By Steven Goodstein
Late music titan Louis Armstrong has been gone for nearly half a century, but his legacy is remembered every summer in Queens.
On Saturday, July 21, Queens rapper Action Bronson, along with the New Orleans-based group The Soul Rebels and Afro-beat group Fu Arkist Ra, will headline the 5th Annual Louis Armstrong Wonderful World Festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, hosted and produced by Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College.
The event is being held to honor the legacy of late jazz musician Armstrong, who was a Queens resident for nearly 30 years. The festival will take place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. near the Louis Armstrong House — located at 34-56 107th St. in Corona, where the jazz legend lived with his wife, Lucille Wilson, from 1943 until his death in 1971.
The house, now a museum commemorating Armstrong’s life and music career, is a National Historic Landmark as well as a New York City landmark. It is also a part of the Kupferberg Center for the Arts.
According to the Kupferberg Center, Armstrong used to host parties in his backyard. Given the close proximity of his home to Flushing Meadows Corona Park — the site of two world fairs and the US Open — it seemed natural to throw the biggest party possible to celebrate Louis’ life and legacy.
“We see this event as a way of showing the world how many great happening have taken place and will continue to take place in Queens,” said Kupferberg Center assistant vice president Jeff Rosenstock. “This event is also held to live up to Louis’ belief that ‘you gotta listen to all kinds of music’ – so when we have Action Bronson, a great rapper from Queens, next to the Soul Rebels, a jazz act out of New Orleans, we hope that people can hear the thread running though it and hear some of the influence that Louis had on music.”
“In holding this festival, we hope to build an audience who will come from all walks of life, from around the world, to come together to celebrate and rejoice in good music, and realize what an impact Louis Armstrong had on so many,” Rosenstock added.
Headliner Action Bronson — born Ariyan Arslani — originally embarked on a career as a gourmet chef in New York City before pursuing a career as a rapper. Since 2011, he has released four studio albums, four mixtapes and has collaborated with other rap artists such as Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, French Montana, Rick Ross, Fat Joe and N.O.R.E. He is also currently the star of reality television food shows “F–k, That’s Delicious” and the “Untitled Action Bronson Show.”
An eight-piece ensemble formed in New Orleans, the Soul Rebels combine elements of jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, rock and pop music within the framework of a contemporary bass band. The have previously performed live with music icons, including Nas, DMX, Green Day, Metallica and Marilyn Manson. Last summer, they performed in honor of late Queens rapper Prodigy from the legendary hip hop group Mobb Deep. In February, they performed on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert for the first time. This will be the first time the Soul Rebels have headlined this event.
The group consists of eight members: Derrick Moss (bass drum), Lumar Leblanc (snare drum), Julian Gosin (trumpet), Corey Peyton (trombone), Erion Williams (saxophone), Paul Robertson (trombone), Manuel Perkins, Jr. (sousaphone) and Marcus Hubbard (trumpet).
“We’re so very excited to be performing for The Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Fest,” said Leblanc. Queens embodies rich, beautiful, cultural diversity that transcends – similar to the unique culture at home in New Orleans. Queens is our second home – so this performance will be more like a long awaited homecoming, we’re so exited.”
“Louis Armstrong has such a powerful influence on us all, not just the Soul Rebels but the world. His musical style and flair was a gift to the world and his self confidence on stage, his fashion sense, his musical knowledge and most of all his personality were legendary,” Leblanc added.
The event is sponsored by The Bowery Presents and the city Department of Cultural Affairs. Partners of the festival include NYC Parks, CUNY, Queens College and the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
The festival is free of charge for admission, but VIP Guest passes are also available for online purchase for $25. VIP tickets guarantee access to a private viewing area along with premium bathrooms.
For more information on the festival, visit www.armstrongwonderfulworld.com.
Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgood