(director: Sacha Jenkins; cinematographer: Edward Lachward; editors: Jason Pollard/Alma Herrera-Pazmino; music: Terence Blanchard; cast: Louis Armstrong; Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Sara Bernstein/Sacha Jenkins/Justin Wilkes/Julie Anderson; Apple TV +; 2022)

“Refreshing documentary on the gravelly-voiced great pioneering Black jazzman Louis Armstrong.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Refreshing documentary on the gravelly-voiced great pioneering Black jazzman Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) that’s directed by Sacha Jenkins (“Fresh Dressed”/”Burn, Motherf*cker, Burn!”). It follows his poor New Orleans childhood and his rise to fame in the 1920s as a jazz trumpet player during the segregation period and his breaking down of racial barriers through his appeal to reach both white and Black audiences.

It effectively uses radio and TV interviews (with personalities like Orson Welles & Dick Cavett), interviews with musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Leonard Bernstein and many others, the reading of his diary, and a wealth of archival footage to show him in action. His troubled personal life also has a light thrown on it, along with gossip and tidbits on his complex personality, his generosity with his poor fans (giving them coal), playing in brothels, and smoking weed.

The enjoyable and insightful biopic, not told in a chronological order, on the one affectionately known as Satchmo, is a keeper. It hits on many things about one of America’s greatest and most charismatic icons.

Louis Armstrong’s Black and Blues.

REVIEWED ON 11/3/2022  GRADE: B+