J is for Jazz

Located at 58 W 129th Street between Malcolm X and 5th Ave.
Museum Website:  https://jmih.org/

The National Jazz Museum In Harlem

The National Jazz Museum In Harlem is a center for jazz that reaches out to diverse audiences to enjoy this most quintessential American music. The museum aims to preserve, promote and present jazz by inspiring knowledge, appreciation and the celebration of jazz locally. nationally and internationally. 

The Museum was founded in 1997 by Leonard Garment, senior advisor to two U.S. Presidents, an accomplished jazz saxophonist and member of Woody Herman’s band, and by former U.S. District Judge, Abraham D. Sofaer, who launched the Museum with a grant in honor of his brother-in-law Richard J. Scheuer. Jr.

The Museum opened its Harlem office in 2002 and its Visitors Center a few years later. During the following decade, the Museum created several signature public programs, including the Curious Listeners series. Other highlights included exhibitions showcasing the Museum’s growing archives, most notably its rare record collections.

In 2015, the Museum developed a range of Harlem-based education and outreach programs.

A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum is committed to keeping Jazz relevant and exciting in the lives of a broad range of audiences. 

The museum organizers see it a living, evolving museum for the people, center for jazz and a place in Harlem where visitors gather to enjoy history and music, and where artists come to play, rehearse, create or drop-in, even when no one else is there, just to be in the space that so many others have passed through.

Tenor Saxophone of Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, a 1982 Selmer Super Action 80. This tenor saxophone was the last horn that Davis played.

When I last visited in November 2022, the exhibition on display was The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure. This exhibition first took the stage at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida in 2021.

The exhibit was created as an appreciation of the unforgettable people, places, and unwavering spirit that helped invent-and continues to re-invent-the American musical art form called jazz. During a national tour, it was on view at The New Orleans Jazz Museum in New Orleans, the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, and now the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

Though small in area, the museum offers a wide array of jazz related artifacts enabling visitors to learn about a 100 years of jazz in Harlem and the contributions of jazz to American culture. These include musical instruments, posters, artist information and memorabilia.

The extensive record collections of the museum are truly a treasure trove. Chief among them is the Bill Savory Collection consisting of over 100 hours of live radio broadcasts made between 1935 and 1941 and never heard since their initial airing. It’s Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins and more, live in their prime and in high-fidelity recordings.

Other noticeable collections include the personal collections of Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis and author Ralph Ellison.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem has released a series of never-before-heard concert recordings featuring the legendary Benny Carter, joined by such giants as Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Richard Davis, Milt Hinton, Grady Tate, and many others.

The museum also has a constantly growing library of videos from interviews and concerts.

All these collections are available online at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem Collections.

The Museum offers year-round educational programs for students of all ages. And collaborates with schools, businesses, arts and other organizations to take innovative content to the community. It also offers a wide range of free online and in person programming to educate and entertain. Each year, over 100 free and highly subsidized jazz workshops are produced by the museum.

Comments (2)

  1. Molly of Molly's Canopy

    Another new museum to me — and a Smithsonian affiliate as well. I am a fan of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, so I was impressed to see his saxophone is on display at the museum. Must add this to my staycation list 🙂

    1. Ria (Post author)

      There is so much one can can listen to and enjoy, right there in the museum. Another attraction, very close by is the Poster House, another gem.



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