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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong’s connection to Queens on full display at house museum in Corona

NEW YORK — He’s considered among the greatest musicians of all time, and although he was born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong called Queens home for the last 30 years of his life.

Now, his love for his community is on display at a new exhibition in Corona.

In a house tucked away on a quiet street lived an icon known for his sound.

It was in Corona where Armstrong spent nearly three decades until his death, and it’s also the backdrop for a new monument to his life.

“This is the Louis Armstrong Center,” said Regina Bain, the center’s executive director.

Louis instead of Louie.

“He definitely answered to Louie, but he called himself Louis,” Bain said.

READ MORE:“Sweet Spot” with Mike Sugerman: Louis Armstrong’s life in Queens

The Louis Armstrong House Museum tells stories through artifacts, from his trumpet to his passports.

“This is about roots, family, blood and otherwise,” Bain said.

Armstrong shared his home, which is now a landmark open for tours, with his wife, a fellow artist.

“That is Lucille Armstrong. She was a Cotton Club dancer,” Bain said.

The jazz legend’s influence is limitless.

“He was in 35 films,” Bain said.

“But also he is one of the most down-to-earth people. I wish I got to meet him,” added acclaimed jazz musician Jason Moran, who dove deep into Armstrong’s legacy.

When we picture Armstrong, he exemplifies charisma and energy, and the way that he played and looked up to the sky.

When asked what he makes of Armstrong’s style, Moran said, “I always say that Louis Armstrong plays with aspiration in mind, and the reason he tilts his trumpet up above the audience and that his eyes follow the sound of the instrument is because he’s thinking about elevating us all.”

READ MORE:Louis Armstrong House Museum acquires rare footage of musician

The museum shows us that Armstrong wasn’t only an international superstar; he was also a neighbor who cherished his corner of Corona.

“‘Just think through the 29 years that we’ve been living in this house,'” Bain read from a letter written by Armstrong.

Armstrong remembered the little kids on the block in that letter he wrote at the end of his life.

“‘Lots of them have grown up, married, had children, their children, and they still come and visit Aunt Lucille and Uncle Louis,'” Bain read.

“Queens is the borough of the people, and in Corona, what he developed over all those years was all these relationships,” Moran added.

The center aims to keep those community ties strong.

“Whether it’s teaching kids how to play trumpet, simply, or it’s inviting students over and over to learn his story, to know he was connected here,” Moran said.

Elle is CBS New York’s community reporter covering Queens. If you have a story idea for her, you can email queenstip@cbs.com.

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