How War Spread Jazz Music: Louis Armstrong Tribute at the WWII Museum

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —The story of modern music and jazz is sizable one. The National World War II Museum has a new live music tribute that honors the influence of New Orleans’ jazz and the legacy of Louis Armstrong titled: Swing that Music, a Tribute to Louis Armstrong.

Jazz is the offspring of many. It is also a product of enslaved Africans and the free creoles of color interacting musically in New Orleans, Louisiana before the civil war.

By 1941, the United States entered into World War II. As American soldiers entered Europe and Asia, so did American music.

Wendell Brunious is a renown band leader and trumpeter and leads the band in melody for the WWII museum tribute to Louis Armstrong. Brunious believes it was the dotted eighth note, followed by a sixteenth note that swung jazz all around the world saying, “that’s the main thing, the swing! Boo be doo uh, Boo be doo uh uh. That thing just speaks to your soul, regardless of nationality!”

Tom Hook is an accomplished bandleader and pianist and quite the historian, saying, “jazz is the ultimate expression of the American spirit. It was transferred because of the first two world wars. During the first world war, the department of the Navy shut down Storyville in New Orleans because so many of the soldiers going to France were coming through New Orleans with something they didn’t have. That was where jazz was being located and played at, in Storyville. This music then had to move to another location and a lot of those guys went upriver to Chicago. Those musicians and soldiers took that music when they went to Europe in 1917 and beyond and the jazz era began. The original Dixieland jazz band went to Europe when jazz was popular in 1917 and performed for the Queen of England. The musicians started to carry this new sound around the world, as a result of World War I. During World War II, the United States Army recorded V disks the were sent to the troops as moral boosters.”

By the 1940’s jazz had grown large, with big bands providing the party music of the country and few could front a band with as much character as Louis Armstrong.

Wendell Brunious knows all about different styles of jazz and the traditional jazz styling of New Orleans. Brunious has the honor of musically portraying Louis Armstrong during the show. “When you try to do Louis’ stuff, the first thing you learn is that you can’t do it. It’s such an honor to pay tribute to him because he’s number one,” says Brunious.

The world wars played a crucial part in disseminating jazz. Jazz was born in New Orleans. The National World War II museum resides in New Orleans.

Swing That Music: A Tribute to Louis Armstrong, takes place at the museum’s BB’s Stage Door Canteen.

Tom Hook says the musicians of the show have a responsibility to have a good time, to tell the story of Louis Armstrong and to introduce youth to jazz music.

“We talk a lot during the course of the show about Louis Armstrong’s impact. We try to spread the message of who he was and important he was, not to just New Orleans, but to American culture in general,” says Hook.

One of the songs the tribute band will play is titled, Azalea. It’s a sentimental piece of music between the pianist and the trumpet.

“Duke Ellington had written this song and then gave the music to Louis Armstrong. Armstrong did an interpretation of it. Its believed that when the recording was over, Duke Ellington put his head down on the piano and cried. Louis Armstrong had given so much to this song that Duke had written. That is about as great a tribute as you can get,” says Brunious.

The first Louis Armstrong tribute jazz show takes place at the National WWII Museum on October 22nd. To purchase tickets, click here.

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