To Louis Armstrong: Happy Belated Birthday!

I was out of the office yesterday, so I’m accordingly a day late in posting this, but I wanted to take the occasion to celebrate, with you, the birthday of the very, very, very great Louis Armstrong, who was born on August 4th, 1901!


The man and his music, his character, his influence, his life; these are all reasons enough to celebrate, but courtesy of our viticultural bias on this blog, I of course want to make sure we’ve a tie-in, and in this case, mine comes in somewhat funny, timely, and rather coincidental form.

I was reading a quite fine essay in the New York Times last night (from this past Sunday’s edition) over an asparagus, red pepper, mushroom, and fresh mozzarella pizza (with a glass of 2007 Carmichael, followed by the 2007 Lytton Springs), and the link popped into my head; the essay in question was sort of an extended investigation of the idea that all the various aphorisms related to the art of writing (“write what you know”, for example, which gives the essay its title) can oft be equally applied to the act of drinking — just substitute “drink” for “write”, and off you go — and it occurred to me that if one applied this same idea to some of Mr. Armstrong’s quotes, you could really come up with some doozies as regards wine. For example:

“What we play is life” becomes “What we drink is life”

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know” becomes “If you have to ask what good wine is, you’ll never know”

 “There is two kinds of music, the good and bad. I play the good kind” becomes “There are two kinds of wine, the good and bad. I drink the good kind.”

and “You blows who you is” becomes “You drink who you are.”


(You can read the full essay, by Geoff Nicholson, here.)


Now, if that’s not enough for you, I’ll offer up one more wine-and-Louis Armstrong connection; which comes courtesy of a story told in Louis Armstrong: An American Genius By James Lincoln Collier:

Sometimes in this house, they’d have contests, like they’d put a jug of wine in the center of the floor and cut figures around it. “Cutting figures,” that’s what it was called. They’d dance around this jug of wine, a whole lot of steps, dance as close to it as they could and still not touch it or knock it over. The man who touched it, he’d have to go out and buy another gallon, buy more wine for everybody, the musicianers too — and then there’d be more dancing.

Now that’s wine the way I love it!

I’ve written laments on this blog before about how narrow the world of wine drinking has in some ways become

(see most recently Heimoff, The Bums, The Snobs, and #WBC10  from which comes the following: “I learned to drink wine from The Beats. Wine went with wild poetry readings, and mountain meditation sessions. Wine went with trains, and camping. Wine sometimes went with nothing other than, well, wine. Just wine. And mainly, wine went with people. It was living with people, in a memorable way. Being where you were, and demanding nothing less that an exhilarating devotion to the moment …”)

and I think this story is just an exquisitely perfect expression of that “other” world of wine …

Anyhow, that’s all, Happy Birthday Mr. Louis Armstrong, and thank you for everything. I’m going to enjoy my 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cab, and listen to you blow and sing St. James Infirmary, just the way it ought to be … and I might just dance a bit.

Categories: Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine and Jazz

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Tonight I ‘blows’ Jameson…

  2. I remember to this day when I heard the news that Satchmo passed. I couldn’t believe it, I was devastated. He was an American icon who crossed cultural barriers for all of us back then and before. I love his music still, and how could anyone not? He was truly a genius.

    • I felt just the same George, it was just impossible to imagine a world without Armstrong in it; it’s still hard to believe. What he’s done for music, for life, is incalculable …

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