An Angel. The embodiment of Jazz music. A messenger from God.
These are some of the phrases that have been used to describe Louis Armstrong. Born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, he grew to be a musician and singer. He could wail on the trumpet and was even called the American Shakespeare.
Armstrong grew up in one of the most violent environments imaginable. Poverty, violence, racism, prejudice and financial struggle impacted his childhood. He was raised by his mother, who gave birth to him at the age of 16. He began working at the age of 7 for a Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant family, The Karnofskys, who delivered coal to prostitutes. His job was to blow a tin horn letting the clients know they were coming.
The Karnofskys treated Armstrong kindly and showed him that kindness should be extended to everyone because that is basic humanity. Armstrong remembered those acts and wore the Star of David all his life in remembrance of them.
He began playing music with first the cornet and then the horn. Armstrong was titled a pioneer of his time and credited for making Jazz an art to be respected during a time when the genre was dying off because of the modernization of popular music.
Some of Armstrong’s most intimate moments unfold on the stage in the current Off Broadway play, “Satchmo At The Waldorf.” Starring Obie, and Lucille Lortel award-winning star John Douglas Thompson, playwright Terry Teachout and director Gordon Edelstein come together to tell one hell of a story in American music history.
The setting takes us back to March of 1971, when one of the greatest music legends the world would ever know was performing the final set of shows he would ever play at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. But the audiences who adored him onstage never really saw the man behind the trumpet. In Teachout’s searing and surprisingly intimate play, we encounter Louis Armstrong where few ever had the chance to see him:
backstage. Reflecting on his own unlikely career amidst a rapidly changing society, the icon is stripped bare, revealing complexities and contradictions that his omnipresent smile, horn and handkerchief belied. Critically acclaimed actor John Douglas Thompson, seamlessly morphs between Armstrong, his manager Joe Glaser, and fellow trumpeter Miles Davis, gives one of the most vivid portraits ever created for the stage.
With great anticipation I wanted so badly to learn about the struggles of what this great soul had to struggle with in his final moment. Visit this link to learn more about the show:
I had the opportunity to meet the star of the play. Thompson’s passion and respect for the real life Louis Armstrong is sure to come across the stage in his performance.
It was equally exciting to chat with the creators to hear how their genuine love of Jazz music, coupled with their admiration for Louis Armstrong is the force that drives this production.