Sixteen years after legendary stringband musician and artist Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong performed at the Laurel Theater as part of a celebrated homecoming visit to East Tennessee, his son Ralphe will pay tribute to his father’s legacy with a concert at the same venue. In honor of the occasion, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero will personally present a proclamation designating September 22, 2016 as “Louie Bluie Day.”
Ralphe Armstrong, a Grammy-nominated jazz and rock bassist based in Detroit, will perform as part of the Armstrong Legacy Trio, which also includes guitarist Ray Kamalay and violinist/mandolin player John Reynolds. The concert is Thursday, September 22, 8 p.m. at the Laurel Theater.
Through her proclamation, Mayor Rogero’s will acknowledge Tennessee native Howard Armstrong’s musical virtuosity and his part in music history as a member of the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, who recorded for Vocalion during the St. James recording sessions of 1929. Howard, who was born in Dayton and grew up in LaFollette, received a WC Handy Award (now Blues Music Award), and the National Endowment for the Arts called him a “national treasure” when they made him a National Heritage Fellow award in 1990.
Tickets to the concert are $20 for Jubilee Community Arts members, $21 for non-members. Advance tickets are available online at JubileeArts.org; remaining tickets will be sold at the door starting at 7:30 p.m.
Ralphe was performing with his father by age 5. By 13, he played with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; by 16 he affiliated with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa (which continued for many years). The original bassist in the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John MacLaughlin, Ralphe has performed and recorded with Aretha Franklin, James Carter, Sting, Roger Daltrey, Eminem, and many more artists in a wide variety of genres. Earlier this year, Ralphe was honored by his hometown and voted “Best Jazz Instrumentalist” at the Detroit Music Awards.
Kamalay has shared stages with Mark O’Connor, Doc Watson, Jethro Burns, Steve Goodman, and others. He began performing with Howard and Ralphe in 1988 when the three of them formed the Howard Armstrong Trio.
Reynolds was influenced by a number of traditional music masters including Howard Armstrong, with whom he performed for decades.
The Armstrong Legacy Trio’s performance at the Laurel Theater previews their 4:15 p.m. set at the 10th Louie Bluie Music & Arts Festival on Saturday, September 24, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Cove Lake State Park in Caryville, Tenn. For more information about the festival, visit LouieBluie.org.