The Bronx gave birth to hip-hop. Manhattan was the headquarters of the New York punk scene. And in the last decade, countless bands have come out of Brooklyn. With all of that history, it’s easy to forget that one of the most famous jazz musicians ever spent a lot of his life in Queens.
Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College is reminding people by staging Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World, a daylong festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park that celebrates the life and legacy of the jazz great. It’s headlined by Ms. Lauryn Hill and Afrobeat band Antibalas.
amNewYork spoke with Kupferberg Center Executive Director Jeffrey Rosenstock.
Where did the idea for this festival come from?
We [Queens College] manage the Louis Armstrong Archive and Museum. When he and his wife passed, they deeded the museum to the City of New York. ? I take a lot of people to the Louis Armstrong House Museum. I took a couple of bankers. They said, “Have you ever thought of doing a Louis Armstrong Festival?” I said, “No, but it’s a good idea.” I took it to the college. We started tossing back and forth the idea of a jazz series. Then we thought the scale we were looking at had to go further than just jazz.
What do you think is Louis Armstrong’s legacy and why is he relevant today?
What amazes me is how relevant he is. You’ll see people from all over the world coming to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which is a tiny house in Corona. It’s off the beaten path. He was the father of so much music going on today.
What do you hope people take away from the festival?
In doing all kinds of music, I hope we bring out all kinds of people. We’ll have something for everybody, not just one niche market. … The park embodies what Queens is. I hope we get people coming out to the park, listening to music that may or may not be their music and having a good time.
When people talk about the music scene in NYC, they tend to focus on Manhattan and Brooklyn. What should they know about Queens?
I think Queens is the frontier land. … The new stuff is coming out of Queens. In my former capacity as Director of Queens Theatre in the Park, we were approached by the artistic director of PS 122 looking to us to identify and share the newest voices of emerging and immigrant playwrights living in Queens. I think we’ll have that [in music] too.