Ricky Riccardi’s book What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years focuses on the largely unexamined later years of Armstrong’s career. Riccardi, 30, is an archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and fell in love with Armstrong’s work 15 years ago. “My argument is that there is no such thing as the two Louis Armstrong Theory,” he says. “A lot of people are very up on that because a lot of work has been written on just the instrumental masterpieces from the 1920s.”
Riccardi thinks What a Wonderful World will provide readers with a new understanding of Armstrong as a well-rounded artist from the beginning of his career to the very end.
“Here in America, jazz critics shrugged him off and the younger fans, black fans, thought he was an old Uncle Tom. But around the world, this is a man who was worshipped in Communist countries, who stopped the civil war in the middle of the Congo, who everywhere he went had hundreds of thousands of people waiting for him. He was so loved around the globe, and there was a reason for that. Around the world, he was accepted for who he was.
“If you just listen to ‘West End Blues’ and follow it up with ‘Hello, Dolly!’ you say, ‘Wow, that sounds like two different people.’ But when you fill in the gaps around ‘West End Blues’ and ‘Hello, Dolly!’ you’ll realize that Louis Armstrong was always the same guy. He was always playing, singing and entertaining, and he never changed.”
Riccardi will speak at the Satchmo SummerFest seminars Friday, August 6 at 2 p.m. on “Satchmo’s Later Years,” and at 3 p.m. on “Cinematic Satch, Pt. 1”. “Cinematic Satch” continues Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. Seminars take place at Maison.