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February Feature: Louis Armstrong

Throughout February, Night Train teams up with Global Village (Samba and the Sounds of Brazil) and Crossroads (New Orleans Blues and R&B), for a month long Mardi Gras celebration. On the Night Train, we journey to the Crescent City for music from one of its greatest stars - Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong was elected King of the Zulus in 1949, which put him at the head of one of New Orleans' most famous krewes for that year's Mardi Gras celebration. And though Armstrong had a complicated, even ambivalent relationship with his home town, he always claimed that as a major honor in a life filled with them. In turn, New Orleans claimed Armstrong as perhaps its greatest musical son.

Armstrong was born in the Crescent City on August 4, 1901. Ironically, it was being sent to a home (for firing a pistol into the air to celebrate New Year) that helped set him on the path to music. After an early career in New Orleans, Armstrong moved first to Chicago and then New York, putting together his influential early groups, developing the art of the jazz solo, and emerging as one of the giants of both jazz trumpet and also of jazz singing, approaching vocals with the same inventiveness he did his trumpet work. His career spanned some five decades and for much of that time he was among the country's and the world's most popular entertainers.

Though critical appraisal of Armstrong waxed and waned over the years, the strength of his output over much of his career is now recognized and his enormous influence as a trumpeter, singer, jazz pioneer and innovator, and public figure is unparalleled.

Throughout February, Night Train features classic tracks, rarities and more from Louis Armstrong, spanning everything from his early work with King Oliver and the Hot Fives and Sevens to his posthumous hit with "What A Wonderful World."

Two minutes and fifty seconds of unadulterated joy - Louis Armstrong from 1933 from a concert performance of "Dinah"

Louis Armstrong with a live performance of a New Orleans favorite, "When The Saints Go Marching In."
(The female singer, by the way, is Jewel Brown - just nominated for a Blues Music Award this year. Check Crossroads for more about her new album with Milton Hopkins, Lightnin' Hopkins' cousin.)

Website of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club