I spent Tuesday and Wednesday digging in the Garden of Satchmo, and came home bearing riches galore.
On Tuesday I drove to the Institute of Jazz Studies in Newark, New Jersey, a city in which there appears to be no parking at all. In order to stow my Zipcar, I had to drive all the way up to the roof of a dinky little garage reachable only by ascending a corkscrew ramp located inside a silo. Once I finally got where I was going, though, Dan Morgenstern, a distinguished critic who knew Louis Armstrong when young and now runs the most important jazz library in the world in between writing thoughtful essays about the music he loves, filled my lap with goodies. Among them were the unedited typescript of Armstrong’s autobiography and a thick stack of his letters–real letters, mind you, not photocopies.
Of course I’d seen original Armstrong manuscripts before, but I’d never handled one, much less a king-sized batch of Satch. I got so excited that I worked for six hours straight without bothering to eat lunch or check my messages. That was a medium-sized mistake, as I discovered when I returned home and learned that three editors from The Wall Street Journal had been trying to call me all day. By early evening they were on the verge of jumping to the not-unreasonable conclusion (given my recent medical history) that I’d dropped dead. One of them actually went so far as to call Our Girl in Chicago to find out what hospital I was in, which didn’t do anything for her peace of mind.
On Wednesday I went back to the Louis Armstrong Archives to finish going through Armstrong’s Thirties scrapbooks, after which I listened to a half-dozen of the private tape recordings he made after hours. As the Armstrong Archives Web site explains, “Louis Armstrong’s personal tape collection comprises 650 reels of audiotape. When he was hanging out with fans backstage or with friends in a hotel room or with Lucille at home, he loved to set his tape deck to