Friday, December 31, 2010

Celebrate New Year's Eve, 1962, with Louis Armstrong!

Well, it's that time again: faced with another New Year's Eve upon us, I must share a complete broadcast of Louis Armstrong from a New Year's Eve of long ago. This is third time I've done this in case you're new here. If you want to read my 2008 post about Louis's 1967 Las Vegas New Year's Eve gig (featuring "What a Wonderful World" and a fantastic closing "Sleepy Time"), clickhere. And last year, I shared a 15-minute broadcast from 1954 that ended with Louis playing a very straight, touching "Auld Lang Syne." Click here.

But today, we're traveling back to December 31, 1962 to listen to Louis and the All Stars broadcasting a 25-minute set live from the Coconut Grove at the Hotel Ambassador in Hollywood. It's a fine version of the band with Louis, Troummy Young on trombone, Joe Darensbourg on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Bill Cronk on bass, Danny Barcelona on drums and Jewel Brown the vocalist. Whoever recorded this broadcast taped it directly from WGY in Schenectady, NY, which Google tells me is still going strong. After a little period music (a piano-feature on "Just One of Those Things" with strings and such), the sounds of "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" enters, backed by an enthusiastic announcer and the whooping and hollering of a crowd clearly intoxicated by Louis (and possibly alcohol). Here's the entire audio from that evening, followed by my comments:




Louis was probably doing a full show but for the broadcast, he saved the big guns, though not without a bit of confusion. Immediately after the short instrumental of "Sleepy Time," the announcer calls for "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" but Louis trumps him by calling for "Blueberry Hill"! Since I'm sharing the complete broadcast in one chunk, I can tell you the climb of "Blueberry Hill" begins at 2:35.

After "Blueberry," the band goes into the vamp for "Mack the Knife" but the ever-confusing announcer asks for "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" again! (Maybe he had money invested in it or something.) This time Louis obliges for a swinging, but relaxed 6+-minute version of the song, beginning at 6:30). Louis sounds very strong and comes up with some variations in his otherwise mostly set solo.

Back to the hits, Louis calls "Mack the Knife," heard at 12:50 (after Louis introduces the band). "Mack" was in transition at this period; for years, the tempo got faster and faster with Louis always ending with an ensemble chorus. But in 1962, he slowed it down and ended it with his vocal. This version only features a short trumpet chorus up front, but Louis must have missed blowing on it more because beginning soon after, he would play two choruses at the start, the second usually improvised. The band swings pretty hard--Louis seemed more comfortable at this tempo--and the audience continues to sound like bedlam.

Jewel Brown then comes up at 16:50 with Harry Belafonte's "Have You Heard About Jerry." This was probably the kind of thing that made the jazz purists roll their eyes, especially after that dynamite "Barbecue" from earlier in the broadcast. But the band works up quite a bit of steam on this number and everyone gets a break (dig Billy Kyle inserting "It Ain't Necessarily So"!). With time winding down, Louis calls "When the Saints Go Marching In" at 21:40, another song that sped up over the years then gradually slowed down in 1962. This versions is slow and strutty and immediately gets the audiences clapping and singing along. The reaction is so big, Louis sings an encore chorus immediately after but soon goes into "Sleepy Time"; the broadcast is over but I'm sure the fun was just beginning at the Coconut Grove.

That'll do it for the broadcast and that will do it for me here in 2010. I thank each and every person who has ever visited this page, especially for bearing with me for so many long stretches of silence this year. But even those silences were for good reasons, working in the day time to get that online catalog up and running on the Louis Armstrong House Museum site and working at night and weekends on the book, which is officially finished and ready for a May-June release. So stick with me because we're only getting started...here's to 2011, the year of Louis Armstrong!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Night Before Christmas

Well, today is the day before Christmas, so what better way to celebrate than by listening to Louis Armstrong's reading of "The Night Before Christmas." I shared this last year, but I think it's only an appropriate annual tradition. This was Armstrong's final record, made February 26, 1971 in his home in Corona, just a few days before his last extended engagement at the Waldorf-Astoria, an engagement that pretty much sealed the fate of the frail trumpeter. He passed away on July 6, 1971.

But enough sadness! Louis Armstrong was the personification of joy and the man was terrific around children, two attributes that come to the forefront of this reading. And I recently learned some new information about this record that I'd like to share. One of Louis's private tapes housed at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (aka my employer) featured a tape contents sheet inside of the box on which Louis wrote, "Louis Satchmo Armstrong talking to all the kids from all over the world - at Xmas time." A few weeks ago, I popped in the CD version of this tape at work because we were looking for holiday-themed material to play at our press party to announce the online catalog. And lo and behold, when I played it, it opened with TWO versions of "The Night Before Christmas"! What's crazier is the sound quality was better on the tape then on the final released record. I listened to them both and it struck me: they were two different readings. Louis's first reading is delightful, but he's a tad hesitant at the start and at one point has trouble turning the page (causing him to ad-lib, "Good old Santa!" The second take was mostly used for the master though, they edited out Louis's clearing his throat early on.

Thus, we may never know how this recording came to be. Did Louis do it on a whim and someone--maybe Lucille?--brought it to the attention of Continental Records? Or did Continental ask him to record it (in February, two months after Christmas) but Louis, ailing a bit and probably unable to go to a recording studio, just recorded two versions in his den and sent it over to Continental to edit the best parts. Regardless, both takes are very special and if you were to make an appointment to visit the Armstrong Archives at Queens College, I'd definitely recommend a listen. And by the way, if you search our online catalog, search for tape 1987.3.465 to see a description of the contents of this tape, as well as to see how Louis decorated the box in these final months of his life (a very sweet back cover with a photo of Louis, a photo of Lucille and a photo of a trumpet). Once again, the link to that online catalog:

Louis Armstrong House Museum Online Catalog

Now, let's listen to the original released version (call the children to the computer!):



Later, when Brunswicky issued it, they added some silly sound effects and background music. To hear that version, click here:



Thanks for listening and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday...and that goes for Satchmo, too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Very Satchmo Christmas - 2010 Edition!

Don't let the "2010" fool you, as this is pretty much the same exact thing I posted for each of the past three years. But I feel like the six Christmas songs Armstrong recorded for Decca in the 1950s are worth celebrating every year at this time so if you don't mind, let's do it one more once. Crank up the speakers, pour some egg nog and get ready to enjoy them all over again.

As already mentioned, this entry will focus on the six Christmas records Armstrong made for Decca in the 1950s. And when I say records, I don’t mean long-playing discs but rather, six three-minute singles. It might seem odd that someone who brought more joy to the world than Santa Claus would have so few yuletide classics in his discography, but alas that’s the case. In fact, Armstrong didn’t get around to recording his first Christmas song until 1952, unless, of course, you count Armstrong’s two versions of “Santa Claus Blues” from 1924 and 1925.

When Decca finally corralled Armstrong into the studio to record some Christmas cheer, they gave him first-class treatment by backing him with the lush arrangements of Gordon Jenkins. Jenkins’s sentimental string and voices sound revived Armstrong’s recording career with the 1949 hit “Blueberry Hill.” By the early 1950s, Jenkins was a veritable recording superstar. Anything with his name on it sold tremendously so it made sense for Decca to pair him with label stars like Peggy Lee and Armstrong. On September 22, 1952, Armstrong and Jenkins teamed up for their fourth session together. On one of their sessions, from February 6, 1951 Jenkins jettisoned his strings and turned in some very fine small-big band arrangements but for the 1952 session, the strings were the whole show on the Christmas number, though current All Stars Bob McCracken, Marty Napoleon, Arvell Shaw and Cozy Cole were in the studio band that day (as was guitarist Art Ryerson, who would do many post-“Hello, Dolly” sessions with Pops in the 60s).

Both of the Jenkins Christmas numbers are unusually low-key. They feature no trumpet and no surges of emotion or anything. They’re very sober but the best word to describe them has to be “warm.” Pops is at his most tender, singing as if he’s whispering a loving lullaby to a small child. “White Christmas” is up first and, of course, was property of Armstrong’s friend and disciple, Bing Crosby. From the opening seconds, we know we’re in Gordon Jenkins country. “White Christmas” demonstrates that many of our best-loved Christmas songs feature quite a range of notes and you can hear Pops stretch here and there, but I always loved his tenor voice—as well as that basso profundo he would break out when necessary. Both are needed on “White Christmas,” which finds Pops reaching for a high D on “the ones” to the C an octave lower on “children.” On the final “be white,” Armstrong goes down to a low B on the coincidental word “be.” Where you’d expect a scat break or a “oh babe,” Pops lays out, leaving the gaps to be filled by Jenkins’s beautiful strings. After a brief string interlude, Armstrong reenters with the final eight bars, featuring, I think, some of his most touching singing. You can hear him smiling as he sings “and bright.” Again, he goes way down for that final “white,” holding it for an impressive amount of time. Very pretty stuff. Enough from me, enjoy it for yourself:


“Winter Wonderland” is up next and it’s more of the same. Though most performers do this one at an uptempo, Armstrong and Jenkins give it the same gentle ballad treatment as “White Christmas.” Again, Pops rarely deviates from the melody but he doesn’t have to, he’s singing it so sweetly. Am I weird for actually feeling warmed by the way Pops sings “as we dream by the fire”? Jenkins goes back to the bridge for another one of his trademark sounds. Marty Napoleon plays the melody in single notes an octave lower than you’d expect. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but hey, this was popular music in 1952 and it gave Jenkins an identity. Pops reenters for the final eight with a cute extended coda. Armstrong repeats the word “walking” while the pizzicato strings “walk” gingerly behind him. Finally, Armstrong unleashes a little bit of scat and the record comes to a mellow conclusion. Dig it:


Don’t worry, though. If Jenkins’s Christmas records make you a little sleepy and ready to curl up by the fire, here comes Toots Camarata’s Commanders to violently wake you up, visions of Ed Grady’s cymbals ringing in your head. I devoted an entire entry to this session in October 2008 because I believe it's one of the greatest dates Armstrong ever did in his entire career. The Commanders were a ferocious studio band co-led by arranger Camarata and drummer Grady. They were brass heavy—three trumpets, four trombones and only two reeds—and featured a peerless rhythm section propelled by Carmen Mastren’s rhythm guitar and Grady’s earth-shattering big band drumming. The October session began with two Christmas songs and both are a lot of fun. After trying out a few standards on the Jenkins sessions, Decca gave Armstrong a few novelties to cut up on and he does just that, infusing these two trite, silly songs with such enthusiasm that they’ve in turn had a shelf life of over 50 years of being listened to and enjoyed. First up: "Zat You Santa Claus?"


Right off the bat, you can hear that Decca gave their sound effects man some extra work on the date and the record starts off with howling winds and jingle bells. Grady’s drums “knock” on the door (how often did he have to change his snare head?), Pops asks the title question and we’re off, the reeds falling into a standard descending minor vamp. The lyrics are back in the “Old Man Mose” mold as Pops, frightened by the outside noises (cue the sound effects guy), hopes it’s Santa Claus making that racket and not someone sinister. The song does have a great bridge and the Commanders swing through it easily. The lyrics really are kind of goofy, but man, Pops sounds like he’s having a ball, which in turn, spreads to the listener. After one chorus, the band takes over, trading four bars with Pops and playing with such force, it threatens to become the most badass Christmas song ever recorded. Pops’s vocal on the trades grows more nervous and frantic, adding more fun to the proceedings. But perhaps the highlight of the record comes during the coda when a clearly petrified Armstrong pleads, “Please, a-please, a-pity my knees!” I love the way he sings that word “please.” The song ends with a big ending and after another “knock” from the drums, Pops yells, “That’s him all right,” while more sound effects take us out. It’s not “White Christmas,” but it’s very atmospheric and it’s easy to get swept away by Pops’s vocal.

Next up was “Cool Yule,” lyrics and music by comedian and television talk show pioneer Steve Allen. Due to its use in a few recent movies, “Cool Yule” has probably become Armstrong’s best-known Christmas recording. During my 50 trips to the mall this season, it’s sometimes hard to hear the piped in Christmas music, but man, that Armstrong horn during the bridge always manages to cut through the noise! (2009 update: it even cuts through the noise while running around a crowded Port Authority bus station in New York City in December.) Allen’s trademark sense of humor infuses the lyrics with all sorts of funny psuedo-hip references and Pops again, sounds like he’s having a ball. Here 'tis:


The song begins with more jingle bells before the band enters with a sprightly shuffle beat—wait a minute, is this Louie Prima or Louis Armstrong? The changes are fairly simple: “rhythm changes” for 16 bars, then a modulation for more “rhythm changes” in the bridge, kind of like Count Basie’s “Easy Does It.” Only the second half of the bridge doesn’t have “Rhythm,” as it’s punctuated by giant accents by the band on two and four. Again, Pops sings wonderfully but dig that band. Every drum hit, every brass punch, every note of the instrumental interlude…it’s so precise, so explosive, so swinging. I wish Armstrong made a dozen albums with the Commanders. After eight bars from the band, Armstrong picks up his horn for the first time during the session and it’s a preview of the tremendous blowing that was to be the hallmark of the date. Though the song has nothing to do with the blues, Pops instills his entire solo with more blue notes than you might expect. He gets downright funky with some of his note choices and I can never refrain from giving a “Yeah,” when he gets into that bridge. The highlight of the trumpet solo comes in the bridge when plays the melody phrase like a human being, then skyrockets an octave higher to play it again, ending it on a high concert D. After the vocal, Pops still has time to sing another entire chorus and he does so with even more enthusiasm than the first time, especially on the bridge (and listen to Grady on the final A section). Pops legitimately breaks himself up by yelling “Cool Yule” at the end and if you’re not smiling, you’re surname must be Scrooge. But as much fun as “Cool Yule” is, it’s also responsible for this:


Yikes.

Anyway, Decca wasn’t finished yet and two years later, on September 8, 1955, they brought Armstrong in to record two more Christmas songs, this time backed by a studio band arranged and conducted by the great Benny Carter. This has become one of those forgotten Decca sessions, never reissued on C.D. by the label itself but it is available on the Ambassador label’s Moments to Remember disc, which collects all of Armstrong’s Christmas work for the Decca, the entire Commanders session and other odds and ends that are hard to find on compact disc or Itunes. Carter wrote a great arrangement for Armstrong on The Platters’s “Only You” and Armstrong manages to sound quite tender on the Four Lads hit, “Moments to Remember.”

The first Christmas song that day was Dick Sherman and Joe Van Winkle’s “Christmas In New Orleans.” Here's the audio:


Carter’s arrangement begins with a hardened “Jingle Bells” quote that sounds like it belongs in an episode of Dragnet (remember, Carter was doing a lot of film work at the time). It soon settles into a gentle two-beat that really works for this song. The lyrics are almost a waste of time with their references to stuff like a “Dixieland Santa Claus,” but as always, Pops sounds like the happiest guy in the world. And how could he not? He loved Christmas and he loved New Orleans so any song that combined the two, even with dopey lyrics, was bound to inspire him. What’s truly inspired, though, is the trumpet solo. The tune starts off kind of like “Basin Street Blues” before it goes its own way but the changes obviously had enough meat for Armstrong to sink his chops into. This isn’t one of those grandiose high-note extravaganzas; however it is a good time to appreciate Armstrong’s rhythmic mastery. It’s one of those solos that I always enjoyed but never really devoted 100% attention to until an afternoon I spent in Joe Muranyi’s house. Muranyi recorded “Christmas In New Orleans” for his Jazzology C.D., Joe Muranyi With The New Orleans Real Low-Down. For the disc, he transcribed Armstrong’s solo to be played in unison by his clarinet, Duke Heitger’s trumpet and Tom Baker’s tenor sax. You get so used to hearing horns playing unison lines on bop heads and the like, but not on Armstrong solos and all of a sudden, this solo that I kind of took for granted, became a whole new thing. While listening to it with me, Muranyi said, “It’s tough to notate this part. I worked so hard on it. What you do is, I did it and then I put it away. I mean, I had done it maybe two or three years before this and when I took it out again and refined it, you keep finding little things. It’s not easy. It’s interesting to hear it in this context. It sounds more complex than when he plays it.” It really does. Here's Muranyi's performance:



For the final track on the date, Decca reached back and picked “Christmas Night In Harlem,” written by Mitchell Parish and Raymond Scott for the “Blackbirds of and 1934 and memorably recorded by Paul Whiteman with a vocal by Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer. Carter’s arrangement begins with another Christmas quote—Billy Kyle playing the beginning to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”—before the horns punch out a descending line that reminds me of a Ray Charles record (I think I’m thinking of “Greenback Dollar Bill”). Armstrong sings the first chorus harmlessly—it’s a pretty repetitive melody and he does his best with it. Carter’s arrangement swings after the vocal and you can hear Barney Bigard holding a high note. (This was Bigard’s next-to-last session with the All Stars as he would be replaced by Edmond Hall in a matter of weeks.) Armstrong’s trumpet solo is curiously low-key. He more or less sticks to playing the melody in the middle register. Naturally, the Armstrong sound makes it worth listening to, but he doesn’t really blow with any force until the last eight bars. It’s a fine solo but I think that Pops could have maybe used one more take to wail a little more. After the low-key solo, Pops returns to sing the bridge, which features a very funny moment. Armstrong sings, “Everyone will be all lit up,” and laughs to himself, “lit up” clearly having a different meaning to him than most. He swings the lyric on the final A section, boiling it down to one note, but the arrangement is now too polite; where’s Ed Grady’s drums to wake things up? The highlight of the record is Pops’s eloquent scatting and singing as the record fades. A charming record, but not my favorite Louis Christmas song.


And that ends this tour of Louis Armstrong’s Christmas recordings for Decca. Of course, Armstrong wasn’t completely done recording yuletide music as in 1970, he performed “Here Is My Heart For Christmas” for RCA. And Armstrong’s very last recording is a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that is quite charming and is one I hope to share this Thursday. Til then...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Louis Armstrong House Museum Online Catalog!

Okay friends, I promised an announcement and here 'tis: the Louis Armstrong House Museum's online catalog is up and running! And here's the link:

Louis Armstrong House Museum Online Catalog

What does this me to you, dear, devoted, disciple of Pops? Well, let me go backwards and quickly take you through a short history lesson. Our hero, Louis Armstrong, was a packrat. The man saved everything: thousands of photographs, hundreds of tapes, letters from fans, scrapbooks, manuscripts, records, books, you name it. When he passed, Lucille made sure that everything stayed intact (thank goodness). After Lucille died in 1983, the House and all its contents were given to Queens College. In 1991, Michael Cogswell was hired to process the materials found inside the house, all of it placed under the heading "Louis Armstrong Collection." And in 1994, the Louis Armstrong Archives were opened.

Are you with me so far? Good. Since 1994, researchers from around the world have made the Armstrong Archives THE place to be when it comes to Pops. The Archives also continued to collect any-Armstrong related artifacts sent in by fans, which led to a second collection, the "Satchmo Collection." And as readers of this blog should know, the monumental Jack Bradley Collection was also acquired earlier this decade. More stuff, including the collections of Phoebe Jacobs and David Gold, continues to roll in. It's epic.

In 2003, Louis's house in Corona was opened up as an official museum and the entire operation became known as the Louis Armstrong House Museum, though the Archives continued gathering steam over at Queens College. As I said, researchers have always visited the Archives...but what if you couldn't? What if you're an elderly Armstrong fan in California? What if your a Pops worshipper in Sweden? Wouldn't you like to know what is contained at the Archives? People send us questions all the time--"What kind of trumpet did Louis play? What kind of mouthpiece did you he? Do you have any information on Louis's trips to Africa?"--but it gets hard keeping up with the responses.

So what the Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM from here on out) has done is brought the catalog to you. The first step was to hire a Project Archivist in October 2009, which turned out to be yours truly. Everybody knows it was my dream job but I have been asked, "So, what do you do?"

Well, the answer is PLENTY. We purchased Past Perfect, the leading software for small museums, and I began the process of arranging, preserving and cataloging into Past Perfect the gigantic Jack Bradley Collection. Meanwhile, a dilligent intern, Daniel Pecoraro, hammered away on Past Perfect to enter what we call the Louis Armstrong House Collection, a listing of every single object found in the Armstrong House (some really neat stuff there).

With those two out of the way, I set my sights on the big fish, the one that started it all, the Louis Armstrong Collection. These were the items that Louis owned: the trumpets, the scores, the scrapbooks, the private tapes, with those marvelous collages. Everything got new accession numbers and got loaded onto Past Perfect. It was too exciting to keep to ourselves so this week we've decided to share it with the world on our website.

So what will you find? Catalog records for the Louis Armstrong Collection, the Jack Bradley Collection and the Louis Armstrong House Collection. The site is super easy to use with a simple "Keyword Search" feature. Type in anything--Joe Glaser, Selmer, Swiss Kriss, Satchmo the Great--and you'll be taken to all the relevent records in those collections. Note: you won't be taken to the ACTUAL documents. For instance, if you see a catalog record for a letter or a manuscript, you won't be able to read them. If you land on an entry for a private tape, you won't be able to listen to it. But you will be able to read pretty detailed descriptions of the contents...and if you know my writing, I can get pretty detailed!

But wait, there's more! We're currently scanning stuff all the time. We have about 15,000 total photos between all of our collections, each photo stored in boxes arranged by category ("Louis in Performance," "Louis at Home," "Louis with Celebrities," etc.). I've described each photo box at a high level of detail and scanned between 10 and 20 photos from each box to give a representative sampling of what's included in each box. Each photo features a "Louis Armstrong House Museum" watermark to prevent it from being published. But trust me, scrollilng through the photos is a gassuh!

I've also scanned pages from Louis's manuscripts to give a sense of what they look like. For all the musicians in the house, there are detailed photographs of the trumpets we possess (all but one, which is on loan), as well as every mouthpiece held in the collection. We've taken photos of scrapbook pages and some of the many, many award Louis has received to also give you a feel for those.

And most crazily--drum roll please--we've scanned the front AND back cover of EVERY reel-to-reel tape box in the Armstrong Collection. Every one. Every collage is now in the catalog. Even boxes with nothing on them are still posted. And along with each tape listing is a detailed catalog entry about what's on the tape. We've transferred almost all of Louis's tapes to CDs so we've posted the track-by-track breakdowns of these tapes, all of which, again, is searchable. If you're looking for a tape of Louis and Stepin Fetchit, just type in "Stepin Fetchit." If you're looking for a tape where Louis and friends tell dirty jokes, search for jokes. It's all there.

We also have records of Louis's entire record collection which is fascinating. Louis always talked about opera and would name Caruso and Galli-Curci as some of his favorites. Search for them and see which records he actually owned. I've never heard of a Louis-Lester Young connection but I searched for Lester and found that Louis owned a few of Pres's Mercury records.

Just doing keyword searches is great but sometimes you might get too many results. I'd recommend the Advanced Search if you're looking for specifics. The "Collection" field is very important. Say you just want to see phonographic records in the Jack Bradley collection. Type "record" in "Object Name" and "Bradley" in "Collection" and get ready to scroll through 2,069 entries! If you specifically want to see records owned by Louis Armstrong, type "record" in "Object Name" and "Armstrong" in "Collection" and stand back.

There's also a "Click and Search" feature which eliminates the need for thinking. If you go to "People," all relevent persons are listed in alphabetical order by last name so if you have someone specific in mind, you can go right there and scroll through the list. "Search Terms" is pretty great too as that's where you'll find listings on specific terms such as "King of the Zulus," "Diets," "High Society" and much more.

And if you're bored and looking to have a good time, there's a "Random Image" tab. Every time you click it, you get nine images spanning all the collections. I just did it and got four tape boxes, a publicity shot of Jewel Brown, a trumpet mouthpiece, two awards given to Louis and an artifact in the Jack Bradley Collection! You can click on any image to be taken to the catalog record for more details.

So now I hope you see what I meant when I said it's a treasure trove for Pops lovers...but it's only the beginning. Each week, I hope to add more information and more entries, eventually knocking out the Satchmo and Phoebe Jacobs Collections. There will also be more scans and more photos so the images will continue to grow and showcase other parts of the collection. Please keep checking back and do not hesitate to write to me with any questions.

And I know I've been saying a lot of "I, I, I" and "me, me, me" but this has in no way been a one-man project. Michael Cogswell got this ball rolling in 1991 and a lot of staff members put in a lot of time between then and my hiring in 2009 cataloging, arranging and preserving the precious materials held within the Archives. I've met only a few of them but I thank all of them. And since I've started, I've had some dedicated interns numbering folders, scanning photos, entering data into Past Perfect. This could not have been done without them so hats off to Tyler Rivenbark, Richard Fischer, Daniel Pecoraro, Chris Genao, David Engelhard and Greg Hammontree. Special thanks also to our Archives Assistant Lesley Zlabinger, who also spent plenty of time manning the Past Perfect station (and talking me off various ledges). Assistant Director Deslyn Dyer's enthusiasm for the project keeps me motivated and the Baltsar Beckled is the man to thank for making the site look so pretty. And thanks to the rest of the LAHM staff (especially you, Al "Peacocks" Pomerantz for saving my bacon!), a pleasure to work with from top to bottom. And there probably wouldn't be a Louis Armstrong House Museum so extra thanks to the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation!

And naturally, biggest thanks go to Michael Cogswell. I thank him for being a terrific boss and a great friend but on behalf of Pops nuts around the world, I think we can ALL thank him for doing what he does to spread the gospel of Louis. This whole online catalog was Michael's idea, as his goal is share our treasures with the world. So if you're sitting at home today, searching through the catalog and having your mind blown at some tape box collage or some catalog listing of letters sent from Louis, thank Michael.

Okay, that's all I've got...I gotta get back to work! But that's what I've been doing since October 2009 and I just hope it's worth to all of you Armstrong lovers out there. Now get off this dumb blog and start searching the online catalog!

Louis Armstrong House Museum Online Catalog

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Call off the search party...

"Fear not!" dear reader Phil Ralph wrote me last night, "A search party has been formed to find you! It has just now set off looking for you, 22:40pm GMT (British time), because we (your fans) assume that, although you will have written the latest addition to your splendid blog, you are trapped somewhere in the deepest snows of New England and cannot post it online for our edification and erudition."

Phil's e-mail gave me a good chuckle but I thought I should take a second to say hello and confirm that I'm not dead. No, I'm very much alive...almost too alive. You see, on Saturday, December 3 a large box was waiting for me outside my front door when my wife and I (and baby Ella) returned from food shopping. Inside the box was my manuscript, chock full of red copyediting marks. I was told I had two weeks to turn it back around, make my final, final, final changes and say good-bye to it forever (or at least until it hits stores next June!). So that has kept me in the trenches during every single second of free time.

Meanwhile, at work, I've been pushing myself harder than ever to get something major accomplished. What, you say? Well, give me about 24-48 hours and I'll lay it on you. Let's just say that Armstrong fans around the world will rejoice at my next announcement.

Next week, I'll be book-less and won't know where to turn. I'll find time to post my traditional Christmas-related posts but if you're really looking for something fresh about our hero, I turn your attention to my dear friend Michael Steinman who absolutely outdid himself with his recent "Jazz Lives" post, "What Would Louis Do?" I won't say any more about it. Just click here and bask in the glow of everything dear Louis can teach us. Bravo, Michael!

Okay, I'm going back to straightening some punctuation on my manuscript. Call off the search party, I'm doing just fine! Til next time...