Join Mazella Houston with her 17-piece World Class Pearl Band as they sing and dance music from the fabulous 30’s and 40’s Big Band Era!!! With guest: guitar/vocalist Larrie Noble, Sr., the “San Francisco Jitterbugs” and other special suprise guest!!! Tickets are going fast!!! Get you tickets here: https://californiatheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/
Sunday June 19, Belvedere Concerts-in-the-Park Presents: “Carlos Reyes and Friends,” the park adjacent to City Hall, City of Belvedere, approx 4-5:30pm. Rolando joins with his dear friend, the great Paraguayan harpist/violinist Carlos Reyes for a fun outdoor concert of Latin-Groove music featuring from Gregg Rolie and Dianne Reeves, the amazing bassist Gary Brown; from Brazil, the exciting drummer from Steve Winwood, Celso Alberti; from Venezuela, the Grammy-winning Latin percussionist/vocalist Omar Ledezma; from Paraguay, the thrilling violinist and harpist Carlos Reyes; and the powerful Rolando Morales on guitar, guitar synthesizer and vocals. Free! www.belvedereconcerts.org.
Stairway to Heaven is a classic. Frederick Alexander Abraham sings in his own style and he “hits” it. What a treat! It is wonderful and the band is awesome as well. If you love this song you will be amazed by how well they perform it.
This cover of Stairway to Heaven reaches the soul just like the original does.
Band Members include: Frederick Alexander Abraham (vocals), Guitars- Jon Cody Davis “The Cali Kid” and Jerry Morin, Bass Guitar – Tommy Whitten, Keyboards – “The” Billy Townes, Drums – Joe Seltzer
Saturday June 11, Barone’s Restaurant, 475 St. John St., Pleasanton CA, approx 7:30-10:30pm. Rolando returns to one of Pleasanton’s premier dining establishments for his only appearance of the month at this venue. Enjoy exquisite meals, libations and Rolando’s vast repertoire in the intimate Cocktail Lounge. See www.baronespleasanton.com, (925) 426-0987.
Thursday June 16, The San Jose Fairmont, Lobby Lounge, 170 South Market St., San Jose CA, 9pm-Midnight. Rolando returns for you South Bay fans to this elegant venue. Enjoy fine wines, unique martinis, appetizers and sushi along with the Rolando Morales Duet, this time featuring the Grammy-wining Latin percussionist/vocalist from Venezuela,Omar Ledezma; and Rolando Morales leading the way on guitar and vocals and his magic pedal board. Free! See www.fairmont.com/sanjose/ for info, or call (408) 998-1900.
Tuesday June 14, Maria, Maria Cantina, 710 Camino Ramon Road, Danville CA, approx 6:30-9:30pm. After a month away, Rolando returns to Carlos Santana’s most elegant restaurant for Taco Tuesday. $1 tacos, baby! And Rolando on solo guitar and voice with his diverse repertoire performing out on the patio. (925) 820-2366, www.mariamariarestaurants.com.
Sunday June 5, Maria, Maria Cantina, 1470 North Broadway, Walnut Creek, approx 1-4pm. Rolando returns for the Maria, Maria Tardeadaseries. Enjoy a Mexican brunch outdoors and Rolando performing on the newly renovated front patio on solo guitar and voice by the creek. www.mariamariarestaurants.com, or call (925) 946-1010.
Tuesday June 7, Maria, Maria Cantina, 1470 North Broadway, Walnut Creek, approx 6:30-9:30pm. Rolando returns to Carlos Santana’s Walnut Creek restaurant for Taco Tuesday. $1 tacos, baby! Enjoy Rolando on solo guitar and voice with his huge repertoire and big sound on the front patio. See www.mariamariarestaurants.com; (925) 946-1010.
After a visit to ER right after the sold out Rolando Morales Group Seahorse gig last Saturday night, a laser session of over 700 laser blasts to his retina and painful follow-up visit. We are all still hopeful his vision will return to his right eye. So far, nothing… It could turn around in 3 weeks to 2 months.
So now with Pirate Patch to cover the newly operated on eye Rolando will appear at:
Friday June 3, Don Pico’s Mexican Bistro, 461 El Camino Real, San Bruno, 6 to 9 pm. The place The Examiner and Independent have proclaimed has the “Best Seafood and Best Mexican Food” anywhere, on solo guitar and voice in the Restaurant Room. Call (650) 589-1163, www.donpicosbistro.com.
John Handy is a performer and composer who continues to sweep audiences into ecstasy with his vast range of creative, emotional, and technical inventiveness. With a superb knowledge and practical experience with music of several cultures, he fuses, with each selection, a musical genre that is coherent, provocative, logical, and enjoyable. As a singer, he brings a kind of storytelling narrative to the blues that is entertaining, educational, and moving; while his up tempo scat vocals could be compared to the best scat singers anywhere. He sings ballads with inventiveness that is rare among singers.
John Handy has written a number of highly acclaimed, original compositions. “Spanish Lady” and “If Only We Knew” both earned Grammy nominations for performance and composition. The popular jazz/blues/funk vocal crossover hit, “Hard Work“, brought him fame in another realm; while “Blues for Louis Jordan” displayed his talents in rhythm and blues. He has written many compositions of various sizes for both instrumental and vocal groups. His more extensive works include Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra which was premiered by the Parnassus Symphony Orchestra; and Scheme Number One which was lauded as a fine example of fixed and improvised music by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky.
John Handy at Lincoln Center in 2016
John Handy has performed in the world great concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Auditorium, San Francisco Opera House, Davies Hall; the major performance venues including Tanglewood, Saratoga (NY), and Wolf Trap; and the pre-eminent jazz festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Pacific Coast Jazz Festival; and international jazz festivals at Montreaux (Switzerland), Antibe (France), Berlin (Germany), Cannes (France), Yubari (Japan), Miyasaki (Japan), among others. His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others.
His most recent recordings are “John Handy Live at Yoshi’s” and “John Handy’s Musical Dreamland” (available only on Boulevard Records, Stuttgart, Germany), “Centerpiece“, and “Excursion in Blue“. Some of his earlier works have been reissued on CD – “John Handy: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival“, “The Second John Handy Album“, “New View“, and “Projections“. He recorded with Sonny Stitt, and recorded nine albums with Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop.
His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others.
For the best and most updated information visit John Handy’s website: www.johnhandy.com
“Music comes out of her. When she walks down the street, she leaves notes.” — Jimmy Rowles
Ella Fitzgerald is considered one of the very best singer in the world. She is admired by her fans, young and old alike and she inspires her fellow artists and musicians. She performed at top venues all over the world. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common – they all loved her.
Dubbed The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.
Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.
Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter
She toured all over the world, sometimes performing two shows a day in cities hundreds of miles apart. In 1974, Ella spent a legendary two weeks performing in New York with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. She was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts. 1958 the first Grammy awards were held and Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Vocal Performance for The Irving Berlin Songbook (album) and Best Individual Jazz Performance for The Duke Ellington Songbook (album) 1959 Grammy awards, Best Female Vocal Performance for But Not For Me and Best Individual Jazz Performance for Ella Swings Lightly.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va. on April 25, 1917. Her father, William, and mother, Temperance (Tempie), parted ways shortly after her birth. Together, Tempie and Ella went to Yonkers, N.Y, where they eventually moved in with Tempie’s longtime boyfriend Joseph Da Silva. Ella’s half-sister, Frances, was born in 1923 and soon she began referring to Joe as her stepfather. Their apartment was in a mixed neighborhood, where Ella made friends easily. She considered herself more of a tomboy, and often joined in the neighborhood games of baseball. Sports aside, she enjoyed dancing and singing with her friends, and some evenings they would take the train into Harlem and watch various acts at the Apollo Theater.
In 1934 Ella’s name was pulled in a weekly drawing at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night. Ella went to the theater that night planning to dance, but when the frenzied Edwards Sisters closed the main show, Ella changed her mind. “They were the dancingest sisters around,” Ella said, and she felt her act would not compare. Once on stage, faced with boos and murmurs of “What’s she going to do?” from the rowdy crowd, a scared and disheveled Ella made the last minute decision to sing. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael’s Judy, a song she knew well because Connee Boswell’s rendition of it was among Tempie’s favorites. Ella quickly quieted the audience, and by the song’s end they were demanding an encore. She obliged and sang the flip side of the Boswell Sister’s record, The Object of My Affections. Off stage, and away from people she knew well, Ella was shy and reserved. She was self-conscious about her appearance, and for a while even doubted the extent of her abilities. On stage, however, Ella was surprised to find she had no fear. She felt at home in the spotlight. “Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience,” Ella said. “I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.” In the band that night was saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter. Impressed with her natural talent, he began introducing Ella to people who could help launch her career. In the process he and Ella became lifelong friends, often working together.
In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. It was there that Ella first met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Although her voice impressed him, Chick had already hired male singer Charlie Linton for the band. He offered Ella the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. If the kids like her she can stay, Chick announced.
Shortly afterward, Ella began singing a rendition of the song, (If You Can’t Sing It) You Have to Swing It. During this time, the era of big swing bands was shifting, and the focus was turning more toward bebop. Ella played with the new style, often using her voice to take on the role of another horn in the band. You Have to Swing It was one of the first times she began experimenting with scat singing, and her improvisation and vocalization thrilled fans. Throughout her career, Ella would master scat singing, turning it into a form of art. In 1938, at the age of 21, Ella recorded a playful version of the nursery rhyme, A-Tisket, A-Tasket. The album sold 1 million copies, hit number one, and stayed on the pop charts for 17 weeks. On June 16, 1939, Ella mourned the loss of her mentor Chick Webb. In his absence the band was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band, and she took on the overwhelming task of bandleader.
Ella Fitzgerald sings April in Paris with her husband Ray Brown on bass
While on tour with Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1946, Ella fell in love with bassist Ray Brown. The two were married and eventually adopted a son, whom they named Ray, Jr. At the time, Ray was working for producer and manager Norman Granz on the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” tour. Norman saw that Ella had what it took to be an international star, and he convinced Ella to sign with him. It was the beginning of a lifelong business relationship and friendship.
Under Norman’s management, Ella joined the Philharmonic tour, worked with Louis Armstrong on several albums and began producing her infamous songbook series. From 1956-1964, she recorded covers of other musicians’ albums, including those by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart. The series was wildly popular, both with Ella’s fans and the artists she covered.
“I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them,” Ira Gershwin
Ella Fitzgerald on the Dean Martin Show
Ella also began appearing on television variety shows. She quickly became a favorite and frequent guest on numerous programs, including “The Bing Crosby Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Frank Sinatra Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Nat King Cole Show,” “The Andy Willams Show” and “The Dean Martin Show.”
Ella Fitzgerald received so many awards that they are too numerous to mention in this article, some of the highlights which included:
• 13 Grammy awards • A-Tisket, A-Tasket entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame • Kennedy Center for Performing Arts’ Medal of Honor Award • The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award • Pied Piper Award • American Society of Composers • Women at Work organization’s Bicentennial Woman • Authors and Publishers’ highest honor • George And Ira Gershwin Award for Outstanding Achievement • National Medal of Art • Honorary chairmanship of the Martin Luther King Foundation • Received first ASCAP award in recognition of an artist • Honorary doctorate degrees from Dartmouth, Talladega, Howard and Yale Universities • Peabody Award for Outstanding Contributions in Music • The first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named “Ella” in her honor • NAACP Award for lifetime achievement
Ella continued to work as hard as she had early on in her career, despite the ill effects on her health. She toured all over the world, sometimes performing two shows a day in cities hundreds of miles apart. In 1974, Ella spent a legendary two weeks performing in New York with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Still going strong five years later, she was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts.
Outside of the arts, Ella had a deep concern for child welfare. Though this aspect of her life was rarely publicized, she frequently made generous donations to organizations for disadvantaged youths, and the continuation of these contributions was part of the driving force that prevented her from slowing down.
Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire (including his classic works Round Midnight and Blue Monk). He is often regarded as a founder of bebop, although his playing style evolved away from the form.
“Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it.”
His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are impossible to separate from Monk’s unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. Round Midnight is a 1944 jazz standard by jazz musician Thelonious Monk. It is thought that Monk originally composed it sometime between 1940 and 1941, however Harry Colomby claims that Monk may have written an early version around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title Grand Finale. This song has also been performed by many artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea and Hermeto Pascoal.
Bebop or bop is a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos and improvisation based on harmonic structure rather than melody. It was developed in the early and mid-1940s. It first surfaced in musicians’ argot some time during the first two years of the Second World War. Hard bop later developed from bebop combined with blues and gospel music. Melodically the predominating contour of improvised bebop is that it tends to ascend in arpeggios and descend in scale steps. While a stereotype, an examination of Charlie Parker solos will show that this in fact is a key quality of the music. Ascending arpeggios are frequently of diminished seventh chords, which function as 7b9 chords of various types. Typical scales used in bebop include the bebop major, minor and dominant (see below), the harmonic minor and the chromatic. The half-whole diminished scale is also occasionally used, and in the music of Thelonious Monk especially, the whole tone scale.
Charlie Parker, Well You Needn’t
He was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk, two years after a sister named Marian. A younger brother, Thomas, was born a couple of years later. His parents moved to New York when young Thelonious was five years of age. A year or so later he was picking out tunes on the family piano. Monk started playing the piano at the age of nine; although he had some formal training and eavesdropped on his sister’s piano lessons, he was essentially self-taught. By the time he was 12 he was accompanying his mother at the local Baptist church as well as playing at “rent parties”, those informal gatherings where tenants who were behind with their payments to the landlord would hold a party in the hope that visitors would contribute to the debt clearance!
Thelonious Monk started his first job touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was inspired by the Harlem stride pianists (James P. Johnson was a neighbor) and vestiges of that idiom can be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However, when he was playing in the house band of Minton’s Playhouse during 1940-1943, Monk was searching for his own individual style. Private recordings from the period find him sometimes resembling Teddy Wilson but starting to use more advanced rhythms and harmonies.
He worked with Lucky Millinder a bit in 1942 and was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra briefly in 1944 (Williams recorded Monk’s “Epistrophy” in 1942 and in 1944 was the first to record “‘Round Midnight”), but it was when he became Coleman Hawkins’ regular pianist that Monk was initially noticed. He cut a few titles with Hawkins (his recording debut) and, although some of Hawkins’ fans complained about the eccentric pianist, the veteran tenor could sense the pianist’s greatness.
Fortunately, Alfred Lion of Blue Note believed in him and recorded Monk extensively during 1947-1948 and 1951-1952. He also recorded for Prestige during 1952-1954, had a solo set for Vogue in 1954 during a visit to Paris, and appeared on a Verve date with Bird and Diz.
In 1955, he signed with Riverside and producer Orrin Keepnews persuaded him to record an album of Duke Ellington tunes and one of standards so his music would appear to be more accessible to the average jazz fan. In 1956 came the classic Brilliant Corners album, but it was the following year when the situation permanently changed. Monk was booked into the Five Spot for a long engagement and he used a quartet that featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Finally, the critics and then the jazz public recognized Thelonious Monk’s greatness during this important gig. He came to Europe to play at the Paris Jazz Fair and played in the audiences at the Salle Pleyel and the Club St. Germain, joining in the loud applause for this true jazz original. Towards the end of the Fifties, with riverside records setting up all manner of interesting studio sessions, he formed his own quartet, first with tenor saxist John Coltrane, then Johnny Griffin and, in 1959, Charlie Rouse. It was Rouse who probably had more experience of Monk’s music than any other horn player, for Charlie remained with Thelonious from 1959 until 1970. In the autumn of 1967 Monk’s quartet was booked to take part in a touring extravaganza under the title “Jazz Expo ’67”; along with men such as Dave Brubeck, Herbie Mann etc. It was decided to enlarge Thelonious’s working group of Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley with the addition of some additional frontline players and the so-called Nonet made its appearance in the Odeon Hammersmith, in London, just a week before the Salle Pleyel date presented here.
Thelonious Monk, who was criticized by observers who failed to listen to his music on its own terms, suffered through a decade of neglect before he was suddenly acclaimed as a genius; his music had not changed one bit in the interim. In fact, one of the more remarkable aspects of Monk’s music was that it was fully formed by 1947 and he saw no need to alter his playing or compositional style in the slightest during the next 25 years. After his death it seemed as if everyone was doing Thelonious Monk tributes. There were so many versions of Round Midnight that it was practically a pop hit! He played with the Giants of Jazz during 1971-1972, but then retired in 1973. He passed away on February 17, 1982.
“What is harder than rock, or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.”
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong
Louis Armstrong contracted several books about his life. He enjoyed collaborating with the lawyer, hobby journalist, and jazz historian Robert Gaffin from Belgium.
“Dear Pal Goffin,” Louis Armstrong wrote to his Belgian acquaintance, the lawyer, hobby journalist, and jazz historian Robert Goffin, on July 19, 1944. “‘Man—I’ve been trying to get in touch with you […]. Here’s another hundred dollars toward the five hundred. […] So accept this hundred and I’ll send the other before a ‘Black Cat can ‘Lick his ‘Bu‘hind’ ….. haw haw haw…” (80).
Historical records show that actually Louis Armstrong wrote large parts of his own biographies. He then hired Robert Goffin, a white man, to claim them to make sure they could be published. Louis Armstrong realized that his biographies helped his popularity around the world after the heavily ghosted Swing That Music (1936).
Today we are still able to view many of the quotes in the original French version Louis Armstrong: Le Roi du Jazz (1947) and the English version Horn of Plenty. We are fortunate that large parts of Armstrong’s hand-written manuscript survived. They cover the jazz musician’s life between 1918 and 1931 and were initially published by Thomas Brothers as “The ‘Goffin Notebooks’” in Louis Armstrong, in his Own Words (1999). Horn of Plenty includes most of the events covered in Armstrong’s “Notebooks,” it unfortunately was edited in a way that portrayed Louis Armstrong in a much more primitive way than his actual notes would indicated. Perhaps Griffin thought it was necessary to abide by the culture prejudices of the times.
Louis Armstrong 4 August, 1901 – July 6, 1971, nicknamed Satchmo and Pops, was an American jazz musician. Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose inspired improvised soloing was the main influence for a fundamental change in jazz, shifting its focus from collective melodic playing, often arranged in one way or another, to the solo player and improvised soloing. One of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century, he first achieved fame as a cornet player, later on switching to trumpet, but toward the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and became one of the most influential jazz singers.
Armstrong was born into a very poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood of uptown New Orleans, as his father, William Armstrong (1881-1922), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant. His mother, Mary Albert Armstrong (1886–1942), then left him and his younger sister Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987) under the upbringing of his grandmother Josephine Armstrong.
He first learned to play the cornet (his first of which was bought with money loaned to him by the Karnofskys, a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, that hired Louis to work on their junk wagon.) in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he had been sent after (as police records show) firing his stepfather’s pistol into the air at a New Year’s Eve celebration. To express gratitude towards the Karnofskys, Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life. He followed the city’s frequent brass band parades and listened to older musicians every chance he got, learning from Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Black Benny and above all Joe “King” Oliver, who acted as a mentor and almost a father figure to the young Armstrong. Armstrong later played in the brass bands and riverboats of New Orleans, and first started traveling with the well-regarded band of Fate Marable which toured on a steamboat up and down the Mississippi River; he described his time with Marable as “going to the University”, since it gave him a much wider experience working with written arrangements. When Joe Oliver left town in 1919, Armstrong took Oliver’s place in Kid Ory’s band, regarded as the top hot jazz band in the city.
In 1922, Armstrong joined the exodus to Chicago, where he had been invited by Joe “King” Oliver to join his Creole Jazz Band. Oliver’s band was the best and most influential hot jazz band in Chicago in the early 1920s, at a time when Chicago was the center of jazz. Armstrong made his first recordings, including taking some solos and breaks, while playing second cornet in Oliver’s band in 1923.
He and Oliver parted in 1924 and Armstrong moved to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, the top African American band of the day. Armstrong switched to the trumpet to blend in better with the other musicians in his section
He returned to Chicago, in 1925, and began recording under his own name with his famous Hot Five and Hot Seven with such hits as Potato Head Blues, Muggles (a reference to Cannabis or marijuana, for which Armstrong had a lifelong fondness), and West End Blues, the music of which set the standard and the agenda for jazz for many years to come.
Armstrong had considerable success with vocal recordings, including versions of famous songs composed by his old friend Hoagy Carmichael, Armstrong’s famous interpretation of Stardust became one of the most successful versions of this song ever recorded, showcasing Armstrong’s unique vocal sound and style and his innovative approach to singing songs that had already become standards.
As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gritty colouration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated. His scat singing style was enriched by his matchless experience as a trumpet soloist, and his resonant, velvety lower-register tone and bubbling cadences on sides such as “Lazy River” exerted a huge influence on younger white singers such as Bing Crosby.
After spending many years on the road, he settled permanently in Queens New York in 1943 in contentment with his fourth wife, Lucille Armstrong played more than three hundred gigs a year Armstrong kept up his busy tour schedule until a few years before his death. While in his later years, he would sometimes play some of his numerous gigs by rote, but other times would enliven the most mundane gig with his vigorous playing, often to the astonishment of his band. He also toured Africa, Europe, and Asia under sponsorship of the US State Department with great success and become known as “Ambassador Satch”. While failing health restricted his schedule in his last years, within those limitations he continued playing until the day he died.
Louis had many nicknames as a child, all of which referred to the size of his mouth: “Gatemouth,” “Dippermouth,” and “Satchelmouth.” During a visit to Great Britain, Louis was met by Percy Brooks, the editor of Melody Maker magazine, who greeted him by saying, “Hello, Satchmo!” (He inadvertently contracted “Satchelmouth” into “Satchmo.”) Louis loved the new name and adopted it for his own. It provides the title to Louis’s second autobiography, is inscribed on at least two of Louis’s trumpets, and is on Louis’s stationery Friends and fellow musicians usually called him Pops, which is also how Armstrong usually addressed his friends and fellow musicians (except for Pops Foster, whom Armstrong always called “George”.
Some musicians criticized Armstrong for playing in front of segregated audiences, and for not taking a strong enough stand in the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) civil rights movement.
Armstrong, in fact, was a major financial supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, but mostly preferred to work quietly behind the scenes, not mixing his politics with his work as an entertainer. The few exceptions made it more effective when he did speak out; Armstrong’s criticism of President Eisenhower, calling him “two-faced” and “gutless” because of his inaction during the conflict over school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 made national news. As a protest, Armstrong canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell” and that he could not represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people.
He was an extremely generous man, who was said to have given away almost as much money as he kept for himself. Armstrong was also greatly concerned with his health and bodily functions. He made frequent use of laxatives as a means of controlling his weight, a practice he advocated both to personal acquaintances and in the diet plans he published under the title Lose Weight the Satchmo Way. Armstrong’s laxative of preference in his younger days was Pluto Water, but he then became an enthusiastic convert when he discovered the herbal remedy Swiss Kriss; he would extol its virtues to anyone who would listen and pass out packets to everyone he encountered, including members of the British Royal Family. (Armstrong also appeared in humorous, albeit risqué, advertisements for Swiss Kriss; the ads bore a picture of him sitting on a toilet — as viewed through a keyhole — with the slogan “Satch says, ‘Leave it all behind ya!’“)
In his early years, Armstrong was best known for his virtuosity with the cornet and trumpet. The greatest trumpet playing of his early years can be heard on his Hot Five and Hot Seven records. The improvisations which he made on these records of New Orleans jazz standards and popular songs of the day, to the present time stack up brilliantly alongside those of any other later jazz performer. The older generation of New Orleans jazz musicians often referred to their improvisations as “variating the melody”; Armstrong’s improvisations were daring and sophisticated for the time while often subtle and melodic. He often essentially re-composed pop-tunes he played, making them more interesting. Armstrong’s playing is filled with joyous, inspired original melodies, creative leaps, and subtle relaxed or driving rhythms. The genius of these creative passages is matched by Armstrong’s playing technique, honed by constant practice, which extended the range, tone and capabilities of the trumpet. In these records, Armstrong almost single-handedly created the role of the jazz soloist, taking what was essentially a collective folk music and turning it into an art form with tremendous possibilities for individual expression.
In 1964, Armstrong knocked the Beatles off the top of the Billboard Top 100 chart with Hello, Dolly (song)”, which gave the 63-year-old performer a U.S. record as the oldest artist to have a #1 song.
Hello Dolly performed in Germany
In 1968, Armstrong scored one last popular hit in the United Kingdom with the highly sentimental pop song What a Wonderful World, which topped the British charts for a month; however, the single did not chart at all in America. The song gained greater currency in the popular consciousness when it was used in the 1987 movie Good Morning Vietnam, its subsequent re-release topping many charts around the world.
It’s a Wonderful World
Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack on July 6 1971, at age 69, the night after playing a famous show at the Waldorf Astoria’s Empire Room. He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his passing. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City.
Today, the house where Louis Armstrong lived at the time of his death (and which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977) is a museum. The Louis Armstrong House & Archives, at 34-56 107th Street (between 34th and 35th Avenues) in Corona, Queens, presents concerts and educational programs, operates as an historic house museum and makes materials in its archives of writings, books, recordings and memorabilia available to the public for research. The museum is operated by the City University of New York’s Queens College, following the dictates of Armstrong’s will.
The influence of Armstrong on the development of jazz is virtually immeasurable. Yet, his irrepressible personality both as a performer, and as a public figure later in his career, was so strong that to some it sometimes overshadowed his contributions as a musician and singer.
As a virtuoso trumpet player, Armstrong had a unique tone and an extraordinary talent for melodic improvisation. Through his playing, the trumpet emerged as a solo instrument in jazz and is used widely today. He was a masterful accompanist and ensemble player in addition to his extraordinary skills as a soloist. With his innovations, he raised the bar musically for all who came after him.
Armstrong is considered by some to have essentially invented jazz singing. He had an extremely distinctive gravelly voice, which he deployed with great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also greatly skilled at scat singing, or wordless vocalizing. Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra are just two singers who were greatly indebted to him. Holiday said that she always wanted Bessie Smith’s ‘big’ sound and Armstrong’s feeling in her singing.
On August 4, 2001, the centennial of Armstrong’s birth, New Orleans’ airport was renamed Louis Armstrong International Airport in his honor.
This Saturday, May 21, the third in a series of magical musical events in Half Moon Bay. Come join Carrie and Mauro again in their effort to keep serving the community through the unique creation called Enso. Donations, loans and art purchases welcome.
Allison Lovejoy in recital at the Enso piano.
Gerry Basserman and Colleen Touriane, songs.
Music, refreshments, art, and poetry, from 6 til 9 pm
These salons are rich and satisfying. Bring a friend!
Enso : 131 Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA