Joining the ever-rising ranks of exciting free outdoor concerts this summer is Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival, which is set to take place at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on June 20. This year marks the festival’s second outing and features Ms. Lauryn Hill, Shannon Powell’s Traditional All-Star Band, Antibalas, Ozomatli, and Rebirth Brass Band, proving that the sophomore slump is nowhere to be seen for this celebration of Queens’ adopted son.
Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival is orchestrated by the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College, which is the same organization that oversees Armstrong’s historic residential museum, located just over a mile from the festival grounds. Last summer’s debut festival showcased trumpet maestro Jon Faddis among other contemporary jazz exponents and occurred one day shy of Louis Armstrong Day’s 50th celebration, an event established by the 1964 New York World’s Fair on June 30, 1964, to commemorate Armstrong’s massive new hit “Hello, Dolly!” which had ousted the Beatles from the top of the charts.
Ms. Lauryn Hill proves to be an intriguing festival headliner for the way she strays from the fellow acts that complement big-band ensembles. Jeffrey Rosenstock, the executive director of the Kupferberg Center, attributes Hill’s inclusion as a testament to Armstrong’s credo of exploring all kinds of music. The insanely talented Hill has recently been exploring minimal approaches to music during her intimate, acoustic Small Axe tour, and the power she’d bring to an Armstrong classic would go over beautifully with favorites beyond her own Miseducation.
Representing Armstrong’s distinctive hometown sounds are New Orleans’s Rebirth Brass Band and the Shannon Powell Traditional All-Star Band. Both groups offer their own brass capabilities that do NOLA proud. Ozomatli are an L.A.-based, Grammy Award–winning ensemble, and hailing from Brooklyn are Antibalas, a twelve-piece that evokes the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti.
Armstrong was once considered “America’s Ambassador of Goodwill” for his worldwide touring, but the international symbol of joy chose to rest his trumpet’s case in Corona, Queens, moving there in 1943 and remaining until his death in 1971. Certain festival attendees will inevitably walk past the Louis Armstrong Stadium situated in the park while en route to the show, further confirming that Queens’ legend traveled the world but always returned home.
Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival takes place on June 20 in Corona, Queens, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The event is free, although tickets are limited; ticket info can be accessed here.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2015