When You’re Smiling

Satchmo Summer Fest celebrates Louis Armstrong

This peculiar crescent along the Mississippi River is the birthplace of dozens of notable people—Tyler Perry, Richard Simmons, Reese Witherspoon, Lil Wayne, Peyton and Eli Manning, not to mention the musical family dynasties with surnames like Marsalis, Batiste, Neville and Andrews. There is one name, however, that is internationally and perennially linked to New Orleans, and that is Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.

Armstrong’s legacy as a trumpeter and composer, his iconic handkerchief and his smile, even his signature of “Red beans and ricely yours,” are tied to his hometown of New Orleans. He, like many musicians before him who left the Crescent City, was a casual ambassador and shared our culture with the world. When he became King Zulu in 1949, it was international news. This weekend, we’ll celebrate his artistic contributions, his personality and his love of New Orleans at the annual Satchmo Summer Fest.

The three-day festival, produced by French Quarter Festivals Inc., honors Pops with music, food, events and scholarly discussions. The festival runs Friday, Aug. 3 to Sunday, Aug. 5 at The New Orleans Jazz Museum at The Mint, located at 400 Esplanade Ave. Daily admission is $5.

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The music lineup features nearly 40 acts on two stages and even on the Esplanade neutral ground. On Friday and Saturday mornings at 11:15, young local musicians will play on the neutral ground outside the festival gates. Friday will bring the Satchmo Sound-off featuring Roots of Music, and then Saturday will feature Edna Karr’s Marching Cougars. Traditional and contemporary jazz, brass bands, soul and even Mardi Gras Indian music are all represented in the lineup this year.

A major debut is Irma Thomas, the “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” The Grammy Award-winning singer is scheduled to perform on Sunday, Aug 5 at 5:30 p.m. on the Fidelity Bank Stage.

Thomas, a New Orleans native, said in a press release, “Mr. Armstrong was an influence on a lot of young children, including me. I never thought I would be in the business but then saw him as King Zulu when I was nine years old. That parade passed right in front of my house and left such an impression!"

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Sunday morning brings the opportunity celebrate New Orleans culture and Armstrong’s life beyond the festival gates. The annual Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine Church (1210 Governor Nicholls St.) will start at 10:00 a.m. and will feature the Treme Brass Band. After the mass around 11:00 a.m., the “Satchmo Salute” second line parade will make its way from St. Augustine Church to Armstrong Park, then along Rampart St. and down Esplanade Ave. to the festival. Secondliners will include the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Million Dollar Baby Dolls, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Fi Yi Yi, and Boe Monkey Red, among others.

On Saturday and Sunday, Pop’s Playhouse offers family activities inside The Mint. Cool off in the air conditioning and decorate Zulu coconuts or second line umbrellas, make tambourines and conga drums, or read about Armstrong in the New Orleans Public Library “Book Nook.”

The academic discussions are also indoors and promise to be nothing like a boring college lecture. Scholars will present on Armstrong and New Orleans culture with talk titles including “Pops and Billie Holiday – Mutual Admiration Society,” “Saving the ‘Holy of Hollies’” The Eagle Saloon Initiative,” and “You Can’t Figure Louis.”  There are 20 talks scheduled over the course of the festival.

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