Photos of Louis Armstrong by Jack Bradley of Cotuit at the center of the new show

More than 500 mostly never-before-seen photos of legendary jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong and other music greats will be the focus of an unusual show premiere Friday that shares the life’s work of a native of Cost.

Michael Persico created “Classic Jazz Visions: The Photography of Jack Bradley” at the Cotuit Arts Center as a showcase for longtime friend Bradley’s hoard of photographs he took of Armstrong for over a decade. Bradley became friends and photographer for Armstrong from 1959 until the musician’s death in 1971 and captured thousands of images of Armstrong, as well as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and many other music icons .

Described as a “unique two-hour musical and pictorial tribute” and “immersive” experience, the “Classic Jazz Visions” show will feature Persico’s Classic Jazz & Swing Orchestra performing live on stage alongside a slideshow of photos of Bradley. Mick Carlon – longtime Barnstable teacher and jazz fan, and author of “Journey with Louis” a young adult book about Armstrong – will provide narration through the show and talk about Bradley.

“Classic Jazz Visions” will be divided into 12 chapters with a song played for each. The center’s art gallery will also display Bradley’s photos for viewing at pre- and post-show receptions, with prints available for purchase.

All this comes with the blessing of both the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, and Bradley’s widow, who died last year.

“I think it’s a great tribute to Jack, and Mike Persico put on an amazing show,” says Nancy Bradley. “I think (Jack) would be impressed with what happens because he was humble about his photography work. He never said, ‘Hey, I’m the great Jack Bradley.’ »

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Persico, a retired Mashpee public school music teacher, will take the show on the road for stops May 15 at the Spire Center for Performing Arts in Plymouth and June 3 at Sandwich Town Hall. Working as a non-profit corporation “dedicated to preserving and promoting the artistic legacy of famed jazz photographer Jack Bradley,” Persico says it will use all money raised to preserve Bradley’s photos and fund the tour.

Persico says he hopes to eventually raise enough money to bring the show to the Louis Armstrong House Museum. “We have worked very closely together and they have been very supportive of me because everything I do for Jack benefits the memory of Louis Armstrong,” Persico says.

The musician and his photographer

The story of how a Cotuit photographer befriended one of the world’s most revered and popular musicians is pretty simple, according to Persico.

In 1959, after graduating from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Bradley traveled to New York and at a party he met a young woman who was one of Armstrong’s publicists. She introduced Bradley to Armstrong and his wife, Lucille Wilson, at their Queens home, and Bradley soon began snapping photos of the famous trumpeter during his studio sessions and tours. Armstrong introduced Bradley to other musicians, including Ellington.

“Jack was a huge Louis fan,” Persico says. “He idolized her. It was like meeting your hero.

The bond between the photographer and the musician was close and strong, according to those who knew him and Bradley’s March 25, 2021 obituary. When asked what he thought Bradley would do on the show “Classic Jazz Visions Persico replied, “Let’s put it this way: every time we started talking about Louis, he would start crying.”

The poster for the

Bradley’s photos have been featured on the Louis ‘Country & Western’ Armstrong album cover, DownBeat magazine, and various other publications. The Louis Armstrong House Museum hailed Bradley as “the greatest photographer,” according to information from the Cotuit Center.

But, says Persico, “all in all, (Bradley’s) big claim to fame was being Louis’ friend.”

Bradley’s love of jazz music also extended beyond Armstrong. His later jobs have included road manager, manager, booking agent, nightclub manager, disc jockey and concert producer, and he was founder of the New York Jazz Museum and co-founder, with the late Marie Marcus, of the Cape Cod Jazz Society, according to his obituary. Bradley founded the “Vintage Jazz” record store, produced his own Jazz radio show on WFCC, and his massive jazz collection included more than 25,000 recordings and more than 10,000 sheet music, according to the obituary.

A labor of love

Persico calls the “Classic Jazz Visions” show “probably the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life”. He has been working there for several years, with a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday’s presentation will be the first live performance, and Persico describes the location as “poetic” as Bradley was born and raised in Cotuit.

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“I started as his assistant (in 2013) and became his dear friend and manager because other people were still contacting him about having his photos used in magazines and books,” Persico said of her relationship with Bradley. “Then, when his Parkinson’s disease took over, I became his carer. He was a hell of a guy. »

Years ago, Bradley had a large collection of Armstrong memorabilia, including the musician’s trumpets, costumes, big band arrangements, letters and more – much of it given to him by the wife. of Armstrong after the musician’s death, says Persico. The Louis Armstrong House Museum acquired Bradley’s collection in 2005, according to his obituary.

When Persico came aboard in 2013, he took on the daunting task of organizing and archiving Bradley’s 30,000 Armstrong photographs, along with an additional 1,500 negatives he found that he says Bradley had forgotten. . Bradley helped select some of the photos for a book he and Persico were working on, and many of those photos will be featured in the upcoming show.

A photographer friend of Bradley’s, Brian Smith, scanned 2,500 images Bradley liked, and Persico narrowed that group down to the 500 that will be featured in “Classic Jazz Visions.”

“Most of these images have never been seen,” he says. “This is the first time any of (Bradley’s) work has been presented in this way.”

If the show is a success, one of Persico’s goals is to digitize the remaining negatives and make them available to researchers and scholars. He would also like to bring the show to colleges to introduce Bradley’s work to a younger generation.

“We were trying to get everything in place before he passed,” says Persico. “I just hope he’s watching from above and having fun with his buddy Louis Armstrong and all his friends up there.”

To see ‘Classic Jazz Visions’

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Or: Cotuit Arts Centre, 4404 Falmouth Road

Tickets and information: $35, $30 for members, $33 for seniors and veterans

Reservations: https://artsonthecape.org/explore/classic-jazz-visions