Photos by Arnold Goodman
New Orleans artists Cyril Neville and Dr. John and philanthropists Jerome Chazen and Robert F. Smith each received the Louis Armstrong Award at the Louis Armstrong House Museum’s annual gala, which this year also marks the 100th anniversary of Armstrong’s first gig.
Armstrong, himself a native of New Orleans, lived in Queens, NY, for many years until his death in 1971, and his former home now houses an impressive museum dedicated to the man and the music which revolutionized American culture. The Awards gala took place in the Capitale, a vast beaux-arts former bank, resplendent with marble, gilt, a 65-foot ceiling and tuna tartare cocktail-hour hors d’oeuvres. No-nonsense men with official boutonnieres and discreet earpieces scoped out the premises before New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman arrived, but it was Dr. John’s entrance which sent ripples through the foyer. Resplendent in his Night Tripper feathers and charms, Dr. John was honored for his contribution to music, and specifically for his 2014 Armstrong tribute album, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch.
Cyril Neville and Robert F. Smith gave particularly touching acceptance speeches. Neville, who calls New Orleans home, told us how Armstrong’s childhood home in NOLA was demolished to make room for the Astrodome, and Smith described his lifelong love of music, which started early, with Louis Armstrong.
After dinner and an interesting auction, Cyril Neville and the Royal Southern Brotherhood took the stage, and the well-dressed crowd let loose on the dance floor. The Louis Armstrong House Museum put on a wonderful night in what’s certainly A Wonderful World. Thank you, Satchmo, for reminding us.
– Suzanne Cadgène