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DISPLAY BRINGS OUT THE PACK RAT IN SATCHMO

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"I was young and strong, a flying cat, and God, I blew the people right out of that place."

That was how Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, the fiery trumpeter and gravel-voiced singer crowned by many fans as the king of jazz, proclaimed his coming-of-age performances in Chicago at the birth of the Jazz Age in the early 1920s. Steeped in the Dixieland and Creole jazz of his native New Orleans, Armstrong left for Chicago at age 21 and ended up traveling the world, becoming one of the most-photographed and listened-to figures of the 20th century.Armstrong, who died in 1971 at age 69, is the subject of a historical exhibit now on view at Chicago's Terra Museum of American Art. The exhibit benefits from Armstrong's love of the camera and from his penchant for collecting.

"He was a bit of a pack rat," curator Marc Miller said in a telephone interview. "When I went over to his (New York) house, everything was pretty much in boxes."

Miller unearthed from the collection roughly one-third of the exhibition, which includes a hodge-podge of handwritten notes, con-cert programs, picnic invitations, snapshots and paraphernalia including Armstrong's ornately engraved trumpet.

"I saw right away that his career was an emblematic thing and said a lot about 20th century American life, as well as him being a creative force," Miller said. "There are people who make the case that he is the preeminent muscial genius of the 20th century."

Perhaps all that is truly missing from "Louis Armstrong: Cultural Legacy" is extended versions of his innovative music, much of it never recorded, that Armstrong's trumpet-led combos played for enthusiastic audiences in clubs, honky-tonks and riverboats from New Orleans to New York by way of Chicago.

"Without Louis, we wouldn't be here," the late jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is quoted as saying of the forerunner of the postwar generation of bebop artists that included trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Charlie Parker. Armstrong's soaring solos and intricate arrangements were precursors to the dissonant, polyrhythmic playing of Davis, Parker and pianist Thelonious Monk.

Snippets of Armstrong's lively jazz standards can be heard throughout the exhibition space, along with displays of film clips such as a duet with Barbra Streisand from "Hello Dolly".