Time Flies

It seems like just yesterday that I applied for a part-time job at the Library in 1979 while still a student at the University of Maryland. I thought being a Deck Attendant in what was then called Collections Management would be just the ticket to help with my schoolwork, giving me pre-digital access to the world’s greatest single body of written knowledge. But then I found that working in the Main Reading Room and interacting with scholars from all over the world were stimulating and awoke in me something that had meaning.

Graduation came and I saw a job posting for a full-time Audio-Video Production Specialist Trainee. This one seemed to fit my knowledge, skills and  interests, especially in radio. I got that job and spent 25 years working in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division as a Recording Engineer and ultimately a Supervisor of the Magnetic Recording Lab. We audio- and video-recorded concerts, lectures and symposia throughout the Library. In many respects, the most interesting part of the job was helping to preserve and reformat the Library’s vast collection of film, video and recorded sound.

Photograph of Larry Appelbaum working as a recording technician, ca. 1980s.

Larry Appelbaum with Sonny Rollins, Feb 28, 2011.

I began to dive head-first into the extraordinary collections of jazz and spoken word materials in the NBC Radio and Voice of America Collections, not to mention the Archive of Folk Song and the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.  It was a special thrill to discover the previously unknown tapes of the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane recordings at Carnegie Hall later issued by Blue Note Records in 2005. I also had the opportunity of working on many rare recordings, including the reissue of the historic acetate discs of Jelly Roll Morton in the Coolidge Auditorium talking about how he invented jazz in New Orleans at the turn of the century. I’m especially proud that we were able to correct the playback speed to finally get those songs in the proper keys. The Grammy-nominated box set was issued by Rounder Records in 2006.

Larry Appelbaum with Archie Shepp, April 2016.


I took a year off in 1991 to live in Japan and study music, language and culture. It was endlessly fascinating and stirred my interest in international travel and filled my passport, eventually reviewing many jazz festivals around the world, lecturing at famous conservatories and working as a consultant for a Russian Jazz Archive and Research Center in Yaroslavl.

The zenith of my career came when the Library announced plans to build a new Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. I chose not to relocate and instead moved over to the Music Division, which needed a Reference Specialist with a strong background in jazz. This was a dream job for me, as it enabled me to help researchers, design programs for educational outreach and acquire collections for the Library, including the papers and scores of Max Roach, Eric Dolphy, Billy Strayhorn, Machito, Bruce Lundvall and many others. In addition, I was able to start writing for the Music Library Association Journal Notes, JazzTimes magazine and various websites around the world. I was also fortunate to contribute to the book Jazz: The First Century (2000), The Encyclopedia of Radio (2003) and Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology (2011).

Larry Appelbaum with Wayne Shorter, September 24, 2012.

Perhaps the most fun was creating a jazz film series for the Mary Pickford Theater which ran for 10 years and for which we brought Artie Shaw, Kenny Burrell, Joe Williams, Reggie Workman and many other special guests.

I was also invited to give lectures and interview musicians for pre-concert presentations and oral histories, moderate panel discussions, and oversee a program of invited jazz scholars including Dan Morgenstern, Ingrid Monson, Andrew White and others. In 2016 we created a wonderful exhibit, “Jazz Singers,” for the gallery outside the Performing Arts Reading Room. Our efforts generated a lot of digital content, much of which is on the Library’s website (see a partial list of links and photos below).

In June of 2017, I suffered a stroke, but was able to telework for a couple of years.  Now the time has come for my retirement. It’s been a joy and a blessing to be able to collaborate with and work alongside such distinguished colleagues throughout the Library and do my small part to add to what we think of as The Temple of Knowledge.

For more of my Music Division blog posts, click here.

For my personal blog, Let’s Cool One, click here.

Photograph of Larry Appelbaum with Max Roach at the Library in 1995.

Webcast interviews:

Ron Carter

Jim Hall

Abdullah Ibrahim

Maria Schneider

Allan Toussaint

Henry Butler

Dafnis Prieto

Dianne Reeves

Henry Threadgill

Curator’s picks blog post

Miguel Zenon

Uri Caine

Russian-American Jazz Summit with Cyril Moshkow

Celebration of Machito

Photograph of Larry Appelbaum with Sharon Clark at the Library’s “Jazz Singers” exhibit in 2016.

Celebration of Max Roach

Guillermo Klein

Roger Kellaway and Eddie Daniels

Jazz Scholar John Swed

Jazz Scholar Ingrid Monson

Blue Note at 75

Larry Appelbaum gives a lecture at the Library for Ella Fitzgerald’s Centenary, April 25, 2017.


Photograph of Larry Appelbaum in the Performing Arts Reading Room.

Let’s Mambo!: Machito and His Afro-Cubans

Musician Machito (c. 1908-1984) and his group the Afro-Cubans performed from 1940 to the early 1980s, forming an influential legacy that includes salsa music and Afro-Cuban jazz. The Music of Machito and His Afro-Cubans collection primarily contains approximately 150 manuscript and published compositions and arrangements performed by the ensemble.

The Concert Office Responds to Corona Virus

The following is a guest post by Claudia Morales of the Music Division. On Thursday, March 13, the Library of Congress closed all Library buildings to the public. Within a few days, all public events in March and April were canceled, and the cancellation period has now been extended through May 10. These cancellations are […]

Happy Birthday Chris Potter

Every generation has its saxophone heroes in jazz: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane all continue to inspire players in every style on just about every instrument. One of the great saxophonists and multi-instrumentalists of this generation is the Chicago-born, Columbia, South Carolina-raised Chris Potter. For the past three decades he’s been drawing […]

This Week: José André Montaño in Coolidge Auditorium

The following post was written by Music Reader Services Librarian Katie Rodda and published on October 24, 2019 on NLS Music Notes, a Library of Congress blog for and about those who want, need or provide the special format music of braille, audio, and large print offered by the NLS Music Section.    This week, on Thursday, November […]

Two Weeks and Some Change: Upcoming Events at the Library of Congress

You can’t beat the next two weeks of Concerts from the Library of Congress programming, during which we will offer eight musical experiences that showcase a breadth of artistry and perspectives. Here’s a quick run-down so you can make your plans: Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 7pm Montpelier Room, Madison Building “Diversity and the Birth of […]

Allen Toussaint’s Treasures Found in L.A. Swapmeet

In 2007, the Library presented back-to-back concerts with two quintessential New Orleans pianists Henry Butler and Allen Toussaint. Mr. Toussaint was in the news recently because his legacy studio recordings, long thought lost in the flood from Hurricane Katrina, turned up at a swap meet in Torrance, California. Toussaint wrote, arranged and produced many hits […]

Musical Treasure Lost and Found

In June of 1996, the Library of Congress presented a “Big Band Bash” at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington DC. Over the course of a weekend, it offered a rare opportunity to present concerts by three important L.A.-based jazz composers and their orchestras: Buddy Collette, Gerald Wilson and Benny Carter. Each composer was offered a […]