April is Jazz Appreciation Month!
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History began this month-long celebration in 2001 to encourage people to listen to, read about, and play jazz music. Unsurprisingly, jazz is well-represented in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress, from commercial recordings to film and more.
Here are some online resources to start your exploration of jazz in the moving image and recorded sound collections at the Library. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers for more information on our collections or conducting research at the Library.
Interviews with jazz musicians in the Joe Smith Collection
The Joe Smith Collection makes frequent appearances on this blog under various topics, and jazz is no exception. Smith spent several years in the 1980s interviewing major names in the music industry—record label executives, musicians, bands, and producers—for his 1988 book Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music. Jazz musicians, and many musicians whose music was influenced by jazz, are among the nearly two hundred recorded interviews that are available online in the digital collection, including jazz greats Herbie Hancock, Artie Shaw, Dave Brubeck, and Al Jarreau.
Jazz in the National Jukebox
The National Jukebox is a treasure trove of early commercial recordings, including ragtime and jazz. Head to the “Genres” section of the Jukebox, found in the menu on the left-hand side. Under the Popular Music category you’ll see “Ragtime, jazz, and more”—here you’ll find some recordings of very early jazz and its stylistic predecessor, ragtime.
Note: You must have Adobe Flash installed in your web browser in order to listen to recordings in the Jukebox—and even if you do have it installed, you may still have to allow it to run. Get in touch with Recorded Sound reference librarians if you have problems with the Jukebox—we may be able to troubleshoot.
Jazz in The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America
This digital collection is a collaboration between several divisions at the Library, including MBRS, the Music Division, and the American Folklife Center. The collection includes audio, film, sheet music, and photographs, as well as articles and essays written by Library staff to add context and dig deeper into the collection items.
Search “Jazz” in the Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America for articles, recordings, and sheet music related to jazz, ragtime, the blues, and more.
Jazz in the National Screening Room
The National Screening Room is a digital collection that was launched in the fall of 2018 to provide a window into the wide variety of moving image materials that are held at the Library. Items in the National Screening Room include actualities, documentaries, educational films, industrial films, government films, home movies, shorts, silent films, and more.
The Screening Room has a few short films involving jazz and jazz musicians, all of which have been named to the National Film Registry as historically, culturally, or aesthetically significant to American film and culture:
- The Cry of Jazz (1959) – featuring Sun Ra
- St. Louis Blues (1929) – featuring Bessie Smith, James P. Johnson, and W.C. Handy (see a previous blog post to learn more about this short silent film)
- Jam Session (1942) – featuring Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (see a previous blog post to learn more about why this film was selected for the National Film Registry)
Jazz in the Library’s moving image collections: Jazz in Film and Video – A Bibliography
This annotated guide lists jazz performances on film and video in the collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress. Included are more than 600 documentaries, television shows, concert performances, theatrical features and short subjects, and various compilations of all types, many of which were produced in recent years for the home video market. Film and video in this bibliography can be viewed in the Moving Image Research Center.
Jazz in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting is an excellent resource for researching cultural and public affairs programming from American public television and radio throughout the years. Through a partnership with WGBH in Boston, the Library of Congress is making public media from around the country—at a national and local level—available online. You can search the entire archive or browse curated collections and exhibits. Many videos and recordings are available anywhere online, while even more content is available on-site at the Library of Congress.
Search “jazz” in the main search bar for public radio and television programs that feature jazz, its history, and its performers.
And of course, don’t hesitate to get in touch with reference librarians in the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers if you have questions or are looking for a specific film, television program, or sound recording. Happy Jazz Appreciation Month!
Jazz in other Library of Congress resources:
For those interested in the intersection of jazz and film and television, the Jazz on the Screen database is a great resource. This searchable filmography documents the work of some 1,000 major jazz and blues figures in over 25,000 cinema, television and video productions. PLEASE NOTE: Jazz on the Screen is a general online reference work and DOES NOT represent Library of Congress holdings.