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…)
By early 1964, Louis Armstrong had pretty much done it all. Thanks to his songs, movies, tours and TV appearances, he was beloved around the world. But on May 9, 1964, Pops outdid himself, replacing the Beatles at number one on the Billboard charts. “Hello Dolly,” his title song to a Broadway musical, ended the Fab Four’s 14-week run at the top with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” It was a miracle of sorts and to this day, Armstrong, who was 63 at the time, is still the oldest artist to attain a number one pop hit. Of course, the lads from Liverpool reclaimed the throne shortly thereafter, but “Hello, Dolly!” became the biggest hit of Satchmo’s lifetime. Plus, the tune had another successful round with the eponymous play’s film adaptation directed by Gene Kelly and starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau. This Saturday, the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image will mark the 50th anniversary of the song’s triumph by co-presenting a Hello Dolly Party. Attendees will enjoy a special screening of the movie, a dessert reception and a presentation by Armstrong House archivist Ricky Riccardi, who will present rare footage of the great trumpeter’s performances. They will also receive complimentary passes to the Armstrong House at 34-56 107th Street in Corona.
Details: Hello Dolly Party, Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, May 10th, 1 pm, $12, but free for members of either museum.
It’s time to party like it’s 1939… or 1964. Queens is the only county in the U.S. to host two World’s Fairs, and both historic events are celebrating major anniversaries this year (the fiftieth and seventy-fifth, respectively). On April 30, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated the first one in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which had just been created from a large tidal marsh and garbage dump. The air conditioner made its debut, as did color photographs, fluorescent lamps, nylon and pencil sharpeners. Early television sets and a futurist GM car were the rage as was a diner, which was relocated and is still open for business as the White Manna in Jersey City, NJ. Meanwhile Goldie Hawn, a teenager who had just moved from Maryland to NYC to pursue a career in showbiz, was discovered as a chorus line dancer at the Texas pavilion during the 1964 World’s Fair. The Ford Mustang, Unisphere and Belgian waffle (above) all owe part of their fame to this fair, which actually ran for two, six-month seasons in 1964 and 1965 and attracted more than 51 million people. Corona resident Louis Armstrong (arriving at the scene below) played his trumpet, and various countries and regions promoted their good sides. Wisconsin had a pavilion exhibiting the planet’s largest chunk of cheese, while Miami displayed a parrot jungle, and Hawaii operated the Five Volcanoes restaurant.
On March 22nd, this year’s first World’s Fair-related commemorative event will take place when the Greater Astoria Historical Society screens The World of Tomorrow, a film on the 1939 Fair. Then, over the next six months, the New York Hall of Science, Noguchi Museum, Parks Department, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Center, Queens Historical Society, Queens Museum, Queens Theatre, The Port Authority of NY & NJ and other local entities, such as the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel, will hold exhibits, plays, concerts and even a beer festival to commemorate.
He had good reasons to sing “It’s a wonderful world.” In the 1950s, Louis Armstrong was the unofficial “Goodwill Ambassador” of the United States as his jazz music had fervent fans all over the planet. In 1957, the trumpeter toured South America, performing 67 concerts over six weeks in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela. Satchmo hung out musicians in Buenos Aires, spent time with President Juscelino Kubitschek and popular singer Cauby Peixoto in Brazil, graced the cover of periodicals in Chile and Uruguay, and performed a mock bullfight on stage in Caracas. The mementos he brought home — including records, tapes, magazines and photographs – are on display through April 30 as part of Señor Satchmo: Louis Armstrong in South America, an exhibit at his Corona house, which is now a museum (master bathroom below). During February, as part of Black History Month, each museum visitor will receive a complimentary, limited-edition photo of Armstrong in Buenos Aires in October 1957, wearing a catcher’s mask to protect his trumpet-playing lips and doing his best to avoid the mobs of adoring fans fighting for a chance to see and touch him.
Details: Señor Satchmo: Louis Armstrong in South America, Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th Street, Corona, on display through April 30th, complimentary photo offer in February with admission ($10/$7 seniors, students and children/$6 group rate/free for children under four), museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 pm.
They will deck the halls! Many, many halls. On December 8th, the Queens Historical Society will host the 26th Annual Holiday Historic House Tour through Flushing and Corona. A trolley will bring participants to seven landmarked sites, which will offer special seasonal programming, a glimpse at life during holidays past and refreshments. Consider the following:
Lewis H. Latimer House Museum (1889) was home of African-American inventor Lewis H. Latimer, who lived there from 1903 until his death in 1928. The son of fugitive slaves, he played a vital role in the development of the telephone and the incandescent light bulb.
Friends Meeting House (1694) is the first house of worship in the village of Flushing and NYC’s oldest structure in continuous use for religious purposes. The venue also has an historic cemetery.
Flushing Town Hall (1862) was the cultural and political focal point of the village of Flushing. The building features a rich history that includes visits by dignitaries such as PT Barnum and Tom Thumb, operas, murder trials and even a jail cell. Frederick Douglass once spoke from the portico.
Bowne House (1661) is known for its connection to the principle of freedom of conscience in the United States. Nine generations of the Bowne family lived in the house (below).
Louis Armstrong House Museum (1910) was purchased by jazz legend Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, in 1943. For the season, the house (above) will feature rare audio clips from Satchmo’s personal recordings.
Details: Holiday Historic House Tour, Organized from Kingsland Homestead, 143-35 37th Avenue, Flushing, December 8th, 1 pm to 5 pm, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, children under 12 are free. (more…)
Now this is a party that Satchmo would have loved! On October 15th, the Louis Armstrong House Museum will host its 10th anniversary bash, and the joint will be jumping like never before with live jazz, delicious food and a special unveiling. The Hot Sardines, which went from playing a Queens coffee shop to headlining Lincoln Center, will provide the jazz. These cats take a blustery brass lineup, mix it with a rhythm section led by a stride-piano virtuoso, and tickle the notes with a frontwoman with a sultry voice. In tune with the night’s theme, cuisine will be provided by Tamara Reynolds, a trained musician who shifted gears after she fell in love with the kitchen. A regular on The Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats, Reynolds has run the the Sunday Night Dinner in Astoria, an underground dining club, for the last 10 years. She’s also the chef/owner of the traveling feast Van Alst Kitchen. The night will also feature the unveiling of a little-known Louis Armstrong life mask, a plaster disguise with a painted, bronze-patina finish probably created in the 1960s. Life masks are a distinct genre of sculpture that has existed for centuries. Specific to the famous, there are also life masks of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Tutankhamen.
Details: Louis Armstrong House Museum’s 10-Year Anniversary Bash, 34-56 107th Street, Corona, October 15th, 6 pm to 10 pm, $30, $45 and $100, including beer and wine. Advance purchase only: $45 tickets include a limited-edition commemorative print of Armstrong, while $100 tickets include the print and a one-year museum membership.