Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hello, Dolly!

Being a fan of the jazz music of the old-school, I could not just let my time in this city lapse without taking a trip to the Louis Armstrong House in Corona.

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My awkwardly stubborn and purist nature growing up meant I didn't allow myself to listen to any other music at all. Peer pressure be damned, I will take my place willingly in the oddball nerd table in the cafeteria willingly.

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Quite happily for my social life, I did eventually open up to other music styles and went on to embrace them. Still, I love the jazz music best of all.

The house where Louis Armstrong lived for 27 years was Landmarked in 1977 and is now a museum.  It is a a modest detached row house in a neighborhood of row houses in Northern Queens.

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For $10, an nice volunteer will take you on a tour of the house (you can't take pictures inside the house) and tell you the history of their life in each room.

Is it worth the trip? If you are impartial to the music, then it's a great example of interior decorating from a terrible, tacky time, which some how makes the place much more endearing. It kind of reminded me of Graceland with all of its themed rooms with ultra-modern amenities and personal touches. They seem to have a fascination with the east- the interior was a mixture of geisha-girls and ming vases combined with smoked mirrors and elaborate Venetian touches.

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Louis grew up extremely poor in New Orleans before finding fame as a trumpet player and iconic singer. Lucille was his fourth and final wife, a Queens native and former elegent Cotton Club dancer.

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Like I mentioned yesterday, they had a really big lot of land that was landscaped Japanese-garden style. In the summertime they have concerts out there.

It is apparent that they both loved the house dearly. After spending a great deal of his life poor and homeless or on the road, it was a welcome stability in his life.

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That's Louis in his silk robe in his mirrored bathroom, with lots of gold fixtures. My eyes! One has never seen such a sight.

Still, it was a little nostalgic and sad to see his belongings as he left them. Louis was widely accepted by white audiences around the world throughout his life, but by the 1950's he was considered by other blacks to be an Uncle Tom and an uncomfortable link to Minstrel shows. He didn't do a whole lot to fight this image publicly.

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Regardless, Louis undeniably had talent and knew how to exploit his talent.

Check out his remastered recordings of Hot 5's and Hot 7's...his early quintet and septet work really showcases his New Orleans roots before he got commercialized.

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