Louis Armstrong Night – Thank you

Celebrating Louis Armstrong!

The dust has settled and the smoke (!) has cleared. It’s taken a touch longer to write since the big night due mostly to the quick follow-up of DJing on KBOO on the 19th August, but here I am and there’s a lot of gratitude here ready to pour out and rightly recognise people who helped in various ways.

The whole Louis Armstrong Night started, in a way, about four years ago when I came back from New Orleans’ Summer Satchmofest tremendously energised and inspired by the presentations given there, and meeting one or two people who are unquestionably touched by His spirit. I tried in 2012 to get something going, but when at first I didn’t succeed, I soon became despondent. It takes a lot of energy and the determination of a salesman to push through all the knockbacks until you find that party that’s willing to hear you out.

So it was early this year when I was very much in a ‘life is for living, seize the day’ spirit that I took a devil-may-care approach and called the city as I left my day job one afternoon. The rest is now history – but hopefully there WILL be a future!

My deep, deep thanks go to :

Alicia Hammock at Portland Parks for leading the effort on the City and corporate side of organisation. On the night, she sacrificed being able to enjoy much of the entertainment herself while running around organising the staff, volunteers, security and police, as well as co-ordinating the running order and on-stage speaking with me. She also ensured there were cupcakes reserved just for the band. At the outset, the effective title ‘Artistic Director’ was assigned to me, which meant total control of the music, guest speakers and documentary. That was a lot of trust to give out on a high profile occasion for the Holladay Park Partnership – clearly, a huge thank you is deserved just for that.

Danielle Solomon, also of Portland Parks, assisted Alicia at all of our meetings and came up with the ideas for the kids crafts and food carts, as well as being the first to paint the utopian image of families and children on blankets on a glorious summer Portland evening.

Holladay Park Partnership, Portland Parks, Lloyd Centre Mall Management for their spiritual and financial investment in the project from start to finish. It’s my understanding that Lloyd Centre Mall were a 90+% sponsor of the event, which truly underlines what Alicia said on the night about their vision and pride in their historical growth. For those interested, it’s worth reading the articles online about the involvement of Cypress Equities and the help the city called on from the people who turned New York City’s Bryant Park around from the crime haven it was to the family-friendly park it is today. The Holladay Park you experienced on this great occasion, and the one you can visit every day and play ping-pong, chess, scrabble, or use the mobile library, eat your lunch, all without the anti-social behaviour that blighted the park prior to 2013, is due to the effort and imagination of these people.

KBOO and Wednesday afternoon DJ Bob Riddle for generously donating the last half hour of his two-hour show to interview me live and play music involving some of the on-the-day musicians.

KMHD DJ Phil Brenas for embracing the event and helping to promote it during his weekly Sunday morning 9am-11am show.

Stew Dodge Sound crew were ultra-professional on the night, even coercing me to play music instead of leaving dead air during the half hour band break. They were right, of course!

Every musician, who came with nothing on their agenda other than to do their absolute best for the people – nothing epitomised the approach of Louis Armstrong to performance than this, and while I hoped I could get everyone to come with the same philosophy, I didn’t expect it to materialise, never mind be so absolute. Selfless : Tom Barber, David Evans, Reggie Houston, Marilyn Keller, Pete Lampe, John Moak, Garner Pruitt, Doug Sammons.

Scott Kennedy, who worked beyond the point I could reasonably, or even unreasonably, ask. To illustrate the diligence, sensitivity and deep knowledge Scott used to pay the most faithful tribute to Louis Armstrong this city has seen in years, fifteen of the seventeen numbers performed were recorded by Louis. Of the other two, one was recorded by King Oliver, and the other by legitimate contemporary Jabbo Smith. Who else could put together a set of music like this, and perform it with such sincerity and authenticity? Just some of the milestones covered by Scott’s thoughtful selections : His recording sessions with Duke Ellington, His first ever recording session with ‘brother’ Jack Teagarden, His first ever recording session (yes, ever ever), His biggest hit, His own composition, His transformation and popularity of a gospel hymn to a ‘New Orleans standard’.

Jim Vail for his uplifting, amusing story of time spent with Louis at the black-jack tables of Harrah’s in 1962. It gave us a taste of the answer to : ‘I wonder what it was like’.

David Chen of Movies In The Park for working with me to ensure the documentary would air flawlessly on the night.

Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum, for his open door policy to my questions both long distance and in person at the Louis Armstrong Archives, Queens College, New York. Actually, there’s an incalculable list of things to thank Ricky for, but brothers don’t have to thank each other for everything, they’re just brothers, it’s what family do.

Each and every one of you who turned up and absorbed the joy and euphoria that the whole event was centred around, embodied in you-know-who. You all made it exceptionally memorable – the city have since confirmed it was indeed the largest attendance and event they’ve ever seen in Holladay Park, and we didn’t have the Lloyd Centre MAX station open for us either.

The Louis Armstrong Appreciation Society (NW) received it’s first members, reaching double figures within minutes of my announcing it – sign up, sign up!

It was asked on the night several times, and it’s cropped up since : will this be an annual event?


Louis on the big screen