"The Real Ambassadors" at The Louis Armstrong House Museum

This April, the Louis Armstrong House Museum is celebrating "The Real Ambassadors" with a special one-month-only exhibit featuring never-before-seen photographs and rare artifacts from the world's largest Archives devoted to a single jazz musician, the great Louis Armstrong. The exhibit will feature artifacts including Jack Bradley photographs from the original 1961 sessions, scanned from the original negatives; Louis's sheet music parts; along with a telegram from Dave and Iola Brubeck; Iola Brubeck's script; and more.

In 1961, Louis Armstrong recorded "The Real Ambassadors", one of the most challenging albums of his entire career. Written by Dave and Iola Brubeck, it featured some striking songs with pointed statements about politics and the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States at the time. In addition to Armstrong's own band, the All Stars, Louis was joined by Dave Brubeck's quartet, the exciting vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and legendary vocalist Carmen McRae.

On "They Say I Look Like God, " a pained Armstrong sung about race, "When will that great day come? When everyone is One / And there will be no more misery / When God tells man he's really free." Armstrong's performance left the other musicians in tears. On "The Real Ambassador, " a frisky Armstrong sang, "Though I represent the government / the government don't represent some policies I'm for." Armstrong, who just turned 60, turned in one of his most wistful vocals on Brubeck's enduring "Summer Song" while the famed Satchmo trumpet wailed furiously on numbers like "Remember Who You Are" and "Blow Satchmo."

The hope was to use the Columbia Records album as a test to get "The Real Ambassadors" produced as a Broadway play (that unfortunately did not come to pass). After one memorable live performance of the work at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962, "The Real Ambassadors" disappeared. "It was five years ahead of its time and the big shots that buy shows for Broadway were afraid of it, " Armstrong said in 1962. "I had to learn all that music, and I'd never done nothing of this kind before. Brubeck is great!"

Though the album was not a large seller at the time of its release, its reputation has steadily grown over the years. Today, "The Real Ambassadors" is looked at as a high point in both the career of Armstrong and Brubeck.

The exhibit: The Real Ambassadors runs April 1st April 30th and is free with museum admission.

Louis Armstrong House Museum
Thanks to the vision and funding of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the Louis Armstrong House Museum welcomes visitors from all over the world, six days per week, 52 weeks per year. The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a member of the American Alliance of Museums, Association of African American Museums, Museums Council of New York City, New York State Museums Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, NYC & Co., and the Queens Tourism Council. The museum is a constituent of Kupferberg Center for the Arts - Queens College/CUNY.

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