Tag: jazz (page 1 of 5)

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.

Bibliography

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.

Eubie Blake 130

The Loeb Music Library holds several artifacts relating to the American pianist and composer Eubie Blake, born February 7th, 1887 in Baltimore.

In this portrait of Blake as a child, he poses on the steps of a  Baltimore home with his friend Howard “Hop” Jones and a dog. The original photograph, by an unidentified artist,  is thought to have been made in approximately 1899. The Music Library’s gelatin silver print reproduction dates from the 1970s.

Reproduction of photographic portrait of musician Eubie Blake and childhood friend Howard "Hop" Johns, 1899.

Howard “Hop” Johns and Eubie Blake, Merritt Room

We have three unusual dyeline reproductions of Blake’s manuscript scores: a ragtime piece for piano entitled Baltimore Todolo, as well as two songs from Chocolate Dandies, Blake’s moderately successful 1924 production with lyricist Noble Sissles (an earlier Sissles and Blake enterprise, Shuffle Along, was a hit and launched the careers of many significant black performers, including Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker).

Our copy of Baltimore Todolo is inscribed by the composer: “Not so easy to play, but if you practice you’ll like it, E.B.”

Dyeline manuscript copy of Eubie Blake's The Baltimore todolo.

Mus 630.133.405, Merritt Room

And Thinking of You, from Chocolate Dandies, is also inscribed: “Compliments of Eubie Blake to Mrs. Peggie Smith.”

Dyeline manuscript copy of Eubie Blake's Thinking of you.

Mus 630.133.606, Merritt Room

Smith and her husband, William, were fans who became devoted correspondents of Blake’s. Blake’s letters to the Smiths, along with Blake memorabilia the couple collected such as newspaper clippings and concert programs, make up the small and unique collection Eubie Blake Papers. Some letters from Blake’s lifelong collaborator, Shuffle Along leading man Ivan Harold Browning, are also found in this collection, as are first-edition scores, but mainly the papers are a warm and newsy correspondence between Blake and these fortunate fans.

Letter from Eubie Blake to William B. and Peggy Smith, dated 18 January 1970, postmarked Brooklyn, New York.

Ms. Coll. 105, Merritt Room

Song from Eubie Blake's Shuffle along, 1921.

Ms. Coll. 105, Merritt Room

One last extraordinary Eubie Blake item in our library is this one-page note to the composer and arranger William Grant Still.

Letter from Eubie Blake to William Grant Still, written 9 February 1959, Brooklyn, New York.

ML 410.B6247 A4 1959, Merritt Room

Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, simply click View Onsite in the HOLLIS record and follow the prompts to tell us you’d like to come, and what time suits you. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.

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