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Curator’s Picks: Fab Five

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The collections of the Library of Congress are vast and varied. And, what better way to get to know them but through our many wonderful curators. In this inaugural edition of “Curator’s Picks,” jazz curator Larry Appelbaum discusses a few prized items housed in the Music Division.


A hand-written letter from Leonard Bernstein to his mother in 1948 documents the 30-year old composer and conductor’s first trip to the newly formed state of Israel. In the midst of war, he writes about his adventures and passions for the land and the people.

“The letter is beautifully illustrated by his friend, the artist Jossi Stern,” said Appelbaum.



In 1955, trumpeter, singer and entertainer Louis Armstrong participated in a sociological survey about jazz musicians and the use of habituating drugs.

“Armstrong’s hand-written response reveals much about his insight, mother wit and humanity.”


Composer Avery Claflin (1898-1979), who was known in professional circles as a lawyer, banker and President of the French-American Banking Corporation, composed this madrigal titled “Lament for April 15.”

“It includes text taken from the 1955 Internal Revenue Service tax form.”


Composed by George Gershwin for a 1924 Aeolian Hall concert by Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra, “Rhapsody in Blue” combines elements of classical music with the flavor of jazz. Pictured to the right is Ferde Ferde Grofé’s holograph orchestration of one of the most famous American concert works.

“On the first page of the score is the famous trill and glissando played that night by virtuoso clarinetist Ross Gorman. There are also blank portions in the score where the piano soloist, Gershwin himself, played but didn’t have time to write out his part.”


The Library’s collection of work by the celebrated jazz photographer William P. Gottlieb includes this 1947 image of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie making goo-goo eyes at “First Lady of Song.”

“All 1,600 images in the Library’s Gottlieb Collection are in the public domain and available for download.”

(You can view the collection here.)




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