Jazz Exhibit at Smithsonian Institution in D.C.

One of our readers, dcfan, volunteers at the Smithsonian and alerted us to an exhibit that will be open through June 28, 2009. Housed in the Albert H. Small Documents Galllery, 2nd Floor East, in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibit features Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Here is what the Smithsonian says about the exhibit:

Two of the greatest jazz composers were Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967). The exhibition examines two of their most ubiquitous pieces, “Caravan” (1936) composed by Ellington and Juan Tizol and “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941) composed by Strayhorn, through documents from the Museum’s Archives Center and related audio and video recordings. The exhibition draws from the Museum’s large and internationally renowned Ellington collection…

The Ellington collection features photographs, sound recordings and oral histories. “The Smith” also has an interesting collection of musical instruments ranging from a 1700’s Harpsichord to one of Dizzy’s custom  “Silver-flair” trumpets. Take my advice, folks, when you visit our nation’s capital, allow a couple of days for “The Smith.” The exhibits and collections are wide-ranging, informative and , in some cases, quite surprising.

Can’t make the trip? Check out the web presentation at:  Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn – Jazz Composers

Thanks dcfan, for the heads-up!

Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn

Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn

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Great TV bio on Les Paul

Les Paul at The Iridium in New York City

Les Paul at The Iridium in New York City

PBS’ American Masters series has recently been showing a terrific retrospective on the life and career of the incomparable Les Paul. If you have not seen this program, look for it in your schedule and make time to watch, TIVO it, whatever you have to do. Les is the true “Godfather” of Rock ‘n Roll and, in fact, all of the modern recording industry. He is the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, over-dubbing, multi-tracking and hundreds of other innovations in sound recording. He holds nearly fifty patents, last I heard, and the modern recording studio, with its multi-tracking sound board would not exist without his creativity and curiosity about music and sound.

On the program, you will see the original eight-track recording unit that Les built in his garage workshop and learn how he came up with many crucial inventions. But, most of all, you will hear some terrific music. There is film from the great days of Les Paul & Mary Ford, when they were dominating the pop charts. You will see him in duets with a host of contemporary musical icons, all of them worshiping this unique genius.

Amazingly, now in his 90’s, Les is still playing Monday night gigs at The Iridium in New York City and jamming at each performance with the likes of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, & Mark Knopfler who come up out of the audience to play with the best of them all, Les Paul.

Check out Les’s official website, here:  Official Les Paul website

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Bookmark this excellent database on Big Bands & Swing

Whether you are looking for song lyrics, hit parade lists, information on composers & performers or a list of currently woking bands, this huge, well-organized database is the place to start. Simply formatted, this compendium is easy to use and rich in fascinating information for any music lover. Go to Big Band Database [site now dead] and see what I mean.

**Update as of May 2013**

Unfortunately, Murray Pfeffer, the original builder and keeper of the database, passed away in 2008 and the link no longer connects to the database.

The best alternative I have been able to find, so far, is The Big Band Library, operated by music librarian Christopher Popa. Here is what Chris has to say about his effort:

Big Band Library is a website dedicated to and focused on the legendary big band leaders who made timeless music that continues to appeal to many people, including myself.
I am solely responsible for the creation and content of this website, and strive to write clearly, with accuracy, and cite my sources.  There is much good information here.  Copyright and all rights reserved.

Follow the link and enjoy the wealth of information and good memories shared here.

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