Hot Spots: Highlights from the Jazz Collections in the Gilmore Music Library

The Exhibition

Photograph of Louis Armstrong, from the Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers

Louis Armstrong

The trumpeter Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) was one of the most innovative and influ­ential jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Armstrong was born in New Orleans, one of the cradles of the new musical genre called jazz, and he grew up hearing the first genera­tion of jazz cornet players. The most famous of these was Joe “King” Oliver, who became Armstrong’s mentor. Armstrong was largely self-taught, but by his teens he was recognized as a musical prodigy. When Oliver left New Orleans in 1919, Armstrong immediately took up Oliver’s position in Kid Ory's band. Three years later Armstrong followed Oliver to Chi­cago to play second cornet in the elder musician's Creole Jazz Band.

In 1924 Armstrong married the pianist in Oliver’s band, Lil Hardin. Under Hardin’s influence, Armstrong came out from Oliver’s shadow and struck out on his own. He moved to New York, where he played in Fletcher Henderson’s band, and then he worked around the United States, sometimes leading his own ensemble, sometimes as the featured soloist in bands directed by others. By the 1930s Armstrong had established an international repu­tation as one of the hardest-working and most gifted musicians anywhere. His fame spread through a punishing schedule of live performances that at times reached 300 concerts per year, through recordings, across radio airwaves, in more than thirty motion pictures, and in the new medium of television.

Of Armstrong’s many contributions to jazz, perhaps the greatest was his introduction of extended improvised solos into a genre that was previously dominated by ensemble play­ing. The exemplary solo work that Armstrong recorded in the 1920s continues to influence and inspire today. One of the first artists to “swing” notes, Armstrong’s playing was charac­terized by an effortless technique that covered a range of three octaves. He was equally renowned as a jazz singer, and many of his vocal performances have become ingrained in our heritage of popular song, most notably “What a Wonderful World.”

From left to right: Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Hazel Scott, Duke Ellington, Mel Powell, from the Mel Powell Papers

Four great pianists say goodbye to Mel Powell

After a short but brilliant stint as Benny Goodman’s pianist, the young Mel Powell (1923–1998) enlisted in the Army in 1942. This remarkable photograph was taken on his last night as a civilian, when an extraordinary assemblage of his pianistic colleagues came together to see him off. Once in the military, Powell soon found himself at the keyboard again, this time in Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band. (Only a stroke of luck kept him off the plane that crashed in 1944 with Miller aboard.) After the war, Powell wrote film music for MGM in Hollywood (where he married the actress Martha Scott), and then moved to the Yale School of Music to study with Paul Hindemith. In the 1950s Powell gradually cut back on his performing career, as he increasingly focused on a classical composi­tion. From 1957 to 1969 he taught at Yale, where he also founded the electronic music stu­dio. In 1969 he joined the faculty of the California Institute for the Arts; he remained there until his death 29 years later. Powell won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Duplicates, his con­certo for two pianos. In the last four decades of his life, Powell rarely played jazz, so his occasional performances—such as an appearance (with Good­man) on the Merv Griffin Show in 1976, and a jazz cruise aboard the S/S Norway in 1986—were special events in a jazz world that vividly remembered his youthful exploits. Powell gave his papers to Yale in 1992.

Duke Ellington appears elsewhere in this exhibit, so Count Basie, Teddy Wil­son and Hazel Scott each deserve a few words here. William “Count” Basie (1904–1984) achieved greatness both as a pianist and as the leader of a series of popular big bands. Wilson (1912–1986) played in Good­man’s band from 1936 to 1939; he was one of the first black musicians allowed into an otherwise white band. The New Grove Dictionary calls Wilson “the most important pianist of the swing period.” Scott (1920–1981) was born in Trini­dad; after moving to the United States, she studied at the Juilliard School, which helped prepare her for her specialty: jazz improvisations on melodies by the likes of Liszt and Chopin. A singer as well as a pianist, Scott was married to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

Duke Ellington, The Golden Broom and the Green Apple, Misc. Ms. 404

Duke Ellington

"The Golden Broom and the Green Apple"

Autograph Manuscript

Duke Ellington (1899–1974) was best known as the director and pianist of his own swing band, but he also composed for other ensem­bles, including the New York Philhar­monic, which com­mis­sioned him to write The Golden Broom and the Green Apple. The Phil­har­monic gave the first per­formance at Lincoln Center on July 30, 1965 under Elling­ton’s direction, with John Lamb, bass, and Louis Bellson, drums. According to Ellington’s memoir, Music Is My Mistress, the piece is an allegory, in which the luxurious golden broom represents modernity and prosperity, while the humble green apple is the “symbol of our potential, our virtues, our God-made and untouched purity.”

Towards the end of his life, Ellington apparently considered leaving his papers to Yale, and a rumor to that effect unfortunately made it into print. Ultimately his son Mercer chose the Smithsonian Institution instead. Although the great majority of Ellington’s papers have been housed at the Smithsonian since 1988, many people still believe that Yale has them, as the old rumor is periodically revived by readers who encounter it anew. Just to complicate matters further, Yale does in fact own the manuscript of The Golden Broom and the Green Apple, having pur­chased it from a dealer in 1992.

Photograph of Fats Waller, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

Fats Waller

This famous photograph of Thomas Edward “Fats” Waller (1904–1943) was taken in January 1943 on the set of Stormy Weather, a 20th Century Fox musical starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Lena Horne, supported by an amazing array of musicians (including Waller, Cab Calloway, Slam Stewart, and Benny Carter) as well as dancers (such as Katherine Dunham and the Nicholas broth­ers); the famous title song was by Harold Arlen. Waller, playing himself, had ample oppor­tunity to dis­play his pianistic virtuosity and his irrepressi­ble sense of humor; the film includes both his most popular song, “Ain’t Misbe­havin’,” and his famous tag line, “One never knows, do one?”

Waller died of bronchial pneumonia in December of that same year, five months shy of his 40th birthday.

Fats Waller, "Got Religion in My Soul," autograph manuscript, Misc. Ms. 593, purchased with income from the John Herrick Jackson Fund

Fats Waller

“Got Religion in My Soul”

Autograph Manuscript

In 2011, the Gilmore Music Library acquired two manuscripts by Fats Waller: “Got Religion in My Soul” (Misc. Ms. 593) and “There’s a Little Good in Me” (Misc. Ms. 592). The former is displayed here. It is essen­tially complete, except that it lacks lyrics. The composer signed his name “Thos. Waller.” Like many songwriters, Waller saved himself the trouble of writing out repeated passages; he marked the first three measures A, B, and C, and then used those letters to signal their recurrence.

The manuscript of “There’s a Little Good in Me” is merely a sketch of the melody (the left hand staff is empty), but it is accompanied by typed lyrics, by Jay Faggen. 

Photograph of Benny Goodman, from the Benny Goodman Papers

Benny Goodman

The crown jewel in the Music Library’s special collections in jazz is the Benny Goodman Papers, which Goodman bequeathed to Yale upon his death in 1986. Goodman’s papers contain more than 1500 big band arrangements, as well as photographs, correspondence, audio and video, and a variety of other materials.

This photograph shows Goodman in the 1930s, at the height of his fame as “The King of Swing.”

Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, 1938:
Ticket stub, from the Benny Goodman Papers

Program and ticket stub from Carnegie Hall

January 16, 1938

One of the watershed moments in the history of jazz took place on January 16, 1938, when Benny Goodman and his band performed in Car­negie Hall. This was the first time that the venera­ble hall had been opened to a jazz performance. Among Goodman’s featured soloists that evening were Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Gene Krupa, and Jess Stacy. In addition, several guest soloists took part, among them Count Basie, Les­ter Young, and Johnny Hodges. Goodman himself recognized the auspi­ciousness of the concert, and he led his band and guests through an ambitious program of audience favorites and new pieces, including arrangements commis­sioned from Fletcher Henderson specifically for the concert. The $2.20 paid for this ticket is the equivalent of about $36.50 in today’s currency.

Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, 1938
Program, p. 5, from the Benny Goodman Papers

p. 7

p. 9

p. 12

Solo Clarinet part for "Restless," from the Benny Goodman Papers

Solo clarinet part for “Restless”

Arranged by Spud Murphy


Yale received the Benny Goodman Papers from Goodman’s estate, after his death. As the world center for Goodman research, we have continued to acquire additional Goodman-related materials from various sources as they become available. In 2011 the Library acquired a particularly notable collection that had formerly belonged to Goodman’s secretary, Muriel Zuckerman. It included twenty big band arrangements, as well as a facsimile score and parts (with original markings) for Béla Bartók’s Contrasts, which Goodman had commissioned. Rather than display one of the 1500 arrangements that have long been at Yale (several of which have appeared in previous exhibits), we have chosen to highlight one of the newly acquired arrangements.

Goodman used arrangements created by a number of superb musicians, including Fletcher Henderson, Eddie Sauter, Jimmy Mundy, Chico O’Farrill, Mary Lou Williams, and Mel Powell. “Restless” is the work of Lyle “Spud” Murphy (1908–2005). In addition to his work as an arranger, Murphy was a composer, band leader, and performer on numerous instruments, from saxophone to celesta. He also wrote several pedagogi­cal works for composers and arrangers, such as Lyle Murphy's System of Horizontal Composition Based on Equal Intervals.

Benny Goodman, Honorary doctorate, Yale University, from the Benny Goodman Papers

Benny Goodman

Honorary Doctorate, Yale University


Benny Goodman was a high school dropout, but his accomplishments more than made up for his lack of formal education, and he received many honorary degrees. In 1982, Yale University made him an honorary doctor of music. (James Earl Jones is perhaps the best known of the other honorands that year.)

Goodman performed at Yale with the Muir String Quartet in 1983 and with a big band in 1985. He also made occasional guest appearances in Keith Wilson’s clarinet class at the School of Music. On June 10, 1986, Goodman visited the Music Library (then located in Sprague Hall), and had lunch at Mory's with head librarian Harold "Sam" Samuel. You might think that Goodman would have little in common with an Ivy League librarian who had written a dissertation entitled The Cantata in Nuremberg during the Seventeenth Century, but the two men hit it off. As a young man, Sam, a trombonist, had directed his own big band; it was called "Swing and Sway the Sammy Way." Sam had hoped to negotiate the gift of Goodman's papers, but later reported that much of the conversation concerned their shared love of fishing. Just three days after his visit, Goodman suffered a fatal heart attack in New York. He had already written a will leaving his papers to Yale

Photograph of Glenn Miller, from the Benny Goodman Papers

Glenn Miller

In the early 1940s, trombonist Glenn Miller led a wildly popular swing band, but in late 1942 he dissolved this ensemble and joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he soon formed a new band designed to entertain the troops. (At that time, the Air Force was still part of the Army, and had not become a sepa­rate branch of the military.) For more than a year Captain Miller’s Army Air Force band was based at a military training center at Yale Univer­sity. It reached a large audience through a popular radio show, I Sustain the Wings. After the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, Miller and the band moved to England. On Decem­ber 15 of that year, he boarded a flight from London to Paris in bad weather, but he failed to arrive at his destination; the plane was never found. Miller was 40 years old at the time of his death.

Six decades later, Miller’s Yale connection lives on. On several occasions beginning in 1994, the Yale Concert Band has re-enacted concerts and radio broadcasts from Miller’s Yale period, with director Tom Duffy playing Miller’s role.

The photograph displayed here was taken by Charles Peterson, during one of Miller’s many per­formances at Meadowbrook Ballroom, in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

"Sliphorn Jive,” Misc. Ms. 556, purchased with income from the Harold Samuel and H. Leroy Baumgartner funds


"Sliphorn Jive”

Arranged by Eddie Durham

Copyist’s manuscript,
with corrections by Glenn Miller

Like Benny Goodman and most other successful band leaders, Glenn Miller employed a number of arrangers. Eddie Durham (1906–1987) was one of the most talented and versatile. Like Miller, Durham was a trombonist; he also directed several bands (including the International Sweethearts of Rhythm) and played the guitar. This manuscript of Durham’s arrangement of “Sliphorn Jive” was produced by an unidentified copyist. The corrections in red are believed to be in Miller’s own hand.

The Library acquired the manuscript in 2009.

Artie Shaw, Composition book, Misc. Ms. 577, purchased with income from the Horowitz Fund

Artie Shaw

Composition book

Manuscript, 1947

A native of New Haven, Artie Shaw (born Arthur Arshawsky in 1910) ranks among the leading clarinetists and band leaders of the swing era. (He was an arch-rival of Benny Goodman, the focus of much of our exhibit.) Shaw was admired for his instrumental virtuosity, his collaborations with the likes of Billie Holiday and Buddy Rich, and the creatively unconventional instrumentation of some of his bands. He was also famous for his colorful personal life, which included no fewer than eight marriages. Lana Turner, Jerome Kern’s daughter, and Ava Gardner were his third, fourth, and fifth wives, respectively. Shaw retired from clarinet playing in 1954, when he was only 44, although he continued to work sporadically as a band leader during his remaining fifty years.

Shaw's musical talents were not limited to performing; he was also a talented composer and arranger. The notebook seen here contains plans for numerous pieces. Seven of them—six apparently for piano, and one for clarinet and piano—are reasonably complete, while several others represent only brief musical ideas. Some are crossed out. Shaw did not indicate the titles, except for a two-measure sketch entitled “Sad Sack: intro. flourish.” (He had already recorded “Sad Sack”—apparently inspired by the wartime comic strip of the same name—in 1945.) Each of the complete piano pieces bears the date and place of composition; all were composed between September 5 and 23, 1947, the first in Norwalk, Connecticut, and the remainder in San Francisco. 

Photograph of Sarah Vaughan, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan (1924–1990) grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where her first musical experiences came as singer and organist of that city’s Mount Zion Baptist Church. Like her slightly older contemporary, Ella Fitzgerald, Vaughan’s road to success began with winning an ama­teur contest at the Apollo Theater. Through recordings and live performances, Vaughan became famous for her interpretations of slow, sultry ballads. Her rich mezzo-soprano register, subtle inflections, and glamorous persona—she was nick­named “The Divine One”—made her a particular favorite of tele­vision audiences after 1950. Her popular success, however, did not detract from her formidable jazz credentials, in particular her performances with the generation of bop musicians that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Photograph of Dizzy Gillespie, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

Dizzy Gillespie

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (1917-1993), one of the founding fathers of Bop, lived through a succession of musical eras, and was considered an elder statesman of the jazz world by the time of his death; he outlived his younger colleague Charlie Parker by 38 years. Gillespie helped transform the new jazz by infusing it with Cuban rhythms. He was renowned for his idiosyncratic humor and his flamboyant appearance as well as for his breathtaking virtuosity, and this photograph, taken by American Airlines in 1967, shows two of his best known visual characteristics: the cheeks that expanded like a chipmunk’s when he performed, and the special trumpet he began playing in 1954, with its unique upward-pointing bell.

Photograph of Charlie Parker, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

Charlie Parker

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920–1955) was a pioneer of Bop, and ranks among the most creative and influential of all jazz musicians. This photograph was taken on February 19, 1947, just a few weeks after he emerged from six months in Cama­rillo State Hospital in California, where he was recovering from his her­oin addiction and other problems. Temporarily sober, Parker was in top form as he recorded Cool Blues on the Dial record label at the C.P. MacGregor Studios in Hollywood. His collaborators included singer Earl Coleman, Erroll Garner at the piano, Red Callen­der on bass, and drummer Doc West. In April of that year Parker moved to New York, where he achieved popular and critical success with a new quintet that included Miles Davis and Max Roach. Despite his unquestioned genius, Parker was never able to over­come his prob­lems, and he died in 1955, when he was only 34 years old.

Photograph of John Coltrane, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

John Coltrane

John Coltrane (1926–1967) was the most admired saxophonist of his era, a crea­tive pioneer who managed the rare feat of achieving mass popularity with an avant-garde style. In the 1950s Coltrane played with Johnny Hodges, Miles Davis, Theloni­ous Monk, and others, before establishing his own quartet in 1960 with pianist McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison playing bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. After sev­eral years with this personnel, the group underwent many changes in Coltrane’s final years; among the new musicians was his second wife, the pianist Alice Coltrane.

This photograph is a publicity shot for Impulse Records, Coltrane’s record com­pany from 1961 until his death in 1967. Like Fats Waller, Glenn Miller, Char­lie Parker, and a number of other jazz musicians, Coltrane died tragically young; he was only 40 when he succumbed to liver disease. His legacy lives on: in his recordings, in the many musi­cians he influenced, and even in the St. John Coltrane Church in San Fran­cisco (founded in 1971 as the One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ), whose mem­bers discern the presence of God in Col­trane’s music.

Photograph of Dave Brubeck, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers

Dave Brubeck

In May 1967, Dave Brubeck (1920–2012) and his quartet (which also included Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright playing bass, and drummer Joe Morello) traveled to Mexico to play in the Festival de Puebla. Performances from this trip gave rise to three live albums: one by the Quartet alone, another with the Thelonious Monk Trio, and a third with Salvador Agüeros (congas) and Benjamin Correa (guitar). The last of these albums focused on Mexican tunes, such as “Cielito Lindo,” “Bésame Mucho,” and “Estrellita.” Traditional Mex­ican music was the theme even at the airport, as seen in this amusing photograph (from American Airlines).

Brubeck’s famous quartet split up later that year, but by 1968 he had formed a new quartet featuring saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and he returned to Mexico in 1968 with that ensemble.

Brubeck continued performing into his nineties. He died in Norwalk, Connecticut on December 5, 2012. His papers are located at the Univer­sity of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Recording Industry Association of America, Commemorative Award for Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, from the Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers

Commemorative Award for Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue

Recording Industry Association of America

Presented to the estate of Fred Plaut

Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue (1959) is one of the most celebrated albums in the history of jazz. Instead of improvising on the chord progressions of familiar songs, Davis (1926–1991) and his colleagues based their music on modes—that is, scale patterns with their whole steps and half steps placed differently from the usual major and minor keys. (The modes derive their names, such as Phrygian and Mixolydian, from ancient Greek music theory, and they are also an important part of the theory and practice of Medieval and Renaissance music. Despite the persistence of the Greek names, the modes have taken on very different meanings and functions in different eras.) Kind of Blue featured an all-star sextet consisting of Davis (trumpet), Bill Evans (piano), Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane (saxophones), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums).

Kind of Blue achieved both critical and popular success; indeed, it is believed to be the best-selling jazz album ever. When sales reached three million, each of the participants received a commemorative award. A 1997 CD reissue sold more than a million copies, and also led to the creation of an award. The Gilmore Music Library has both of these awards because it is home to the papers of Fred Plaut (1907–1985), the recording engineer on Kind of Blue. For this exhibit, we have selected the award honoring the 1997 CD, because the one for the original 1959 LP measures 39 by 31 inches, and thus would be an uncomfortable fit in our display cases.

Fred Plaut was not just a recording engineer. He was also a brilliant and prolific photographer. Plaut’s papers contain more than 35,000 photographs, most of them from recording sessions at Columbia Records in the 1950s and ’60s. Plaut’s papers also include many photos of Miles Davis and his collaborators working on Kind of Blue. Plaut even shot a scrap of paper on Davis’s music stand, a document that has helped scholars elucidate the modal basis of the music. The Louis Armstrong photo in our exhibit is also Plaut’s work.

Willie Ruff: A Call to Assembly: The Autobiography of a Musical Storyteller

Willie Ruff

A Call to Assembly:
The Autobiography of a Musical Storyteller

(New York: Viking, 1991)

Of all the jazz musicians who have featured in the history of Yale, surely the most important is the horn and bass player Willie Ruff. Born in Alabama in 1931, Ruff joined the Army at the age of fourteen, and received valuable musical training there. It was also in the Army that he met the brilliant pianist Dwike Mitchell (1930–2013), who would become his most important musical collaborator. Following his discharge, Ruff attended Yale, where he studied with Keith Wilson and Paul Hindemith and played in the New Haven Symphony. He received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1953, and his Master’s in 1954. He went on to perform with Lionel Hampton and a host of other leading jazz musicians, but he is best known as half of the Mitchell-Ruff Duo, which won acclaim throughout the United States and around the world. Among their many concert tours, two of the most notable were their path-breaking trips to the Soviet Union in 1959 and to China in 1981.  

Ruff had family ties in New Haven, and it has remained his base of operations. In the 1960s he owned a New Haven night club. In 1971 he joined the faculty of the Yale School of Music, and established the Ellington Fellowship, which has brought numerous leading jazz musicians to the campus. More than forty years later, he remains one of Yale’s most beloved professors. Ruff is known for his broad interests, ranging from the “music of the spheres” as conceived by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, to “line singing,” a technique used by a geographically and racially diverse array of church congregations.  He is also a world-class storyteller, a gift much in evidence in the memoir displayed here, A Call to Assembly.