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Second “Louie” Awards Gala: New York, NY, December 4, 2012

DANIEL Kassell By

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Louis Armstrong House Museum 2012 Gala
The Manhattan Penthouse
New York, NY
December 4, 2012

While waiting their turn to play as the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band, trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg, clarinetist Anat Cohen, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, banjoist James Chirillo, tubaist David Ostwald and drummer Marion Felder enjoyed a great meal before the Second Annual Louis Armstrong House Museum Gala on December 4, 2012 on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. MC Michael Cogswell—21-year Director of the Museum and a former musician—recognized everyone responsible for their generosity.

Tonight's first Louie Award recipient, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, expressed decades of jazz musicians' sentiments: "No Louis, No Jimmy Heath." Once, when asked to get a band together for a benefit, all he had to tell them is that it was with Louis.

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was called upon to eulogize friend and mentor Stanley Crouch. Upon receiving his Louie, Crouch gave thanks to friend of Lucille Armstrong and co-founder of the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation Phoebe Jacobs, to impresario/pianist George Wein for his personal admiration of Armstrong, and LAHM Board Trustee "Jerry" Chazen, for inspiring others' financial support.

Newport Jazz Festival impresario Wein was a storyteller, revealing that his favorite Louis Armstrong tune was "Just a Gigalo" and calling him "Pops" like everyone else. Long ago Wein asked Armstrong, "How do you play with such feeling?" The trumpeter's answer? "I play the way I sing." "But he never told me how he sang," exclaimed Wein.

Before dessert, the Louis Armstrong Centennial band commenced, with Bria Skonberg's first notes on trumpet recalling Armstrong's playing on "That's My Home" exactly. Then, as many times before, she performed "West End Blues" as a slow-drag just as it was played live by Armstrong, without the restraint limited by 78 RPM shellac disks. Thereafter, this sophisticated audience showed its appreciation with applause.

Heath had his straight soprano sax and sat in, opening a cappella on the Armstrong All-Stars biggest hit, "What a Wonderful World," adding a contemporary boppish soundscape.

Throughout the set, Wycliffe Gordon was explosive on all his solos, James Chirillo classic on banjo, Anat Cohen dramatic without imitating traditional clarinetists, David Ostwald in the background and Marion Felder driving the rhythm. The group, itself, was the dessert to end this extraordinary event.

Tonight, three more Louie Awards went to real Satchmo fans.

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