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Curator’s Picks: All That Jazz

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(The following is an article from the March/April 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

Music Division Curator Larry Appelbaum highlights items from the Library’s exhibition “Jazz Singers.”


No matter how many times I’ve seen this iconic portrait of Ms. Holiday by William P. Gottlieb, taken in 1947, I’m always struck by the way photographer William P. Gottlieb captured her beauty and spirit in the moment of creativity. It’s a profoundly revealing image that visually evokes the sound of one of our greatest singers.

William P. Gottlieb Collection, Music Division






The Music Division’s collections include 23 watercolors by writer, cartoonist and painter Stephen Longstreet (1907–2002). This drawing titled “Club Date Spot Light” is among his compelling images depicting various aspects of jazz culture.

Music Division









The Music Division recently acquired a cache pertaining to jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, including this chilling, undated, false-alarm suicide note detailing his descent into self-destruction. On May 13, 1988, Baker’s body was found on the sidewalk below his hotel room in Amsterdam. The exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

Chet Baker Collection, Music Division




In the Music Division’s Max Roach Collection, I was startled to find a 1980 typescript of an unpublished autobiography by singer Nina Simone in collaboration with her friend Mary Martin Niepold, titled “Between the Keys.

Max Roach Collection, Music Division






Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 1.32.23 PMFITZGERALD AND ELLINGTON FILM CLIP

Of the many wonderful videos and film clips in the exhibition that illustrate jazz vocal artistry—including the Mills Brothers, Jimmy Rushing, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae—my favorite is a rarely seen clip of Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington from a 1959 Bell Telephone Hour television special. C’est magnifique!

Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division

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