Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival

Photos Abel Gonell Photos Abel Gonell On July 21 the fifth annual Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival was held quite fittingly held in Queens, as Louis lived in a home in Corona and was very fond of the area. Originally the festival was scheduled to be held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park but due to some severe weather warnings, the event was moved to Colden Auditorium in the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College. Originally I felt that the events location change would ruin some of the attendance as an auditorium would not capture as much attention as a populated historical park. These concerns quickly dispersed as the first performers of the night came to the stage.

The festival began with Abraham “Duke” Amayo’s Fu-Arkist-Ra, a blend of traditional Chinese Lion rhythms and Nigerian Afrobeat mixed with some jazz and soul influences. They started their performance by revealing a beautiful traditional Chinese dragon costume. After performing a few elegant motions around the stage the two performers in costume revealed themselves, one being Amayo. They went on to perform an assortment of powerful and soothing songs that Amayo and his band had created. Two key things to watch during the performance was the band’s unique individual involvement. Whether it was the trumpeter wailing a beautiful roar or the flutist creating a warm and consoling sound it was truly a unique musical experience. Another key part of the performance was the dancing involved during the performance. The interpretive dance added an element of mystery and energy that caught all of the audience’s eyes and kept them there until the end. Overall their performance was great and anyone who was somewhat interested in their sound most likely left trying to find them on iTunes.

The next performers of the night were the Soul Rebels. Now I had known a bit about the Soul Rebels, they are a brass ensemble from New Orleans who have had several television appearances from the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” or their “Tiny Desk Concert” with GZA of Wu-Tang Fame. It’s easy to say that this group of experienced musicians has made the rounds and for good reason. They began by asking the audience to stand while they played a mix of jazz, soul, and hip-hop. Those who did not stand up at the beginning were surely on their feet by the end of their performance. They played some recognizable covers of popular songs like “Doo-Wop” by Lauryn Hill and “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar. Their involvement with the crowd and energetic spirit had even the most grouchy in the crowd crack a smile or dance along to their catchy and entertaining tune. By the time they were done, there was likely many who wanted them to stay for a while longer. However, there was still one more performer for the night.

The fun-loving Queens native Action Bronson finally graced the stage. Having just came off his 2017 album release Blue Chips 7000, Bronson is currently on the third season of his Viceland show “F*ck That’s Delicious,” making his return to his own borough that he loves so. Moments before Bronson got on stage a large number of young adults rushed into the auditorium as they knew they would finally get to see one of their favorite rappers. So the time is here and Action hits the stage to a roaring crowd that recites lyrics to his popular songs. After the third song ends Bronson walks down the stairs of the stage and begins to walk to the highest seats of the auditorium. Immediate a group forms around him at the top and he begins rapping parts of his song “Baby Blue.” He stays up there for roughly 20 minutes. In that time he is rapping and signing autographs. After finally getting back to the stage he continues his set and gives a child in the audience a box of CDs of his album for him to give away to other audience members. He ends his performance by throwing the microphone in the air and walking away. The crowd, however, wanted more Action and began chanting “Bronson” over and over again until Action returned for one more song. He finishes his set with an energetic rendition of his song “Easy Rider,” raises his fist to a roaring audience and walks away to much praise, ending the Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival. The festival in my eyes was a perfect display of what makes Queens the greatest place in New York City. A mix of white, black, old and young performers sharing their talents with a crowd that also relates to them. I saw young children enjoying the groovy trumpet solos of Soul Rebel while also seeing older members bobbing their heads and cheating to Action Bronson. It is in the best interest of those who could not make it this year to try and go next year. This festival truly captures what a Wonderful World we live in.

—Abel Gonell

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2018-07-01 digital edition