Louis Armstrong Credit: Louis Armstrong House Museum

The trumpeter, composer, actor and singer Louis Armstrong is the architectural father in jazz, he constructed the “j.” He was an American jazz ambassador who didn’t mind speaking his mind as it related to Blacks and the Civil Rights struggle in America. Miles Davis once stated, “Whatever you play, Pops has already played it.”

June 13-19 Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies, in conjunction with The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, presents The Louis Armstrong International Continuum: Armstrong & Company, A Virtual Symposium and Concert (daily beginning at 9 a.m. EST).

The seven-day series will highlight Satchmo’s Extraordinary Collaborations with Jazz Greats and World Leaders During Times of Global Crisis.

Highlighting this year’s Continuum theme, Louis Armstrong and Company, the seven-day event brings together an exceptional group of musicians, authors, scholars, academics and art administrators to examine Armstrong’s historic collaborations with a core of outstanding jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. Building on last year’s theme, this symposium also examines how Armstrong worked with leaders from various professions and disciplines to uplift the world during trying times.

“Louis Armstrong is a founding father of our music, and his collaborations with some of the brightest stars in jazz allowed them to tap directly into the wellspring of his artistry, which this symposium will explore in depth,” said Robert G. O’Meally, the Columbia University Zora Neale professor of English and Comparative Literature, director of the Columbia University Center for Jazz Studies, and author of “The Jazz Cadence of American Culture,” and his latest book, “Antagonistic Cooperation: Jazz, Collage and the Shaping of American Culture.”

Participants will include the living jazz legend NEA Jazz Master tenor saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, Robert G. O’Meally, writer Gary Giddins, political activist and author Angela Davis, Aidan Levy, Robin D. G. Kelley (Thelonious Monk, Free Press 2009), drummer, composer, educator Terri Lyne Carrington, author and Director Elect of the Columbia University Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University Farah Jasmine Griffin, trumpeter and composer Theo Croker, with a Special Award Presentation to Ran Blake. He is known for his 40-year professorship at the New England Conservatory of Music where he started the Department of Third Stream (now called the Department of Contemporary Improvisation) with Gunther Schuller. Blake’s focus on improvisation and ear training, and his diverse influences from gospel to jazz and classical music, have made him one of the more inventive music educators of the jazz world. “We’re delighted to celebrate the accomplishments and legacy of Ran Blake,” said LAEF Executive Director Jackie Harris. “Like Louis Armstrong, he is a pioneer who has moved the music forward and inspired generations of musicians.”

There will be performances by jazz vocalist, songwriter Nnenna Freelon and blues and jazz singer, arranger and songwriter Quiana Lynell.

Some may be saying this event sounds like one of those straight intellectual, academic affairs where a subscription to The New York Times is mandatory. Not here the truth last year after covering this event I walked away with a wealth of knowledge as it related to Armstrong many facts about his life which are rarely discussed. The media often portrays him as a happy guy in love with the world but in real life he was straight-up gangsta, his big smile and laugh fooled a lot of people. He was well in-tuned with what was happening in the world and never hesitated to give his opinion. This event is free and there will be an abundance of history on Armstrong to be shared and digested.
To attend: https://jazz.columbia.edu/the-louis-armstrong-international-continuum-2/

The Smoke Jazz Club has the distinction of being the only jazz club located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (2751 Broadway between 105th & 106th). They have been closed since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. During those two years the club was involved in conducting modified operations with livestreams, sidewalk concerts and outdoor dining. While New York City jazz clubs began opening at the end of last year, Smoke remained closed looking at their larger goal for reopening which included an impressive expansion and renovation that will take the club to greater heights for the post-pandemic 21st century.

Smoke’s return brings much-needed hope and rejuvenation to the city, particularly the Upper West Side and the music community. “Smoke Jazz Club has so much history,” says husband and wife co-owners Paul Stache and Molly Sparrow Johnson. “Despite the struggles of the last few years, we just knew that the music couldn’t stop here. The past couple of years have not been easy for anyone, but having live music back in the club with everyone together, musicians and listeners, seems like a turning point. We are very excited to take this next step.”

The club’s newly renovated expansion allows for more comfortable accommodations for operating under mandated occupancy restrictions, social distancing regulations, and safety protocols for the staff, musicians, and patrons. “We had already agreed, in principle, with our landlord to take on the two adjacent storefronts before the pandemic,” recounts Johnson, “but it quickly became obvious that combining the new spaces with the jazz club was not only a priority but really a necessity to operate safely. We feel very fortunate that our landlord has been so supportive these last two years.” The addition of these smaller combined spaces serves as an attached lounge featuring the relocated, historic, full-length bar providing more space for audiences and a larger stage for performers in the main listening room– while preserving the club’s warm friendly ambiance. Smoke’s reputation for being musician friendly usually boasts a list of noted musicians on any given night.

A cultural cornerstone of Upper Manhattan, Smoke Jazz Club opened its doors on April 9, 1999. Since that time, this Uptown jewel of a jazz spot has folks venturing uptown rather than downtown for live jazz, along with their international clientele. The club’s stage has played host to legendary artists and rising stars alike, including Wynton Marsalis, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Christian McBride, Brad Mehldau, Harold Mabern, J.D. Allen, Nicholas Payton, Peter Bernstein, Eddie Henderson, Johnnie O’Neal, Gary Bartz, Eric Alexander, Bill Charlap, Jimmy Cobb, and Lezlie Harrison among others. With so many outstanding performers it’s not surprising that Smoke also boasts a GRAMMY-nominated label, Smoke Sessions Records, and a celebrated streaming concert series, Smoke Screens.

“We set the tone on opening night in 1999 with the great George Coleman and Harold Mabern,” says Stache. Fittingly, NEA Jazz Master Coleman returns to christen the new and improved Smoke with a four-night grand reopening concert celebration July 21-24, 2022 (also streaming live worldwide). Tenor saxophonist Coleman will be joined by pianist Davis Whitfield, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Joe Farnsworth and special guest guitarist Peter Bernstein. Other artists scheduled in the near future will include Charles McPherson, Vijay Iyer, Mary Stallings, Bill Charlap, Bobby Watson, Nicholas Payton, Renee Rosnes, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Cyrus Chestnut, and Buster Williams.

For the upcoming grand opening visit SMOKEjazz.com.

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