“Jazz Singers” exhibition at the Library of Congress, Feb. 11-July 23, 2016

By Matt Micucci


Jazz Singers, an exhibition opening next month at the Library of Congress, will offer perspectives on the art of vocal jazz, featuring singers and song stylists from the 1920s to the present day.


The exhibition opens on February 11 and will conclude on July 23, 2016. It will be held in the Performing Arts Reading Room Foyer on the first level of the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C., free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.


Jazz Singers will reveal the sometimes exuberant, sometimes painful but always vibrant art and life of jazz singers through rare video clips, photographic portraits, candid snapshots, musical scores, personal notes, correspondence and drawings and paintings. The materials included in the exhibition are mainly drawn from the Library of Congress Music Division which, with more than 21 million items, holds the largest music collection in the world. Additional items are from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division and American Folklife Center.


The exhibition features the work of William P. Gottlieb, the American photographer and newspaper columnist best-known for his classic photographs of the leading performers of the “Golden Age” of American jazz from the 1930s and the ’40s. It will also include papers of many celebrated jazz artists, including Max Roach, Chet Baker and Shirley Horn.


Exhibition highlights include a letter from Jelly Roll Morton to Alan Lomax; a Chet Baker suicide note; a rarely seen Romare Bearden sketch; a handwritten letter from Mary Lou Williams to Carmen McRae suggesting songs she might like to record; a holograph score by Gil Evans written for Helen Merrill; and film and television clips with Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Rushing, Luciana Souza and others.


For those unable to attend the exhibition in person, there will be an online version available on the opening date at loc.gov/exhibits.

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