Monday, June 15, 2015

KC's Greatest Collection of Jazz (and It's Not in a Museum)

Think jazz artifacts in Kansas City.

At the American Jazz Museum you can gaze on Charlie Parker’s plastic saxophone, Ella Fitzgerald’s dress, the neon sign from Milton’s. You can watch snippets of the John Baker jazz film collection.

But elsewhere you can see all of the photos that once graced the walls of the Mutual Musicians Foundation. You can peruse the photo collections of Dave Dexter and The Grand Emporium – each indexed at over 100 pages with 20 photos per page. Online, this same source offers the photo collection of Buck Clayton. That one’s index is 1441 pages of 20 shots per page.

You can hear recordings from Warren Durrett’s big band, ranging from a 1954 performance at the Pla-Mor Ballroom through 1970s Kansas City Jazz Festival recordings with guests like Pat Metheny, John Park and Julie Turner.

You can examine the contracts, scores, clippings and memorabilia of Jay McShann, Claude Williams, Priscilla Bowman, Gene Ramey, Ahmad Alaadeen and Bettye Miller and Milt Abel.

And this is home to the Frank Driggs Oral History Collection, over 300 interviews recorded between 1956 and 1986 with the people who created jazz. Among those with ties to Kansas City are Buster Smith, Andy Kirk, Thamon Hayes, Myra Taylor, Herman Walder, Oliver Todd and Buddy Tate.

All of this is part of the Marr Sound Archives and the LaBudde Special Collections at the Miller Nichols Library at 51st and Rockhill Road on the campus of UMKC.

UMKC might not jump to mind when considering premiere resources in Kansas City for researching jazz. But with recordings, photos and documents cultivated over decades, these archives stand apart. To most fans in Kansas City, they’re under-appreciated and rarely recognized. To many, they’re unknown.

The online home of the Marr Sound Archive is here. The jazz portion of the LaBudde Special Collections is here. The Frank Driggs Oral History collection is based here. The music of Warren Durrett’s band can be heard here. The photos of Buck Clayton can be viewed starting here.

The photos below offer a glimpse at history - much of it integral to Kansas City as the world know us - indexed and saved.


Step in to record players you don’t find anymore

More records

Recordings are digitized in this room

  The jazz display from the lobby of the LaBudde Special Collections

One row of the library’s collection of over 800,000 items

On the top row, cases from Warren Durrett’s big band

Chuck Haddix pulls an album

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Comments are welcome. If you prefer, you can reach me directly at kcjazzlark(at)gmail(dot)com.