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A Queens’ tribute to Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong

Backed by a group of professional singers and friends, in background, Louis Armstrong records for a record, June 1970, which was released on his 70th birthday, July 4, 1970.
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The most diverse borough of the five that comprise New York City is jazzing up its attractions with a plethora of tributes to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, one of Queens’ most iconic musicians and the song he is acclaimed for gifting in its honor — “What A Wonderful World.”

“The 20th century produced no shortage of legendary instrumentalists and vocalists but Louis Armstrong is the only figure who completely changed the way people played music on their instruments and he completely changed the way people sang. Perfecting the concept of the improvised solo, popularizing the use of scat singing, defining the concept of swing — those are just some of the ways Louis Armstrong changed jazz, and American popular music — during his lifetime.”

According to statements from curators at his former home, the beloved trumpeter epitomized jazz and defined its uniqueness for the world to appreciate.

Perhaps it is the reason the Queens Public Library recently announced a series of concerts, lecture series, and a six-month exhibition throughout their numerous community libraries that will hail the man and the music that has endured half a century since he recorded it.

With 65 branches located throughout the borough, Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of the Queens Public Library affirmed that “Queens residents live within one mile of a library.”

That kind of ready access guarantees a diverse array of support for jazz appreciation and the legacy left by the borough’s champion of the genre.

Celebrating the many sounds of the genius’ classic recording of “What A Wonderful World” a performance by Grammy award nominee David Ostwald and his ensemble The Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, as well as world musicians including Akoko Nante, Blue Pipa, Prassana and Radio Jarocho is listed at a Queens branch library.

In addition a lecture on the “Life and Times of Louis Armstrong” (in English and Spanish) will feature experts and archivists from the Louis Armstrong House Museum. They will present “a unique, insider’s view of the Great Satchmo’s life and times; his incredible artistic achievements, his extensive travels around the world, and his undeterred love for Queens and its people will come to life through this multimedia presentation that includes rarely seen archival material, pictures, film, and recordings.”

A segment dedicated to questions will follow the presentation at the Glen Oaks library located at 256-04 Union Turnpike.

At the Langston Hughes branch at 100-01 Northern Boulevard, Corona, David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, one of the few traditional New Orleans-style bands on the contemporary jazz scene – promises to “breathe new life into classic works by Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Bix Beiderbecke without missing a beat.”.

An exhibition titled “Fifty Years of What a Wonderful World” is on display at the museum now through October and is free with museum admission.

The throaty jazzman said he was inspired to record the song by what he experienced living in the Corona Queens community.

He added his spin to the inspiring track, singing more than scatting or adding instrumentation and the song became an international hit.

It was included on the soundtrack of the Robin Williams “Good Morning Vietnam.”

“This is a song inspired by the Great Satchmo’s life in Queens – a song that still inspires millions of people around the world!”

Recorded since by Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Celine Dion, Willie Nelson, Damian and Stephen Marley, the song was written by George Weiss and Bob Thiele with regard to the state of the world as it related to the Vietnam War.

A native of New Orleans, in 1943, the jazz trumpeter and his wife Lucille purchased a modest house at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens.

“And you take this neighborhood we live in,” Louis said in 1964. “We’re right out here with the rest of the colored folk and the Puerto Ricans and Italians and the Hebrew cats. We don’t need to move out in the suburbs to some big mansion with lots of servants and yardmen and things.” “Despite their wealth and celebrity, they lived there for the rest of their lives.”

The home is now a national historic landmark and a NYC landmark which hosts visitors from all over the world. Named in his honor, the Louis Armstrong House Museum is a well-preserved location open to the public from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. with furnishings and displays as they were when he lived and recorded there.

Last summer an expansion plan launched a ground-breaking ceremony for the new 14,000-square-foot Louis Armstrong House Museum Education Center.

Slated to be fully constructed across the street from the museum, the new facility will include state of the art exhibition gallery, 68-seat jazz club, museum store, and the extensive archives which are currently housed at Queens College.

“The Louis Armstrong House Museum’s transformative new Education Center and expanded programming will better serve visitors from around the globe and directly support the very community that Satchmo called home,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.

The new facility will broaden the public’s understanding of Armstrong’s life and legacy and complement the visitor experience.

I see trees of green

Red roses too

I see them bloom

For me and you

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue

And clouds of white

The bright blessed day

The dark sacred night

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow

So pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces

Of people going by

I see friends shaking hands

Saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying

“I love you”

I hear babies cry

I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more

Than I’ll never know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Oh yeah

Catch You on The Inside!

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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