Ida destroys historic jazz legend Louis Armstrong seen as a second home


August 30, 2021; New Orleans, LA. The historic Karnofsky store on South Rampart Street in New Orleans was the second home of jazz musician Louis Armstrong. Photo credit: Michael DeMocker for USA TODAY NETWORK

New Orleans is known for its rich mix of cultures, food and music. However, a piece of famous jazz history is now a pile of bricks, wood and twisted metal.

When Hurricane Ida hit the city on Sunday, the storm cut off power, roared floodwaters through the streets, and destroyed homes and other structures, including an old brick building a few blocks from the French quarter.

The Karnofsky store was empty in recent years, but it played an important role in the history of the city and was once a hub for family, friends, food and music and was considered a home from home for a young Louis Armstrong, long before he became a jazz Legend.

In 1913, the building housed the Karnofsky Tailor store, which was run by a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The family lived in the apartment upstairs. As a young boy, Armstrong, who lived nearby, was friends with the Karnofsky’s five sons and got a job aboard the family’s coal wagon, blowing on a “little tin horn” to let the children know. people they were coming from.

Portrait of the great jazzman Louis Armstrong taken at the New York Aquarium, NY, circa July 1946. (Library of Congress / William P. Gottlieb)

It was his first instrument and he planted the seeds of his iconic career, musicologist John Baron said in an interview in 1999.

“In Louis Armstrong’s biography … he remembers the Karnofsky family with great pleasure and says … that he always has matzo in his kitchen because he liked to eat Jewish food at the Karnofsky’s.” , said Baron. “The Karnofskys were a tremendous and warm influence in his life. When he was a little older, the family loaned him money to buy his first cornet, a trumpet-shaped horn, on condition that he worked. for them for another year, which he did. “

The Karnofsky store suffers severe damage after Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans with high winds in Louisiana, United States on August 30, 2021. (REUTERS / Devika Krishna Kumar)

Although he was baptized a Roman Catholic, Armstrong was often pictured wearing the Star of David, which he wore for most of his adult life. As the accidental Talmudist wrote, he did so to honor the family who showed him such kindness.

“I was only 7 years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment white people inflicted on the poor Jewish family I worked for … They were always warm and kind to me, which was very visible to me – just a kid who needed a little word of kindness, ”Armstrong recalls in 1969, according to the Accidental Talmudist.

The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Along with other iconic music houses like the Little Gem Saloon, the Iroquois Theater and the Eagle Saloon, it has been described as one of the “most important monuments of the early years of jazz” by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. . John Hasse, Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution, said: “There is probably no other bloc in America with buildings of such significance to the history of our country’s great art form. , Jazz.

Louis Armstrong, the American jazz conductor, received a triumphant welcome in Düsseldorf, Germany on October 13, 1952, when he arrived by plane from Brussels for a concert tour of Germany. Here he sounds a child’s trumpet on Düsseldorf’s main street, the famous Koenigsallee, while his fans listen. His wife Lucille, on the right, accompanied him on his trip to Europe. (AP Photo / Albert Gillhausen)

Several years ago there were signs that the building could be restored. In 2019, a real estate company specializing in historic preservation bought part of the Rampart Street block, including the Karnofsky store, and announced plans to restore and reuse the building as a tribute to its jazz history.

Unfortunately, as these before and after Hurricane Ida photos of the Karnofsky building posted on Twitter show, the storm decimated the old building.

While the Karnofsky building may have disappeared, the provocative spirit of New Orleans endures and was aptly embodied on August 29 by a lone trumpeter who played in the deserted French Quarter of the city as Hurricane Ida moved towards the Big Easy.

Video shot by journalist Phil Lavelle and posted on twitter shows the man standing in the middle of the generally crowded neighborhood, his provocative trumpet notes mingling with the sounds of the intensifying precipitation. Lavelle wrote in the caption: “The music never stops in New Orleans. Not even for a ‘life changing’ hurricane.”

With famous sayings about the beauty of the world like “I see blue skies and white clouds” and “just run your feet to the sunny side of the street,” Louis Armstrong from New Orleans would be probably agree.

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