You're no cynic, but you must admit you loathe the song "What a Wonderful World." And why not? It's only human to be sick of the Louis Armstrong version of the tune, which has been featured incessantly in movies, commercials, and on easy listening jazz stations. In fact if "Satchmo" were standing right in front of you this very minute with a big friendly smile on his face, you'd punch his lights out. No need to get violent. There's a lot more to New Orleans-born Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) than that treacly ditty. Armstrong, nicknamed "Satchmo" for his "satchel mouth," truly was a major force in music. Not just a trumpet player with a sensitive and energetic style, he virtually invented the instrumental solo (okay, some folks might be pissed about that), doing time in the bands of greats such as Kid Ory, King Oliver, and Fletcher Henderson in the early 1920s, and enjoying stints in the mid-1920s with the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens. During a remarkably lengthy career Armstrong fronted several of his own musical groups, appeared on Broadway, worked in feature films, released tons of hit records, and expanded into a gravelly voiced crooner, earning a Grammy Award for his rendition of the Broadway musical theme "Hello Dolly!" Originally recorded in 1968, "What a Wonderful World" did better in the United Kingdom, where it was a number-one hit, than in the U.S. Blame the 1987 movie Good Morning, Vietnam for the song's ascent up the American Top 40 chart and its subsequent jamming down our throats.
Armstrong may not have been around to enjoy that particular triumph, but the amiable figure achieved much success in his time and continues to be revered as one of our consummate entertainers. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, a veteran of Wynton Marsalis's Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, brings his combo to the Joseph Caleb Center (5400 NW 22nd Ave.) tonight at 8:00 for a Tribute to Louis Armstrong. Attendees are invited to a preshow jazz concert and reception featuring some of our best local musicians and singers. Tickets cost $15. Call 305-696-0805. -- By Nina Korman
Dance Melancholy Moves
Not everything that's related to the Nazis, Hitler, or World War II has to be a downer. The fictional musical Springtime for Hitler in Mel Brooks's Broadway show The Producers is an example. Okay, it's the only example we can think of at the moment. In sadness and despair there's always the chance for hope and redemption. That might be some of the motivation the Davie-based International Ballet Company had when members got together. The company decided to devote itself exclusively to performing just one piece: The Promise. The full-length classical ballet, which IBC director Mary Buttner and her daughter Deborah wrote, directed, and choreographed, is a story about two Polish/Jewish college students who meet and fall in love during World War II. The couple ends up in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, which saw 3 million of its 3.3 million Jewish population wiped out in the Holocaust. The piece had its world premiere in Broward last week and makes its Miami debut tonight at 7:30 at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets range from $35 to $100. Call 305-673-7300. -- By Nina Korman
Dropping Drawers Bottoms are tops in new/old comedy
Always wear clean underwear, in case you get into an accident. Or if by chance you lose them in a crowd while watching a parade. At least that's how it happened in Carl Sternheim's 1910 play The Underpants. The period comedy opens with a woman unwittingly losing her frilly foundation as it falls around her ankles while she tiptoes for a better view of the procession. (These are pre-elastic days.) And what a fetching garment it must have been since a host of potential suitors soon comes to call. The whole bawdy affair has been given a modern absurdist twist with an adaptation by comedian/actor/wild and crazy guy Steve Martin. Showtimes are 8:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and 2:00 p.m. Sunday through Monday, June 14, at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Tickets cost $40 Friday and Saturday; $35 other days. Call 305-444-9293. -- By John Anderson
The term Cuba Libre can be interpreted as a rallying cry for liberty or just the name of the right mix of rum and Coke, but either way it's cause for celebration. And the Globe Café and Bar (377 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables) will put on just that at 4:00 p.m. during the 1st annual Cuba Libre Block Party. The party will pay homage to Cuba's 1902 Independence Day with a bash reminiscent of the island's swinging, pre-Castro era. That means a hot, Havana night theme in the spirit of the famed Tropicana club, but don't expect any recollections of the period's rampant political corruption and puppet regimes. Do expect Bacardi, the popular brand of Cuban-born rum, to commemorate those wonderful days with free, sugary mojitos and Cuba libres.Entertainment will include the Zarabanda Band, DJ Le Spam, and renowned Cuban singer Albita (above). And if that is not enough Cuba for you, the night will also feature a fabricated domino park. Admission is free. Call 305-445-3555. -- By Humberto Guida