Category: Isham Memorial Library (page 2 of 13)

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.

Elberfeld, Munich, Northampton

The Loeb Music Library is pleased to announce that The Werner Josten collection, 1917-1971 is now described online and available to use.

Born in Elberfeld, Germany in 1885, Werner Josten was educated in Munich, then in Switzerland and France. A 1917 concert programme shows that he returned home at least periodically as a young man, and this print of Elberfeld as seen from afar was among his belongings, both suggesting that he harbored good feelings toward his hometown after leaving it for larger cities and, eventually, America.

Concert program from a 1917 performance of Werner Josten's music in his hometown, Elberfeld

Merritt Room Ms. Coll. 173, Box 1

A print depicting the German town of Elberfeld, as seen from afar.

Merritt Room Ms. Coll. 173, Box 1

He toured the United States in 1920 and decided, while here, to emigrate. He became a professor at Smith College (whose Josten Performing Arts Library is named for him), conducting productions of the American premières of several Monteverdi operas, including, in 1969, L’Orfeo. Josten’s work was championed by Leopold Stokowski and by Serge Koussevitzky.

Manuscript score of a song entitled Abschied. Signed Werner Josten, 1920.

Merritt Room Ms. Coll. 173, Box 4

The collection consists chiefly of songs in both manuscript and print versions but there are also many manuscript transcriptions of works by other composers.

Werner Josten's arrangement of a piece by Lully and Rameau

Merritt Room Ms. Coll. 173, Box 5

All were the gift to this library of his late son-in-law, Charles Lowe ’42.

These and other special collections items are found in the Isham Memorial Library, which is located on the second floor of the Loeb Music Library. For directions to Isham as well as hours and contact information, please visit its website.

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