Smithsonian Jazzes Up Collection with Donations from Miles and Monk

Fifth Annual Jazz Appreciation Month Kicks Off
March 29, 2006
The families of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk donated objects and manuscripts from the legendary careers of the jazz pioneers and photographer Herman Leonard donated jazz photographs to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in a special ceremony today that kicks off the 2006 Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) celebration. This year marks the fifth anniversary of JAM’s founding as an annual event that pays tribute to jazz while raising awareness of this living art form. Throughout the month of April, the museum will present jazz and its history through performances, dance, film, programs and displays. “Jazz is a truly American form of music that has played and continues to play an important role in our history from its birth in the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s to its later fusion with other forms of popular music,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “Through the museum’s Jazz Appreciation Month activities, we will highlight jazz and its significant history, while exposing audiences to this significant piece of American culture.” Davis (1926-1991), a trumpeter and composer, helped pioneer a wide variety of jazz music from cool jazz to hard-pop to jazz-rock fusion, while becoming the most dominant figure in jazz during the second half of the 20th century. The seven-time Grammy award-winning artist began his career playing with jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Benny Carter and Billy Eckstine, but he would go on to create his own distinct lyrical style that was often lonely and introspective. Davis recorded the best-selling jazz album in history: “Kind of Blue” (1959). Donations from the Davis family include a Versace suit that Davis wore during the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1991; a sheaf of parts for “Summertime,” arranged for Davis by Gil Evans based on George Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”; and an electronic wind instrument used by Davis. Monk (1917-1982) is often regarded as one of the greatest composers in jazz history, creating such classics as “Round Midnight,” “Blue Monk” and “Criss Cross.” Credited with helping pioneer bebop as a form of jazz, he also was an accomplished pianist who created an iconic sound through unorthodox voicings and an unusual approach to rhythm. In 1964, Monk was featured on the cover of Time magazine—one of five jazz musicians to ever make the cover. Donations from the Monk family include one of Monk’s iconic skull caps; a handwritten manuscript for “Four in One,” which was first recorded in 1951; and other articles of clothing, including a jacket, vest and ties, worn by Monk. Leonard, a jazz photographer, began his career in the 1940s in the jazz clubs of Broadway, 52nd Street and Harlem, N.Y. Throughout the years he developed relationships with and photographed many jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Leonard’s extensive portfolio extends beyond jazz, though, as he has photographed other American icons like Albert Einstein, Harry S. Truman, Clark Gable and Marlon Brando. Leonard’s donation consists of 20 black-and-white photographs, including images of Louis Armstrong, Holiday, Gillespie, Lena Horne and Tony Bennett. The donated items will join the museum’s collection of memorabilia from other jazz musicians, including Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw and Ellington, and will be showcased in a special display “Miles & Monk: New Jazz Acquisitions,” opening March 30. The Smithsonian operates the world’s most comprehensive set of jazz programs. Jazz Appreciation Month, which coincides with the April birthdays of jazz giants Ellington, Fitzgerald, Tito Puente and Herbie Hancock, will be commemorated with numerous events. A complete schedule of JAM performances, lectures and displays is available at http://americanhistory.si.edu. Additionally, schools, colleges, libraries, museums, concert halls and public broadcasters have been encouraged to mark the occasion with programs of their own. The museum has distributed 850,000 posters this year, including the 250,000 distributed free of charge to educators and schools. In celebrating JAM, the museum joins with a diverse group of organizations, institutions, associations and federal agencies that have provided financial and in-kind support, as well as organizing programs and outreach of their own. The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage through exhibitions and public programs about social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The museum, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at http://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000, (202) 357-1729 (TTY).