I believe in Louis Armstrong.
Not just the great jazz trumpeter, leader of the “Hot 5,” symbol of everything great about New Orleans jazz. Although that would be plenty.
No, the Louis Armstrong I really believe in is the “Ambassador Satch” Louis Armstrong, who traveled the world and represented everything joyful, giving, wonderful and unique about America. Crowds all over Africa, Europe, even behind what we then called “the Iron Curtain” flocked to Satchmo’s concerts, shouted out loud with joy and applauded his knack for weaving their own pop and folk tunes into his jazz riffs as a respectful salute to their own traditions.
Louis didn’t threaten; he didn’t preach; Louis just jammed and gave every inch of his talent and his love of this uniquely American idiom – African inspired to be sure – but representative of the freedom of expression that everyone, everyone admired about our country.
What we wouldn’t give for the reincarnation of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong today! Louis Armstrong was the purest, most powerful possible expression of the heart of America. Unfortunately, he was truly one of a kind. Brubeck followed and carried the torch for a while – and carried it well. But it was Satchmo who invented the model.
And that’s why I revere, love and believe in Louis Armstrong.
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