Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts is a leading exponent of early jazz piano. He's played everywhere from New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Tonight Show to the major jazz clubs in the French Quarter.


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Tom Roberts on Louis Armstrong: Part 1

  • Mt. Lebanon Public Library 16 Castle Shannon Boulevard Pittsburgh, PA, 15228 United States (map)

There is much, much, much more to Louis Armstrong than you could ever imagine. Whatever your generation, you might associate him with What a Wonderful World, or Hello Dolly or Cabaret. These were hits from the last decade of his life, but did you realize that Louis Daniel Armstrong single-handedly changed everything about music? And that means all music!

The way we sing, the way we phrase, in fact he, himself, created swing. During the 1920s he created the very essence of solo oriented jazz performance through the sheer power and brilliance of his being. And not just jazz! Classical musicians were deeply affected by his sound. We can’t hear any piece of music anymore without hearing traces of the genius of Louis Armstrong.

Come find out how this illegitimate child from the poorest and most dangerous neighborhood in the deep-south, rose above poverty and prejudice to become America’s Ambassador of Goodwill. Tom Roberts will lead us through a rediscovery of the greatest American musician of all time through this listening oriented experience.

Part One

This first installment will focus on his childhood in New Orleans, his experiences with the Karnofsky family, an immigrant Jewish family who provided him with his first cornet and instilled the love of music in him when he was six years old and working for them on their junk wagon and while delivering coal to the prostitutes in Storyville, his apprenticeship with joe “King” Oliver, his early career in the honky tonks and riverboats of New Orleans, and his meteoric rise to stardom beginning in 1922 when he moved to Chicago to play 2nd Cornet in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

We will listen to his first recordings made with Oliver in glorious remastered sound thanks to the work of Library of Congress chief sound archivist David Sager. Louis’ recordings with Fletcher Henderson, when he taught New York how to swing and influenced the careers of everyone!

Part Two

The final segment on Tuesday, May 10, concentrates upon his earth moving, groundbreaking and life force changing recordings made with his “Hot 5” that forever altered the course of music.


©2019 Tom Roberts