Armstrong Now

Contemporary artists creating new works inspired by Armstrong’s home and archives

 

The Louis Armstrong House Museum curates one of the most significant Black archival collections in the world, and one of the most substantial of any jazz musician. With Armstrong Now, we contextualize Armstrong’s contributions firmly within historic and 21st Century constellations of Black making, thinking, and vitality.

In his lifetime, Louis Armstrong was a cultural ambassador to the world. With Armstrong Now, we are re-introducing audiences everywhere to Louis’ legacy of artistry and innovation through an interdisciplinary, multi-sector engagement of Armstrong’s contributions – a global neighborhood in support of music, education, dialogue and community.

Beginning in October 2020, the Museum will preview a new scene from Armstrong Now each week, culminating in December with the premiere of the complete performances.

The Armstrong Now Trailer

First scene

“Blessing of the Trees” is a scene from “Welcome Home, Louis” featuring Armstrong Now! artists Christian Sands and Martha Nichols. Armstrong Now! investigates the complexities of Louis Armstrong and what he represented throughout his life and how his legacy is viewed through a contemporary lens. Enjoy this performance in the garden of Louis and Lucille Armstrong.

Fish Heads

“Fish Heads” is an original poem written and performed by Daniel J Watts in the iconic Armstrong kitchen, based on an interview clip from the Armstrong Archives. The full Armstrong Now! episode “Between His House and His Home” will air this December in partnership with Joe’s Pub.
“Fish Heads is about the hope, resilience and ingenuity it takes to turn everyday survival into a more livable existence. It also returns the spotlight to the Black women who fueled the jazz movement — the mothers, grandmothers, muses, and female jazz pioneers. Black women have always had something cooking up in their kitchens.” – Daniel J Watts

Artists and Collaborators

Derrick Baskin – Best known as the original Mitch Mahoney in Broadway’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Derrick is an acclaimed actor who received a Tony Award nomination in 2019 for his role as Otis Williams in “Ain’t Too Proud.” He also played the role of Jetsam in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid and originated the role of Gator in Memphis. Derrick also appeared in the film version of the musical, Memphis: Direct from Broadway.

Melanie Charles Known for thrilling trilingual performances in English, French and Créole, Melanie’s precocious contributions to Haitian diasporic music were acknowledged by Ralph Boncy in his book Grandes Dames de la Musique Haïtienne (Fondation Haïti Jazz, 2013). She has worked with Jean Grae, the Gorillaz, Mark De-Clive Lo, and Marc Cary. 

Braxton CookFader Magazine called Braxton a “Jazz Marvel” and “Jazz Prodigy.” More recently, Braxton was listed as a Top Five Jazz Artist To Watch by Ebony. His 2018 album, No Doubt, debuted at #2 on iTunes Jazz Charts and has amassed more than five million streams.

Naomi Extra Naomi’s work as a writer, poet, and doctoral candidate explores themes of agency and pleasure in the lives of black women and girls. Her essays have appeared in Zora, Glamour, Ms. Magazine Blog, Lit Hub, Broadly, Shondaland, and on other platforms. Her poems have been published in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic, Bone Bouquet, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2019 BOAAT Chapbook Prize.

Kayla Farrish Kayla Farrish/Decent Structure Arts is an emerging company combining filmmaking, photography, and dance.  The company has been commissioned by Gibney Dance Inc., Danspace Project Inc., Pepatian and BAAD!  With urgency, power, and transparency, the work delves into socio-political structures placed on black and brown bodies in America, expectations on gender, and the visibility of the under-represented.

Jake Goldbas, Curator – As the Museum’s Artistic Director of Programs, Jake designs education and public engagement programs for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.   As a performer, he recorded drums for the legendary O’Jays album “The Last Word” and the Grammy-nominated “Dancer in Nowhere” by Miho Hazama. Jake is the principal drummer for Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway.

Michael MayoNow living in New York City, Michael is a veteran international performer whose highlights include singing at the White House, the Kennedy Center, Renée Fleming’s American Voices Festival, and the Panama Jazz Festival. Michael has collaborated or shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Kneebody, Gretchen Parlato, Christian Sands, Josh Groban, Ben Wendel, Becca Stevens, and Theo Bleckmann among many others.

Alita MosesAfter becoming the youngest ever winner of the 2014 Shure Montreux Jazz Vocal Competition, Alita began to hit the festival circuit. She has performed at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the BUAP Festival, Jazz De Verano, among others. 

Martha Nichols – Martha is an artist who believes dance is an experience. Physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual; it should be felt on all planes. She has performed on The American Music Awards, The Oscars, and The Billboard Awards. Other credits include Cirque Du Soleil, GAP, Disney, X-Box, NBA,  X-Factor, Dancing With the Stars and more. She has toured internationally and was featured in Emmy Award-Winner Travis Wall’s “Hollow Suit,” and featured in “The Greatest Showman” as the “Woman in Gold.”  

Christian Sands — A Steinway Artist and five-time Grammy Nominee, Christian has toured and recorded with Christian McBride’s Inside Straight and Trio, as well as collaborating with the likes of Gregory Porter and Ulysses Owens. His new album, Be Water, takes inspiration from water’s tranquility and power and muses on the possibilities offered by echoing its fluidity and malleability.

Negah SantosCurrently, Nêgah is part of Jon Batiste’s band Stay Human at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Vuyo Sotashe – An acclaimed South African Jazz vocalist, Vuyo recently toured with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Ben Stamper, Filmmaker –  Ben’s award-winning work spans narrative, documentary and contemplative genres with a particular interest in the patterns of nature and human movement. His intuitive approach to imagery and sound has led him to a broad range of human interests around the world. Ben has been commissioned to create numerous short films, video installations and projections including The Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process and the The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts.

Daniel J Watts Daniel recently starred as Ike in the hit Broadway musical TINA (Outer Critics Circle Award. He has appeared in nine Broadway shows including Hamilton, Memphis, and After Midnight. His original work and musical collaborations are featured on Raphael Saadiq’s newest album “Jimmy Lee”, Tituss Burgess’ Saint Tituss, Nick Blaemire’s Ampersand and in the young adult anthology How I Resist, edited by New York Times Best-Seller Maureen Johnson.

Brett Williams Since 2013, Brett has worked with the multi-Grammy-award-winning bassist Marcus Miller and is featured as a performer and writer on the latest Grammy-nominated recording, Laid Black. Brett has also performed with some of the world’s most talented and respected artists, including Stevie Wonder, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mumford and Sons, Billy Joel, Chris Thile, Snarky Puppy, Robert Glasper, and Charles Haynes. He has also performed regularly with Jon Batiste on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.