When it comes to musical credentials, few can match those of legendary jazz pianist , whose quintet will headline the next edition of the Downtown Sounds concert series on Friday in the Village Square.
With a stellar resume of having played with some of the finest jazz and pop musicians and ensembles of all time, the 90-year-old Napoleon nonetheless will be first identified as having toured with perhaps the greatest jazz legend of them all: Louis Armstrong.
However, with Armstrong already a living legend, how many musicians would have had the chutzpah to quit his band, not once but three times?
“The constant touring was putting a strain on my marriage,” Napoleon said. “The first tour, I didn’t see my wife and kids for seven months.”
But Armstrong wanted Napoleon on piano and his big time jazz manager Joe Glazer pressured Napoleon until he agreed to give it another try. “And they offered me more money,” Napoleon explained.
However family pressure prevailed once again and the out-then-back-in process repeated itself again, then again: “Each time they offered me more money,” Napoleon said. “To the point where I was almost making more than Louis.”
Born into a musical family of Italian immigrants living in Brooklyn, Napoleon was drawn to music as a teenager, had a quartet at 18, and began playing social clubs and parties on a regular basis.
“I made myself better by practicing all the time,” he said. “Then I landed a job with the Bob Astor Band, one of the top groups of the day.”
Thus began a career playing for noted bands over many decades, highlighted by the tours with Armstrong.
This week, Napoleon’s tour will be a good deal shorter. He is a resident of , on School Street, just up the street from Village Square. The Downtown Sounds concert series is a collaboration between the Glen Cove Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) – the program’s organizer – the City of Glen Cove and a number of sponsors. The concerts are free and performances begin at 7:30 p.m.