Surprisingly, I was confused as to why there was little to no mention of his first wife, Daisy Parker. Yet, Jenkins excels at revealing a comical obsession with herbal laxatives and numerous moments where his language is more than colorful. Can you imagine???!!! I couldn’t either.
Most notably, the film strongly wrestles with how Armstrong was perceived by a younger, more radical generation who believing the musician was overly accommodating to white audiences. Ossie Davis, Amiri Baraka, and Wynton Marsalis each admit to being skeptics who ultimately turned into admirers. No one more than Davis, who delivers a stirring recollection of witnessing Armstrong in one of his quiet moments instantaneously switch to ‘Satchmo’ in the blink of an eye. It was like the clown who didn’t want to be seen without his makeup or costume.
Jenkins also delves deep into the legend’s repertoire, tracing his jazz predecessors, contemporaries, and disciples, while treating audiences to new music composed by Terence Blanchard (who also contributed to two other films screened at TIFF – A Jazzman’s Blues and Sidney).
Louis Armstrong: Black and Blues is not only the later half of this impactful doc’s title, but places Armstrong’s voice in our ear singing, talking, joking, being beyond frustrated in an industry that doesn’t always love us back, and allowing him the respect of letting his own story be told precisely the way he would’ve wanted…in how own words on his own terms. At the end of the day, he had to be who he was in order to become the person he became.