicians (though I'm only sorry the director didn't move the camera over when Daryl and I did a four-hands piano duet on "Swing That Music"; it sounds like chaos without seeing us constantly running around each other!):

Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

And finally, I closed with a look at the last two years of Louis's life, once again including rare footage of Louis on "The Dick Cavett Show" given to me by Robert S. Bader. Lots of tears flowed at the end of this one, which resulted in Louis getting a standing ovation (I just push buttons and talk; he did all the hard work):

Watch live streaming video from directionofsky at

That's just a small taste of what happened last weekend. I encourage you to watch some more of the seminars while they're still up on the web for next month or so....and even more, I really encourage you to make your reservations NOW for next year's Satchmo Summerfest!


RICHIE said...

Great recap of a truly outstanding event. It was a thrill to witness the reverence and enthusiasm for Louis for three full days. Marci puts on a fantastic festival filled with locals and tourists swinging, eating and laughing non stop. Having the Laurel and Hardy of Jazz (Ricky and Scott) sharing their passion for all things Louis just kicks this thing out of this world.
Thanks to all involved and all my best,

Sebastian Claudius Semler said...

Just watched the clarinet talk by Evan Christopher. Great! Most instructive about the way of New Orleans clarinet playing.
Thanks for this post.