Louis Armstrong: Behind The Music



Sir Michael Parkinson profiles one of his heroes - Louis Armstrong - a man famed for his charismatic stage presence and instantly recognisable voice, almost as much as for his trumpet playing. Satchmo's influence extends well beyond jazz music and, by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a major influence on popular music in general.

Away from the trumpet, Louis married four times, raised a severely disabled adopted son, and became obsessed with the health benefits that could be derived from taking laxatives. We also hear how this descendant of slaves went on to cancel a planned tour of the USSR on behalf of the State Department, saying that he couldn't represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people at home.

"What we play is life," he once said, and so the programme covers the whole gamut of Armstrong's music as we try and understand that life, with classics including: What a Wonderful World, Hello Dolly, When the Saints Go Marching In, and We Have All the Time in the World.

The programme features a whole host of new interviews, including broadcaster and musician Digby Fairweather; jazz singer Cleo Laine; Armstrong's road manager (later manager) Oscar Cohen; his former producer at Columbia, George Avakian; band leader Chris Barber; Dan Morgenstern from the US Institute of Jazz Studies; and jazz musician David Ostwald.

The programme also hears from those who heard him play live, takes a tour of The Louis Armstrong House Museum, and hears from today's jazz musicians as they prepare for the regular Armstrong session at the Birdland Jazz club in New York.

Sir Michael Parkinson profiles one of his heroes.