Links to the history of jazz in DC and places that are dedicated to the legacy and preservation of jazz. Click on the images to read more about these exciting projects and institutions located in Washington DC.
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Jazz & Blues Resources
Foot thumping rhythms, crooning voices, soulful melodies – jazz is a music with a history as rich as its sound. Follow the great migration that lead African Americans to Harlem, meet jazz icons such as Bessie Smith and Charlie Parker, and stop by the Cotton Club and Apollo Theater on a journey through the past of this American art form.
Felix Grant’s distinctive voice was heard in Washington, D.C., for more than 45 years. He began his brilliant career on radio station WWDC-AM in 1945. Several years later he joined the on-air staff of WMAL-AM, where he spent 30 years as host of “The Album Sound” and nurtured the careers of many young musicians by introducing their music to the Washington area. Mr. Grant moved to WRC-AM in 1984, and he joined WDCU-FM, Jazz 90, in 1987. He exhibited his trademark broadcast professionalism during his tenure with WDCU’s “World of Jazz” show and introduced jazz, blues, and international music to yet another generation of listeners.
How to become a "Citizen Arhcivist" at the National Archives. Put your jazz knowledge to use and get a byline!
From posters and photographs to film and sound recordings, the National Archives has a remarkable collection of jazz-related records that trace its influence throughout American history. Drawing from these records, the National Archives Museum and the Foundation for the National Archives are proud to present a programming series about the history of jazz.
The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center brings artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds together. We support, develop, promote and advocate for cultural and educational programming in the visual and performing arts.
Friedheim Music Library: Sounds and Stories began as a joint project between the Peabody Archives, the Musicology Department of the Peabody Conservatory and the History Department of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. In the fall of 2002 a seminar of 18 students undertook to interview people who had participated and still participate in the music of Baltimore’s Black community, to record their memories, and to document their world and their legacy. Grants from the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland Humanities Council made it possible for the interviews to be transcribed immediately. The students edited the interviews, went over them with the interviewees, and enhanced them with visual and audio materials provided by the participants and by local archives. This website opened to the public on February 2, 2003. It aims to serve as a resource for African-American history, for Baltimore and Maryland history, and for music history. Even more, we hope that it communicates a sense of the richness, the creativity, and the value of a world whose legacy remains central to Baltimore and the world today.
The Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project sheds light on the social impact, historical and cultural influence of D.C.’s greater Black U Street/Shaw community once affectionately known as the “Black Broadway” (a phrase coined by the late entertainer, Pearl Bailey who jumpstarted her singing career on U Street) from the early 1900s to late 1950s. Through the use of digital media content and narratives, this multi-platform project will connect today’s and future audiences to the “unsung” contributions of this prominent and pioneering Black Washington community’s entertainers, educators, civil rights activists, intellectuals, musicians and culturists, as well as their social impact on Black America and our nation’s historical landscape. This Transmedia experience represents several distinct, yet interconnected multi-platform (digital media and immersive) and interactive components to include: a 3-part documentary film series, an interactive website (that will house a “living, digital history book and virtual museum”) featuring immersive user experiences, historic maps, educational resources, oral histories and documentary shorts showcasing the backstories of the social impact and cultural legacy of this neighborhood; its trailblazers, iconic entertainers and landmark places), mobile apps, “pop-up” performances, community outreach events and symposiums, museum and cultural arts center as well as a significant social media engagement.
Historic U Street: For a period of time after the Civil War, more and more freedmen came to Washington. As their numbers increased among the black bourgeoisie in the city, racial tolerance decreased. This lack of tolerance left the U Street community, including its businesses, increasingly more segregated from white Washington. Black business people decided to go it alone as they began their own black business movement. The hub of this effort was in the U Street neighborhood.
About the National Jukebox:
The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives.
Jazz Encounters: Jazz Live Studio Sessions was created by Michael Bailey a multimedia specialist, and musician/composer with over 30 years of experience in the communications industry and arts management.
In 2014, Michael noticed very little jazz music programming on PBS, cable and other television networks. He realized without television exposure this uniquely African American art form could be forgotten. In July of that year he began taping musicians in Studio A at Montgomery Community Media.
About the Music Division
The music division--formally created in 1896 and established in quarters within the Library's Jefferson Building upon its completion in 1897--traces the origin of its collections to the thirteen books on music literature and theory that were contained in Thomas Jefferson's library, purchased by the Congress in 1815. At that time, the cultivation and development of a music library were scarcely matters of great importance. By the closing years of the century, however, some 400,000 music items had been added to the Library's collections, largely effected through the deposits under the Copyright Act. Today, the Music Division's collections number close to eight million items, including the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, microforms, and copyright deposits.
George Washington University's Special Collections Research Center and Africana Studies Program are partnering with five partner archives throughout the city to enhance access to previously unavailable research materials that document the history of the African diaspora in DC, the civil rights movements, the struggle for Home Rule, the rise of Black-owned businesses, the development of Howard University, slavery in the nation’s capital, jazz music in D.C., and the literary arts.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library
Help us tell the story of Washington D.C. 's famed U Street, once known as "Black Broadway" and become a part of the Washingtoniana Community Archive!
In 2007, NMAAHC and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings began a multi-year collaboration to explore African American oral and musical traditions. The African American Legacy Series will include reissues and compilations drawn from the Folkways catalog, plus previously unreleased archival materials and new recordings of contemporary artists.
The African American Legacy Series will include blues, jazz, gospel, folk traditions, spoken word, hip hop, and more. The goal is to reach new audiences with historic recordings and capture contemporary traditions for future generations. Purchases of these recordings support the artists that created them and help fund future series.
Welcome! These transcriptions of oral histories of NEA Jazz Masters are part of the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. Established by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 1992, the Program seized the opportunity to document more than one hundred senior jazz musicians, performers, relatives, and business associates. Each interview was conducted by a jazz authority and was recorded on digital audiotape by a professional audio engineer. The interviews average six hours in length and cover a wide range of topics including early years, initial involvement in music, generally, and jazz specifically, as well as experiences in the jazz music world, including relationships to musicians.
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. We are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound. We believe that musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world. Through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials we seek to strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others. Smithsonian Folkways is part of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Our mission is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music," spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways commitment to cultural diversity, education, increased understanding, and lively engagement with the world of sound.
In 1990 the U.S. Congress, recognizing the importance of jazz in American culture, authorized the establishment of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) as the orchestra-in-residence at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.