Author: eaberndtmorris (page 1 of 2)

A Dive into a Jazz Contract

Jazz connoisseurs are familiar with things being branded “blue note.” There’s the Blue Note in New York City with chains in Japan, China, and the U.S., Blue Note Records, the Blue Note Jazz Festival, The Blue Note in Chicago (now closed), to name a few. Another prominent jazz club with the popular name was in Philadelphia, and Harvard is fortunate to have a selection of their musician contracts from 1949-1957, with the bulk of the contracts concentrated in 1956.

Represented in the collection are jazz contracts from well-known musicians Cannonball Adderley, Louis Armstrong, The Australian Jazz Quintet, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, The Modern Jazz Quartet and several others. The most frequent signatures on the contracts are Jack Fields, owner of the Blue Note in the early 1950s, also known by his given name Irvin Rosenfeld as described in his obituary, and Lou Church, co-owner with Bob Pesselo, who began signing the contracts we have in hand starting in June 1956.

Miles Davis signature on contract

Lou Church and Miles Davis signatures on contract for performances from Dec. 3-8, 1956. Ms. Coll. 119

From December 3rd to the 8th, the Miles Davis Quintet began a two month series of engagements, starting in Philadelphia. The group featured Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

Miles Davis contract for December 3 through 8, 1956.

Contract for Miles Davis performance at the Blue Note in Philadelphia. Ms. Coll. 119

On Saturday, December 8th, the set was featured on Bandstand, U.S.A., with audio available on YouTube. On this night the club was raided by police, as described in the African-American newspaper The Philadelphia Tribune. Lou Church is quoted as saying, “Police squads armed with shotguns enter the Blue Note frequently and frisk customers in hopes of embarrassing them into not coming to the club again.”

Headline from Philadelphia Tribune "Police Harass 400 At Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers"

Philadelphia Tribune clipping

Clippings from the Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

The Collection of Jazz Contracts, 1949-1957 (Ms. Coll. 119) is located in the Isham Memorial Library, adjunct to the Loeb Music Library. There’re a lot of connections to be made about the life and history of the musicians and the Blue Note Club of Philadelphia in the collection of contracts. The collection can be viewed by appointment.


Chambers, Jack. Milestones I: The Music and Times of Miles Davis to 1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.

“Police Harass 400 at Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers.” Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

A Window into the Past

Stained glass window

Stained Glass Window in honor of Ralph Isham

If you’ve visited the Spalding Reading room on the second floor post 1989, you’ve seen the beautiful stained-glass window on the north wall. The window was given by family members of Ralph Isham, namesake of the Isham Memorial Library, who, in 1932, donated an Aeolian Skinner organ and in 1934, the funds to purchase music for the instrument.

Spalding Room

Spalding Room, Loeb Music Library


The room in which it is housed is named after Walter R. Spalding, John Knowles Paine Chair of the Music Department from 1906-1932. Before making its way to the Spalding Room, the window was held in the Vermont home of lawyer and politician Edward Isham, Ralph’s cousin. The window is an impressive 8 feet tall and likely dates from the 1880s. It features a large, white swan, also prominent in the Isham family crest.

Swan in stained glass

White Swan

A dedication of the window occurred during “Music Librarianship in America” symposium held at Harvard on October 7th, 1989. For more history about the Loeb Music Library, visit the history page of our website.

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