National Jazz Museum in Harlem
WOW. WOW. WOW. I visited the National Jazz Museum in Harlem Tuesday. It was wonderful.
I am a member of Jazz Record Masters of North Jersey, a group of jazz aficionados who know jazz like they know the back of their hands. We meet at each others homes once a week and listen to classic jazz for a couple of hours. Not smooth jazz but what the purists love-1930s, 1940s, 1950s. Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lou Donaldson, Art Farmer, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Benny Goodman, etc. You get the idea. They prefer instrumentals though occasionally someone may throw in some Ellie Fitzgerald or Lena Horn. A lot of the artists are unknown to me but I still enjoy the music. These guys can tell what instrument is being played (alto as opposed to tenor sax) and what the person was wearing 🙂 or where the song was recorded.
Anyway, we made arrangements to spend this past Tuesday afternoon, which is our usual meeting day, at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. What a treat. We were greeted by Loren Schoenberg, Executive Director. We were there to hear some of the 100 hours of live recordings of the William Savory Collection, made between 1935 and 1941, that had been packed away for decades. These recordings were made by recording engineer William Savory and consists of 1000 discs which was acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem in 2010.
The museum is in a large room with a great collection of books on jazz as well as a tremendous number of CDs. They also have some great photographs on the wall of several artists and places like Minton’s Playhouse and Small’s Paradise. The songs we heard had been restored and placed on an iPod. They are not digitized so you hear all the scratches as these are original recordings. Some of the recordings included an announcer introducing the artist. We heard Billie Holiday sing Strange Fruit and it was obvious that the announcer did not have a clue as what the song was about.
If you love jazz or just want to get some of the history of this genre of music, put the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on your list of places to visit while in New York. This is a true Nugget in the Hood!
This month is featuring Tito Puento, presented by Joe Conzo with special guests. Dates are May 10-on film at Maysles Cinema, 343 Lenox Avenue between 127th and 128th Streets, May 17-The Jazz Years, May 24-The Composer and May 31-The Man. These events are free.
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Visitor Center is located at 104 East 126th Street, #2C, NYC 10035. Easily accessible by the 2/3/4/5/6 trains to 125th Street. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm. Call 212-348-8300 or visit http://www.JMIH.org for more information.
The museum will be moving to 125 MART across from the Apollo within the next couple of years. In the meantime, the museum is asking for donations to archive, store and digitize the Savory Collection. Hear previews and learn more at savoryjazz.org.
All I can say is WOW. WOW. WOW.
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