It was the height of the Cold War, and the Iron Curtain countries were violently anti-capitalist and anti-American. Louis Armstrong was the most popular entertainer in the world, but East Germany’s government banned stores from selling his records.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum has filed permits with the Department of Buildings to begin construction on its $20,000,000 annex. Queens Courier reports that the project was majorly stalled — design work began back in 2007 — due to variance and zoning issues. The 8,737-square-foot educational visitors center, which will rise two stories, is going to hold more exhibit space as well as a store. It’s being built on vacant land next door to the house museum, which is visited by 12,000 people every year. No word on how long construction will last on the annex.
Jennifer Walden, director of marketing at the museum, told the Courier that this new center will “create a wonderful cultural campus in Corona that allows us to expand our programming for the community and our visitors from around the world.”
Remember: Whatever happens under the mistletoe, stays under the mistletoe. As part of the 27th Annual Holiday Historic House Tour, seven local landmarks will offer seasonal refreshments, organize time-honored activities, and provide glimpses of Christmas celebrations from as far back as the 17th century on Sunday, December 7th. Visitors will be able to check out any (or all) of the venues — Kingsland Homestead; Voelker Orth Museum; Lewis H. Latimer House Museum; Friends Meeting House; Flushing Town Hall; Bowne House; and Louis Armstrong House Museum — and a van will continuously run between sites from 1 pm to 5 pm.
After the jump, more information on each participating venue and its tour plans… (more…)
Over the last dozen years of Louis Armstrong’s life, the jazz legend liked to joke that Jack Bradley was his “white son.” The famous composer/singer/trumpeter didn’t have any biological children, and he was black. But he and Bradley, a professional photographer and avid sailor, became extremely close after meeting through a mutual friend in 1959. As such, Bradley had almost unlimited access to Satchmo, and he took countless photos of the star while collecting more than 2,500 sound recordings, fan mail, set lists, diet charts, handwritten notes, laundry receipts, rare books, and figurines. Bradley is still alive today, but the Louis Armstrong House Museum acquired his collection in 2005. It took years to relocate all the treasures and then arrange, preserve, and catalog them, but the Corona museum unveiled the collection last week. Visitors can check out rare recordings from the 1920s; a Giardinelli trumpet mouthpiece; unique photos of Pops on the road; and photos of Armstrong at home shortly before his death on July 6th, 1971.
Details: The Jack Bradley Collection, Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th Street, Corona, open Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday/Sunday, noon to 5 pm, $10/$7 for seniors, students, and children.
There will be dancing in the streets. This Thursday, the Louis Armstrong House Museum will hold its annual Jazzmobile Block Party, an end-of-summer blowout with live music, great food and countless activities. With the street free of vehicular traffic, the fun will begin at 4 pm with a children’s art workshop presented by the Queens Museum. At the same time, a hula-hoop specialist will share her twirling skills, spirit and stash. At 7 pm, the Ray Mantilla Septet will perform. Born in the Bronx, Mantilla has a unique jazz style, replete with Afro-Cuban and Neo-Nuyorican influences. A short list of this legendary percussionist and bandleader’s credits includes gigs with Tito Puente, Charles Mingus, and Eddie Palmieri.
It’s kind of a battle of the bands, but if traffic is light and one group starts late, music lovers can catch them all. On August 16th, three fantastic concerts will take place in Queens. At 2 pm, Gordon Au & The Grand Street Stompers (above) will perform at the Louis Armstrong House Museum as part of the historic site’s Hot Jazz/Cool Garden Summer Concert Series. Though based in New York City, this jazz band revives the New Orleans-style music of the 1920s and onward. At 3 pm, Choban Elektrik will give a free concert at the Ridgewood Branch Library. This electric dance band draws from the folk music of Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, and the Romany people. Beyond singing in various languages and a powerful rhythm sections, attendees can expect traditional line dancing. Then at 6:15 pm, the party continues with The Ebony Hillbillies at the Queens Botanical Garden. New York City’s only African American string band plays all-American jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock and roll and country.
Bria Skonberg is on fire! The trumpeter/vocalist/composer was recently nominated as “Up and Coming Jazz Artist of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists’ Association and she won a New York Bistro Award for “Outstanding Jazz Artist.” A Canadian transplant who can hula-hoop while playing, Skonberg (above) has performed as a bandleader and guest artist at more than 50 jazz festivals in North America, Europe, China, and Japan and headlined at Symphony Space, Birdland, and Dizzy’s. (Hmmm, if she keeps this up she’ll be compared to Satchmo soon.) On July 19th, Skonberg’s quartet will perform at Satchmo’s former residence, the Louis Armstrong House Museum, as part of the venue’s Hot Jazz/Cool Garden summer concert series. In addition to great music and Skonberg’s pure, playful and sultry voice, attendees will be served Armstrong’s favorite dish, red beans ‘n’ rice, and sweet tea.
Details: Bria Skonberg Quartet, Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th Street, Corona, July 19th, 2 pm, $18 in advance, includes a pass to tour the house which is valid for six months ($20 at the door without house pass.).
More information on the Hot Jazz/Cool Garden series is on the jump page.
Almost exactly 50 years ago, the event organizing committee decided that June 30, 1964 would be “Louis Armstrong Day” at the 1964 World’s Fair. So on that afternoon, the legendary jazz trumpeter left his Corona home in a motorcade (below) and rode through the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows Corona Park while greeting fans. Satchmo and his band then gave a concert at the Singer Bowl, which is now called “Louis Armstrong Stadium” and sits on the grounds of the USTA–Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This Sunday, June 29th, a concert and exhibition opening will celebrate the musician and his participation in the World’s Fair, thanks to a partnership between the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Queens Museum. At 4 pm, Catherine Russell (above) — a Grammy winner who has recorded with such superstars as David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and Jackson Browne — will perform at the museum. The event will also launch Ambassador Satchmo at the World’s Fair, a series of never-before-published images of Pops during the day he was honored. His personal photographer, Jack Bradley, documented the event.
Nowadays, we expect our rock stars, movie stars and big time athletes to live in impressive mansions worthy of their fame and status. The bigger, the better, for those who very often have more money than taste. Many people, especially those that came from very little, often like to show off when they make it big. So it was quite a surprise to see the Louis Armstrong House in Corona, Queens. It’s an ordinary, rather small and plain middle class house on a block of middle class houses, in a middle class neighborhood. No mansion, no fuss for one of America’s most important and beloved musicians.
You would have to have lived in a cave to not have heard of, or seen clips of Louis Armstrong. His signature growly voice is iconic, and his coronet playing was genius. He was a famous and beloved black American at a time when black Americans were still struggling to move forward from the back of the bus, a and from behind the Jim Crow water fountains, and take their places as equals in American society. Even those who did not like black people liked Louis Armstrong. They had to – his talent was unmistakable, and his music was simply too toe-tapping infectious. (more…)