Louis Armstrong’s beloved trumpet sits in the Smithsonian–a relic of a grand tradition of American music. When it first became a museum piece, the brass-and-gold instrument, made in Paris after World War II, wasn’t in working condition. Dwandalyn Reece, the culture curator at The Smithsonian, notes: “It wasn’t playable when it got here… There was a lacquer coating on it to help prevent tarnish. We looked to see if there were any spots where the lacquer impacted the valves. There were areas where the valves were a little sticky so we wanted to make sure they would flow freely.” Once restored, they put the instrument in the right hands. Above, watch Wynton Marsalis, the nine-time Grammy winner, playing Satchmo’s Selmer trumpet last fall.
Marsalis later commented, “It sounded better than I thought it would sound.” Apparently, it’s the first time an historic instrument from the Smithsonian’s collection has been put back into real service.