Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Satchmo Summerfest 2015!

It's the most wonderful time of year. No, not the holidays; it's Satchmo Summerfest time! This is the 15th annual celebration of Louis Armstrong in New Orleans and I'll be heading down tomorrow for the eighth street year.

Like previous years, I'm sure this will be the highlight of my year. How could it not be? It's heaven for Armstrong nuts: oh look, there's Dan Morgenstern! Hey Scott Wenzel! Oh, Evan Christopher is playing with Jon-Erik Kellso! Great to see you, Yoshio Toyama! Pass me some more red beans and rice! Which alternate take of "That's My Home" do you prefer!?

(Those are all actual phrases I'll be uttering over the next six days.)

Everything you need to know about this year's Satchmo Summerfest can be found here but I thought it might be helpful to guide my faithful friends and fans to what I'll be involved with this year.

The biggest and most exciting aspect to this year's festival will be the debut of the new exhibit, "Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans," a collaboration between the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Louisiana State Museum that was co-curated by myself and my Archives Assistant, Brynn White. Last summer, our Marketing Director, Jennifer Walden, made her first trip to Satchmo Summerfest and immediately started dreaming of a collaboration. Could we do an exhibit?

We could--and we did! I know that folks in New Orleans just love New Orleans (how can you not?) so I pitched the idea to tell Louis's story with his hometown, starting with his early years and continuing through all of his returns. I wanted it to be honest--there's a section dealing with Armstrong's refusal to go back home for ten years between 1955-1965--and I wanted Louis to do most of the telling. There are dozens of manuscript pages (some still unpublished), audio excerpts, video of Louis on TV and more.

Also, it was perfect timing as this is the 15th anniversary of the Satchmo Summerfest and the 100th anniversary of Louis's first professional gig. We don't know the exact date, but sometime in 1915, Louis took a job playing the blues at Henry Ponce's honky tonk and kept it going for about six months until Ponce's was shut down. In 1965, Louis devoted the year to celebrating his "50th Anniversary in Show Business," complete with a Carnegie Hall tribute and an entire hour devoted to the subject on The Hollywood Palace. So if it was good enough for Louis's lifetime in 1965, it's good enough for us in 2015!

What's that, you say? You've never seen The Hollywood Palace episode Louis hosted? Take an hour and watch it here:

Brynn and I spent months combing both the Armstrong House research collections and those of the Louisiana State Museum to find the best artifacts and images to tell our story. The LSM folks were incredible with designing it--we must have changed our minds two dozen times and every time we did, their team (led by Stacey Wilson) provided a new design in record time.

Two weeks ago, I went down for a 48 hour whirlwind visit to help with the installation and oversee the handling of the Armstrong House artifacts. For example, here's a brick and a post from the Colored Waif's Home, rescued by Jack Bradley while the Home was being torn down in 1964:

Photo by Mark Sindler
And here I am, unpacking Louis's last Selmer trumpet, which has now been paired with the first cornet owned by the Louisiana State Museum. (And yes, "Swiss Krissly" made it into the exhibit, too!)

Photo by Mark Sindler.
The exhibit officially opens with a reception at the Old U.S. Mint on Wednesday, July 29, but publicity has been rolling in steadily, including a TV piece on WGNO, a preview by John Pope on Nola.com and an article by Jennifer Odell for GoNola.com featuring quotes by myself and Brynn. And speaking of Brynn, she'll be making her Satchmo Summerfest debut, putting together a knockout presentation on how we put the exhibit together--and what we couldn't fit in--that will take place at the Mint at 1:30 on Friday.

I ceded that one to Brynn because, as usual, I have my hands full in a bunch of other presentations.  I'm Saturday, I'm providing tech for Dan Morgenstern as he tells his first-hand account of Louis blowing up backstage at Newport in 1957 (can't wait!). That's at 12:30 and he's followed immediately at 1:30 by Daryl Sherman who will be examining "Satchmo the Singer," a sequel to her hit presentation last year. Once again, I'll be manning the iPod for Daryl--she's made some terrific selections!

At 2:30 on Saturday, Fred Kasten will be interviewing Jewel Brown, the last surviving All Star and I'll be showing some footage of Jewel with Louis which I hope she'll comment on.

Finally, on Sunday at 1:30 the great Scott Wenzel is coming back and we'll be reprising our vaudeville duo routine but adding a third stooge--Dan Morgenstern--in telling the story of Mosaic's 2009 boxed set of Loius's Deca recordings. We're immediately followed by clarinetist Evan Christopher taking listeners through Louis Armstrong's musical "battles" with Sidney Bechet. And what will Evan be using as his guide? My series of blogs from about five years ago where I described Armstrong's encounters with Bechet in boxing terms. Should be fun!

My boss, Michael Cogswell, can't make it to New Orleans this year but he'll be presenting on "Louis and Kids" via Skype at 3:30, speaking to the audience while I run the slides. Brynn and I helped Michael select some dynamite photos, audio and video so this will be another home run. How can you not love Louis and kids?

And finally, there's my solo gigs. When I first started going to Satchmo Summerfest in 2008, I was hired to give one Armstrong footage presentation per day, titled by Jon Pult (my discoverer) "Cinematic Satch." The tradition will continue this year. On Friday at 5:30, I've edited together the strongest moments from three Louis appearances on The David Frost Show, including his final appearance in 1971 when he closed with "Boy from New Orleans" and played trumpet on "Sleepy Time".....try not to cry.

Then on Saturday and Sunday at 4:30, I'll be screening Louis's complete East Berlin concert from March 22, 1965. On Saturday, I'll put it in context and show the first set and on Sunday, I'll play the longer second set (but on the request of my wife--"People like when you talk," she says--I'll talk after every few songs and share some tidbits and opinions on the music). Remember, everything streams live--and then lives for a few months--over at MusicAtTheMint.org.

Phew! There you have it. In between all of the above you'll catch me dining out and seeing live music with my (very pregnant) wife by my side, plus a gaggle of New Orleans (and New York!) pals. Come on up and say hello and follow me on Facebook for up to the minute updates. Pops is Tops!

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