WASHINGTON, April 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 40 years after Louis Armstrong stood on stage in the ballroom of the National Press Club and let loose some shining, golden trumpet notes for 300 journalists to hear, the huge global audience of Armstrong fans will now hear for the first time what is believed to be his last known recorded trumpet concert.
The story of how a partnership between the National Press Club, Smithsonian Folkways and the Louis Armstrong Foundation brought an obscure recording heard by only a few hundred people that lay dormant for 40 years into a world of millions of people who listen to music on iPads, iPods and other devices is like the jazz version of a treasure hunt.
The story begins with the election of Vernon Louvier, a son of New Orleans as President of the National Press Club. Louvier wanted Armstrong, his favorite entertainer, to consider playing for the crowd at his black-tie dinner. Plans were made for a big event. British journalist David Frost was the master of ceremonies. House Speaker Hale Boggs was there as were George Romney, Walter Mondale and Comedian Mark Russell. Armstrong brought along his wife Lucille and his band of All Stars including Tyree Glenn on trombone and Tommy Gwaltney on clarinet. And they were all in tune.
But Armstrong's health had been failing in 1970 and he rarely played trumpet anymore. His shows had become appearances of two songs or ten minutes. Late in 1970 he began to try to play trumpet again. But on this night in January 1971 he performed for nearly 30 minutes and played trumpet as well. The crowd of enthusiastic National Press Club members did not know that this was one of the last times Armstrong would perform in public and that they were witnessing history. Within five months Armstrong would pass away in his sleep from a heart attack.
A crew of CBS newsmen who were Press Club members recorded the concert. A limited edition record was made of the show which was coupled with a tribute concert to Armstrong by Glenn, Gwaltney and friends. Together with some Cajun recipes the album was called "Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours: Satchmo at the National Press Club", and was given to about 300 Press Club members who attended the Louvier inaugural.
For the next 40 years most of these records found their way to attics, basements or garages. A couple of copies made it to the Library of Congress where they were catalogued. And the Press Club kept a couple copies in its own Archives. Like many good topics the discussion of the Louis Armstrong record existed only at the bar of the National Press Club where members would say to each other how great it was and that something more should be done about it.
Out of this conversation came the insistent voice of Press Club member Daniel Doyle, a music lover and producer who had collected all the stories of older members and was a bridge forward to the next generation. Doyle wanted the Press Club to produce and distribute the record. But the Club was not in the music business.
In 2008 Doyle, who had extensive contacts in the jazz world, found a willing ear among Press Club staff including the Archivist and the Executive Director. The Press Club agreed to submit an application for copyright to the Library of Congress for the record. It was a long and tangled process but in the end the Library of Congress would agree that the Press Club had rights to the record but they were limited to the cover art, liner notes, recipe booklet and other intangibles but not to the music itself.
Through contacts Doyle had at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Press Club began to meet with Smithsonian to discuss what could be done to bring the music public. Eventually the Press Club granted Smithsonian what rights it had, in exchange for Smithsonian agreeing to take on all engineering, production, distribution, marketing and legal costs associated with bringing the music public. Eventually Smithsonian met with the Louis Armstrong Foundation. Agreement was reached in late 2011 that Smithsonian Folkways could produce a public issue of the 1971 record. Some of those involved in the project thought the day would never arrive.
Since then work has been done to create the CDs and to distribute and market the music. Smithsonian chose Jazz Appreciation Week as the perfect time to offer the record to the public and to mark the occasion with a news conference and panel discussion at the National Press Club.
Throughout the process the Club has been building a webpage detailing the process which can be found at http://www.press.org/satchmo. You can find photos and video of today's events there now and more in a day or so. To order the music you can go to Smithsonian's site at http://www.folkways.si.edu or via iTunes.