Several years ago I stumbled upon a blog about Louis Armstrong’s career (dippermouthblogspot.com) written by Ricky Riccardi. Now Riccardi has written What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years. He is currently the project archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the author of this engaging book about Armstrong’s later career. I was able to see Riccardi in person this summer when the Satchmo Summerfest just happened to be taking place while I was in New Orleans on vacation. He was providing a/v assistance for an interview session with George Avakian. Avakian produced some great Armstrong albums on the Columbia label in the 1950’s. Clearly, Riccardi is an Armstrong scholar as well as a devoted fan.
The book itself is a delight to read. Riccardi shows that, contrary to previously accepted views, Armstrong continued to develop as an artist right up to the end of his life. The book is meticulously researched and includes many pithy quotations from Armstrong himself. The man’s talent, dedication to his art, warmth and humanity shine through. Riccardi, a jazz pianist himself, takes care to analyze and discuss virtually all of the major musical accomplishments of the last half of Armstrong’s career. You get a vivid picture of the driven and grueling lifestyle that Armstrong maintained during all but the very last period of his life, spending most of his time with the All Stars on the road, often for one-night stands, all over the world.