The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
JAM: A Month of Musical Celebration
Happy Jazz Appreciation Month or JAM! Paying tribute to the American-born music that has many definitions, the entire month of April is full of jazz concerts, events, and programs throughout the United States. Now in its eleventh year, JAM’s 2012 theme is "Jazz Crossing Borders and Cultures." Even the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared April 30 as the first International Jazz Day, with many global events to take place.
The National Museum of American History started JAM in July 2001, with the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations. JAM "pays tribute to jazz as a historical and living treasure."
The Smithsonian Institution Archives is no stranger to jazz either. We highlighted some audio preservation work in 2010 in a blog post that included jazz performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO). The SJMO presents concerts and programs that include classics, new arrangements, and commissioned works.
Here we feature a few more snippets from some SJMO concerts from 1995 that we have in the Archives from the collection Smithsonian Productions, Productions, 1991-2001 (SIA Acc. 04-062)
Here, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) plays Move - a track recorded by Miles Davis’ nonet on the album Birth of the Cool. This SJMO concert was on June 24, 1995. A side note: SJMO Conductor Gunter Schuller had participated in some of the recording sessions with the Davis nonet in 1950.
And here, SJMO plays Stomp It Off, which was arranged by Melvin "Sy" Oliver and composed by Jimmy Lunceford, at an August 13, 1995, concert. SJMO Musical Director David Baker conducts.
Jazz extends beyond the actual compositions thanks to images, manuscripts, documents, and books that can be found in many archives and libraries. Jazz gems also can be found at other Smithsonian archives. The Archives Center at the National Museum of American History is home to iconic images of performers taken by the late photographer Herman Leonard and the rich Duke Ellington Collection, 1927-1988, that features sound recordings, original music manuscripts, notes, correspondence, business records, photos, scrapbooks, news clippings, concert programs, and other materials. The Archives Center also has the extensive Jazz Oral History Program Collection. Interviewees include Oscar Brown, Cab Calloway, Shirley Horn, and Artie Shaw.
Jazz album cover art is another option to explore from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage's Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives. Catchy titles include Blowout at Mardi Gras, They All Played the Tiger Rag, and The Tuneful Twenties.
Jazz even turns up in some surprising places, such as some fun photographs of Dizzy Gillespie in the papers of artist Gertrude Abercrombie at the Archives of American Art.
So no matter what style of jazz you might enjoy, here’s to a boppy, funky, smooth, classic, swinging jazzy month.