Happy Louis Armstrong’s birthday! Louis always claimed he was born July 4, 1900 and though he later found out it was Aug. 4, 1901, the first date is still truer than true. Louis was the symbol of real freedom— freedom of the imagination, freedom of discipline, freedom of affirmation in the face of great sorrow and injustice. He set in motion a music that relied on the full intelligence of the body, the openness of the heart and the complexity of sophisticated thought—jazz! Wynton Marsalis once said, “Jazz is what America could be if it ever became itself.”
How far we are from that now! Instead of a swingin’ jazz groove, we’re locked into some mindless disco loop with the pounding bass drum of 45’s ranting tweets shutting down any semblance of thought, of sincere feeling, of a citizen’s concern and compassion, eroding the very foundation of the democracy we’ve tried to be. Let each burst of the fireworks tonight be a reminder to work ceaselessly to bring back the freedom we’ve never wholly had, but still could bring to birth—with a jazz soundtrack!