Talkin' Trumpets at Jazz Congress

On Tuesday, January 14, Jazz Congress at Jazz at Lincoln Center adjourned after two action-packed days of fascinating panels and presentations (and business card exchanges). The closing panel was titled "Talkin' Trumpets: Conversation & Music About Louis Satchmo Armstrong."

The idea was the brainchild of the great Jon Faddis, who graciously invited me along for the ride as co-moderator. We concocted a plan  for me to play rare, previously unissued Armstrong recordings from the various projects I've been working on to get real-time reactions from a panel of top trumpeters and Armstrong worshippers. I handled the recordings, Faddis handled the trumpeters. And who did he assemble?

Sean Jones
Bria Skonberg
Summer Camargo
Wynton Marsalis.


Photo by Del Lyren
Preparing for the panel was daunting but also very exciting. When would I ever have such an assemblage gathered just to listen and talk about Pops? What to play? My first iTunes playlist equaled about 3 hours.....the panel would be 70 minutes....and the participants would be expected to talk. With help from David Ostwald, I whittled my final selections down to about 35 minutes. Almost there.

Two weeks before the panel, I had a lightbulb moment: four volumes of Dot Time's "Louis Armstrong Legacy Series" are on the market but almost everyone I talk to has never heard of them (that's beginning to change thanks to promotional and publicity powerhouse Lydia Liebman). So I cut a few tracks and made a montage of favorite moments from those releases so I could make my soapbox speech of "Why do people take Louis Armstrong for granted?" That left me with 29 minutes of music, which I thought would be perfect. Lee Mergner of JazzTimes, co-sponsors of Jazz Congress, asked for the music in advance so I sent a Dropbox folder over to him and that was that.

Cut to Tuesday night, 20 minutes before showtime, Lee asks if I brought the files. Nope! I figured once I Dropboxed them, the production team would have them. A stage manager asked if I had a computer. Nope! But I didn't panic because I asked if I could use my iPhone, which is the way I prefer it when I give presentations. Yep! Wires appeared, we plugged it in, tested it and it was smooth sailing from there.

The phone at least allowed me the opportunity to improvise a bit as I was able to play a few things out of order to harp on some of the panelist's comments. The discussion proved to be so scintillating--it could have went on for hours--that I only got to play a fraction of what I planned (maybe cause for a part 2 somewhere down the road?). But it was so thrilling just being on that stage, hearing everyone speak, watching the audience react, seeing so many folks I love in attendance (including the entire staff of the Louis Armstrong House Museum), I don't know, it was simply one for the ages.

And thanks to the miracle of modern day technology, it was all live streamed and currently lives on the Jazz at Lincoln Center Facebook page. Go HERE to watch but once there, note that the video opens with the panel that preceded it. Feel free to watch it but for Pops, scroll to about 1 hour and 36 minutes in, sit back, relax and enjoy. And try to put your phone down or don't put it on as background noise because the Jazz at Lincoln Center production team did a beautiful job of filming it, capturing the priceless reactions of the panelists and audience members to the music.

Oh, and if you're still not enticed enough to check it out, here's what I played:

  • Louis in his hotel room in Boston in 1952, warming up unaccompanied on Schubert's "Serenade." 
  • An interview in 1959 where Louis defends himself against accusations of clowning.
  • The rarest of the rare (and the track that has generated the most buzz), Louis and Luis Russell's Orchestra tearing up "Them There Eyes" at the Grand Terrace in Chicago in February 1938, as captured on an acetate disc found in the home of Russell's widow, the late Carline Ray (thanks to Catherine Russell and Paul Kahn for giving me permission to play it!).
  • From the upcoming Mosaic set, a sequence on "Blue Turning Grey Over You" from Satch Plays Fats where Louis starts the concluding solo beautifully but it all falls apart during the bridge. After some discussion and a false start, he picks up his horn and knocks out the epic solo that made it onto the final record.
  • A montage of three tracks from the Dot Time series, "Panama" from The Standard Oil Sessions, "Muskrat Ramble" from The Nightclubs and "Indiana" from Sparks, Nevada 1964.
  • And finally, the last surviving "West End Blues" as performed at Freedomland in the Bronx in September 1961.
Once again, if you missed it, the this is the link to watch the whole thing. Night of nights! Chops flying everywhere.....


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