The Real Ambassadors Premiere, Monterey Jazz Festival, 1962 Courtesy of the Brubeck Collection, Wilton, CT Public Library

Kitchen Sisters Produce “The Real Ambassadors”

The Real Ambassadors was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson) and Brandi Howell in collaboration with Jackson Spenner.

Mixed by James McKee of Earwax Productions, also based in the San Francisco North Beach neighborhood.

On a chilly evening, September 23, 1962, The Real Ambassadors, a jazz musical written by Dave and Iola Brubeck for Louis Armstrong, was performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival. It was unusual, unprecedented— a mixed cast of well-known artists, in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging racial prejudice and social injustice through jazz.

“The original show, featured Louis Armstrong, Carmen McCrae, Dave Brubeck and Lambert Hendricks and Bavan,” note The Kitchen Sisters. “The story was based on President Eisenhower’s Jazz Ambassadors Program set up during the Cold War — an effort to win hearts and minds by sending jazz musicians around the world, most of them Black, to represent the freedom and creativity of America. Overseas they were treated like royalty, only to return home to segregated hotels, restaurants and bands in the United States. The Brubeck’s musical was a chance for Louis Armstrong to speak out about his deep feelings about racism and segregation in this country — feelings he rarely expressed publicly.”