Louis Armstrong, Chazz Palminteri, and renowned Korean folk artist Jae Choon Kim headline another busy week in Queens. Other options include Mexican dance, sheep-shearing, Yiddish music, Bollywood films, walking tours, sex education, and nature photography. Here’s the rundown.
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.
However, when Satchmo toured the land, he found adoring mobs and sold-out concerts wherever he went. This Thursday, the Louis Armstrong House Museum will celebrate International Jazz Day by screening the complete concert that the legendary trumpeter gave at the Friedrichstadtpalast in East Berlin on March 22, 1965.
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.
Photo: Louis Armstrong House Museum
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.
The five-month theater renovation is finished, and Flushing Town Hall is going to celebrate just like it did before the restoration: with great music and top-notch acting. The fun starts on Friday night with the Trumpeters in Queens Part II concert. Ron Horton’s Sextet and Josh Deutsch’s Pannonia Band, both part of the NYC jazz scene for years, will perform an homage to such inspiring trumpet players as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, who all lived in Queens. On Saturday, the British educational theater troupe Tall Stories will perform The Snail and the Whale. Based on the award-winning book by Julia Donaldson, this family-friendly play tells the story of a tiny snail that longs to see the world, so she hitches a ride on a huge humpback whale’s tail. Together they go on an amazing journey, experiencing sharks and penguins, icebergs and volcanoes mixed in with music and sound effects created live on stage by an electric viola player with an effects pedal.
Details: Trumpeters of Queens Part II, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, March 14th, 8 pm, $15/$10 for members and students.
Bonus details: The Snail and the Whale by Tall Stories, UK, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, March 15th, 2:15 pm with a workshop at 1 pm, $12/$10 for members/$8 for children/$6 for member children.
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.
Photos by the LAHM
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:
- Kingsland Homestead was built around 1785 and occupied by the same family until the 1930s.
- Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary & Victorian Garden (1891) was purchased by an immigrant who published German-language newspapers. It was home to three generations of one family.
- 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.
Finally a Father’s Day gift he will really appreciate! This Sunday at the Queens Botanical Garden, a unique, talented, completely local group will play songs composed by present and former borough residents. Expect Quintet of the Americas (above) to perform jazz by Louis Armstrong (Corona) and classical and symphony pieces by Soong Fu-Yuan (Briarwood), James Cohn (Douglaston), Beata Moon (Forest Hills) and Morton Gould (Richmond Hill). The band might also try sounds from Harry Potter and Star Wars by John Williams (Flushing). The concert kicks off QBG’s Music in the Garden series, which will feature live performances of Balinese, Irish and Arab genres. Details: Quintet of the Americas, QBG, 43-50 Main St., Flushing, 2 pm to 3:30 pm, $4.
Question: What do Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus and Lena Horne have in common? Obvious answer: They lived in Queens. Actually, they are just a few of the dozens of jazz greats who made their home in the music-rich borough. On May 25, the 17-piece Queens Jazz Orchestra will celebrate the genius of some other local legends — Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Illinois Jacquet and Nat “Cannonball” Adderly — by performing Fiesta Mojo, a rare composition written by Dizzy Gillespie, who is buried in Flushing Cemetery, and arranged by QJO Director Jimmy Heath (conducting above). Fiesta Mojo features Brazilian-inflected melodies and grooves that fascinated Gillespie when he toured South America as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. government. Details: Fiesta Mojo, 8 pm, Flushing Town Hall, $20-$40.