[Dixielandjazz] Trumpet players, come on down to NYC and blow Louis Armstrong's horn.

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 8 07:46:48 PST 2007

Ok guys, make the pilgrimage now, to Flushing NY, my home town for 28 years.
Come blow Pops' horn.


Flushing NY
Three Golden Trumpets, Countless Gleaming Dreams

NY Times - By DANNY FREEDMAN - January 7, 2007

Louis Armstrong House and Archives
In life, too, Mr. Armstrong was happy to share his instruments with his

ONE day late last month, inside a reading room in the library at Queens
College, a young visitor from Sweden named Erik Akerberg was handed a
gold-plated Selmer trumpet with a small ding in the bell.

Mr. Akerberg fingered the valves knowingly, making sure that they sprang
back to attention, and blew a little warm air into the mouthpiece before
placing it in the instrument. Then he held the trumpet in front of him. ³All
right,² he said nervously. Drawing a breath, he put the horn to his mouth,
and he began to play.

Mr. Akerberg, a 27-year-old amateur trumpet player from Stockholm spending a
semester studying business at Berkeley College in Manhattan, was anxious,
and with good reason. He was holding one of the Holy Grails of music, a
trumpet that once belonged to Louis Armstrong. And his first thought was an
anxious one: Just don¹t drop the thing. ³That¹s not going to happen,² he
recalled thinking. ³That can¹t happen.²

But the fear was quickly replaced by wondering: ³What will the sound ‹ my
sound ‹ be on Louis Armstrong¹s horn?²

Gradually, as he relaxed, stilted notes and phrases gave way to robust
musical sentences. Repeating a run of notes several times, Mr. Akerberg
peppered the improvisation occasionally with a blue note or a bent tone as
he gained ease. 

Mr. Akerberg was in good company. Among trumpeters who have made a
pilgrimage to Flushing and ended up playing Armstrong¹s horns are such
members of jazz royalty as Wynton Marsalis, Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis.

The horns in question are five gold-plated trumpets, which were discovered
in 1983 ‹ after the death of Armstrong¹s wife, Lucille ‹ in Armstrong¹s
longtime home in nearby Corona. Two are on display, one at the college¹s
Louis Armstrong Archives, the other at the Louis Armstrong House.

The other three are kept under wraps, nestled in a hard brown case within
the Armstrong Archives, in the Queens College library. Yet on rare occasions
‹ ³when the vibe is right,² said Michael Cogswell, director of both the
archives and the house ‹ the trumpets are wheeled out on an unceremonious
wooden library cart and handed to schoolchildren to hold, or to trumpeters
who, with awe, press their lips to history. To date, only about two dozen
people have had this privilege since the archives opened in 1994.

³There is a talismanic power to an artifact like this,² Mr. Cogswell said.
³For people to actually hold Louis¹s own trumpet in their hands, it does
touch them in a good way, in a beautiful way.²

The trumpets are objects of such reverence that some visitors have declined
the offer. But for all the nightmares that could result, one argument trumps
them all: Louis would have wanted it this way. The proof of this lies in the
archives, in the dozens of photographs showing the musician backstage after
concerts with fans enthusiastically trying out his fabled horns.

For Mr. Cogswell, it¹s a tightrope of access versus preservation, but so far
the limited exposure of the trumpets ‹ perhaps two to four people play them
a year ‹ does not raise concern, he said. Still, fingerprints are wiped off
immediately after the trumpets are handled, and instruments are annually
deep-cleaned, lubricated and polished.

³My only regret is that there might have been some valuable DNA in there
that we lost,² Mr. Cogswell said dryly. ³What with cloning and everything
today, you never know. We might have made a big mistake cleaning these horns
the first time.²

This particular morning, after improvising awhile on a second horn, Mr.
Akerberg pulled it away from his mouth, opened his eyes, caught his breath,
and looked down at the instrument. ³This is great,² he announced with a
satisfied nod.

Picking up the third horn, an ornate trumpet decorated with floral chasing
that crawled across the bell-pipe and into the bell, Mr. Akerberg posed as a
friend dutifully snapped photos that showed him standing under the
poster-size pictures of Armstrong that decorate the archives¹ reading room.
As he played on, including the melody from the song ³Chameleon,² the notes
drifted through an open window into the small courtyard outside, where the
few students milling about seemed not to notice.

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