One of the trumpets played by Louis Armstrong in the early 1950s is heading to auction.
The exceptionally rare instrument is a Selmer Model 19 balanced-action, medium-bore trumpet made in 1948. It’s inscribed with “Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong/7/10/53” on the worn gold-plated brass.
The trumpet will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York on Oct. 14. The high bids are estimated between $60,000 and $80,000.
According to Christie’s, it’s likely that Armstrong played the Donin trumpet on The California Concerts, a live album recorded in 1951 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Armstrong would play his instruments for about five years before giving them away as gifts, said Christie’s senior specialist Becky MacGuire. In 1953, he gave this trumpet to Duke, the son of Abe and Frances Donin, two jazz aficionados whom Armstrong and his wife Lucille had met in Los Angeles in the 1930s. They had become great friends, MacGuire explained; the Donins can even be heard joking on Armstrong’s reel-to-reel tapes.
“This was a time in his life when he was totally in control,” said MacGuire. “His distinctive scat singing in that fabulous gravelly voice, his soaring and confident trumpet solos, the fluidity with which he swung in and out of his ensemble: this was the Louis Armstrong that made American jazz.”
The auction marks the trumpet’s return to Armstrong’s birth state of New York. To mark the occasion, jazz musicians James Zollar and Lessie Vonner played the trumpet on the steps of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, N.Y., where Satchmo once lived.
“I get automatic goosebumps just holding it and looking at it,” said Zollar. “This is a classic. They don’t make them like that no more.”
“One part of my job I will never, ever get tired of is holding a Louis Armstrong trumpet, inviting trumpet players over, seeing people well up with tears when they’re around these instruments that really changed the world,” says Ricky Riccardi, the Louis Armstrong House Museum’s director of research. “And to know that one of those trumpets is coming back here, coming back home, it’s quite a thrill.”