Jazz Expose: The New York Jazz Museum and the Power Struggle That Destroyed It by howard fischer - Read Online
Jazz Expose
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Summary

Have you ever heard of the New York Jazz Museum? Most people have not.
Yet between 1972 and 1977 it was the most significant institution for
jazz in the world! This book looks back to present the story of a Lost Museum.
It was situated in its own two-story building in mid-town Manhattan and had a small staff, an archive that eventually numbered about 25,000
items and extensive programs in New York City and beyond. Some of the programs won awards and most of them were received with widespread
acclaim in the media and from jazz fans.
There were the Calvert Extra Sunday Concerts - 40 per year, the Jazz Puppet Show, the Jazz Film Festivals, the Jazz Panorama - an audio visual history of jazz, The Jazz Store, Information Center, the exhibits - Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Bird & Diz: The Bebop Era, Count Basie and His Bands, Billie Holiday Remembered, About John Coltrane and the Jazz Trumpet. Posters and booklets were produced in conjunction with the exhibits and there was so much more.
An extended power struggle ensued that eventually caused the Museum's demise. Entangled in the fatal conflagration was the "Jazz Fraternity," which included the most prominent names in jazz - musicians, producers, writers, artists, et al.
This book tells the whole story for the first time. It was written by Howard E. Fischer, founder of the Museum and itsExecutive Director.

Highlights
Why you never heard of the New York Jazz Museum.
How the Ford Foundation saved the New York Jazz Museum
What the New York Times said about the New York Jazz Museum.
How the Today Show helped promote the Museum.
How an idea from a former Duke Ellington bassist grew into a unique jazz program for children.
How NY State supported the establishment of the Museum.
What happened to the Museum’s 25,000-item archive.
A day at the New York Jazz Museum with Bill Cosby.
What Charles Mingus asked the author to do.
What The White House said about our organization.
Why famous graphic designer Milton Glaser’s poster donation was rejected by the Museum and how he reacted to it.
How Benny Goodman and his estate got entangled in the Museum’s legal machinations.
What local and national awards were won by the Museum.
The Museum’s re-creation of an important event in the history of jazz in New York City.
The Museum and the Young President’s Organization – a lost opportunity.
How Columbia University supported the Museum.
How a “kidnapping” saved the Museum.
How we purchased a midtown Manhattan building for $5,000 cash!
Artie Shaw’s role in the New York Jazz Museum saga.
The legal machinations that went on for more than 10 years!
The New York Attorney General’s role in the Museum’s history.
The Betrayal.
How the New York Public Library ended the legal wrangling.
The dramatic scene that precipitated the demise of the Museum.
Which Museum exhibit did Junior League of the City of NY fund?
How federal government supported Museum’s educational activities.
Why Mick Jagger was turned away from the Museum.

Published: howard fischer on
ISBN: 9781932203875
List price: $9.99
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Page 1 of 1

Introduction

In New York City, it’s pretty foolhardy

for anyone to claim that he has done

anything for the first time.

Yet an attorney named Howard Fischer

and a writer-photographer named

Jack Bradley are able to boast that

they have set up the first jazz

museum the Big Apple has ever had.

Aside from the traditional jazz museum

in New Orleans, in fact, it’s the

only such jazz showcase in the nation.

(Newsday, June 18. 1972)

I have loved jazz from the time my father played that Louis Armstrong 78-rpm record on our Victrola inside the round console we had in the living room of our apartment in the Bronx. I was about 7 or 8 years old at that time in the 1940s. My father had compiled a nice collection of 78-rpm records after his brothers and sisters had introduced him to jazz at an early age. I vividly remember my father twirling my mother around the living room doing the Lindy Hop. It gave me great pleasure to watch them laughing and enjoying themselves.

Our family listened to big bands such as Jimmie Lunsford’s. His was one of the most popular bands until World War II when most big bands went into a decline. It was a sophisticated band with excellent soloists and arrangers. My favorite tune of his was I Want the Water on the Vocalion label.

Then there was Benny Goodman’s Jersey Bounce on the Okeh Records label, Coleman Hawkins’ classic rendition of Body and Soul on the Bluebird label, and Chick Webb’s Who Ya Hunchin’ on the Decca label. Webb was a hunchback himself, yet he led one of the great Swing Era big bands. He was a propulsive drummer who was able to overcome his handicap and reign as the King of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. This was the legendary Home of Happy Feet where a thousand dancers came to do the Lindy Hop while listening to the big bands battle. Webb’s band invariably cut(out-performed) all the others. He brought Ella Fitzgerald to the band for her first professional appearances, leading to her future fame. Webb died at the age of 39.

My parents had loved this music from their early dating years when they entered dance contests at the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and the Hunts Point Palace in the Bronx. Jazz was America’s popular music in the 1920s and 1930s and youngsters danced to this music unlike today when fans mostly listen to jazz.

My father loved Louis Armstrong and we had more records by him than anyone else. The first record he ever bought and his favorite song was Louis’ version of Sunny Side of the Street. My father even learned to sing it and often convinced bandleaders at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs to let him sing it with the band to their captive audience. He did a decent job too. Also, he was fortunate to have a co-worker with a primitive recording set-up who made a record of my father singing this song. We still listen to it.

Other tunes that moved me were Count Basie’s One O’clock Jump on Victor Records and Jumpin’ at the Woodside on the Decca label. I loved Lester Young, Basie’s tenor saxophonist, as his music seemed to fill the room and made you feel good. His counterpart in the Basie band was tenor saxophonist Herschel Evans, who had a more muscular style. I got chills down my spine listening to him on Doggin’ Around and Blue and Sentimental. Jo Jones, long-time Basie drummer, said of Herschel, I never knew a musician who could lift a band like Herschel Evans. You could feel it on the bandstand, the guys would be floating, like we were being levitated or something...the greatest jazz musician I ever played with in my life. (From Super Chief LP notes.) Evans died in 1939 at the age of 30.

We also listened to Glenn Miller’s In the Mood, Erskine Hawkins’ Tuxedo Junction and Lionel Hampton’s Flying Home. This was happy music that will remain inside me forever.

My father began collecting 78-rpm records – small group jazz, big bands, and vocals. There were cardboard albums to hold these highly breakable, shellac records. Eventually he built his collection to number a few hundred, which he neatly cataloged.

For many years our family listened to the radio program of disk jockey William B. Williams on WNEW radio in New York City. Williams was knowledgeable, interesting, and played a mixture of jazz and pop. I loved to hear Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Our radio was constantly tuned to this station when we weren’t listening to my father’s records.

In the 1940s my father also took me to Broadway theaters with live stage shows that accompanied the movies. I saw some of the great big bands at the Paramount and Loew’s State theaters.

During my teen years sports were my main interests. I played on the basketball and baseball teams in high school and college and on New York City sandlots. I yearned to be a professional baseball player. This activity honed my competitive instincts and helped build my confidence and self-esteem. I graduated with a degree in accounting and later realized how this knowledge contributed to my success. I went on to law school, preparing myself to become a corporate mogul. However, the love for jazz always stayed with me.

In my late teens and twenties I periodically attended jazz concerts and jazz clubs, but I had no idea that one day jazz would become the most important part of my life.

Jazz has been described as America’s great contribution to world culture or the only truly American art form. But jazz has killed many of its young Americans, from within and without. It sprang from spirituals and gospel music, mostly from blacks during slavery. It was developed in New Orleans in brothels and small clubs and was looked down upon as sinful. The establishment derided it just as it did rock and roll in the 1950s.

Many great jazz artists, mostly black, lived relatively short and troubled lives. Some died from alcohol or drugs, others from poor medical care and the racism that was most prevalent in the early and mid-20th century. Since acceptance as artists and human beings was not forthcoming, frustration and escapism became the lifestyle of many. The itinerant lifestyle of constant travel to find work also contributed to their plight.

In the latter part of the century when more work became available the music grew in popularity and managers and agents came into the picture. Most of them were white men and many took financial advantage of many blacks who were uneducated in business and legal affairs. Even those who made decent money did not know how to care for it and retain it.

I felt that it was about time for America to permanently recognize the great contributions of all jazz artists to our culture and that recognition was to take the form of a museum.

From 1972 to 1977 the New York Jazz Museum was the most significant institution for jazz in the world! And hardly anyone now knows about all that it accomplished or even that it existed. Have you ever heard of it or do you know anyone who has? Can you find information about it in books or on the worldwide web? My web research turned up almost nothing, except for a few mentions on my web site www.musiccollecting.com.

At that time there was only a museum of jazz in New Orleans that specialized in New Orleans style jazz. It was mostly a research organization.

Recently I came across the Encyclopedia of New York City. It had a jazz section, but no mention of the New York Jazz Museum. I emailed the author of that section, Barry Kernfeld. That publication describes him as an independent scholar and "the editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1988) and The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz (1991), and a contributor to The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986). He emailed me as follows: I never heard of it, nor did any of my New York-based advisors ever mention it when we were putting together the New York entries for the Libraries and archives catalogue of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz." He also said there would not be any mention in the 2001 edition as it had already gone to press! Furthermore, he said that he did not expect any more editions to be published.

Also, a recent voluminous television documentary on jazz by Ken Burns makes no mention of the New York Jazz Museum. Even the prestigious Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University has only copies of the Museum’s newsletter, Hot Notes and some photographic blow-ups from Museum exhibits.

Now, in 2002, it was announced that there would be a National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Congress had provided, in December 2000, one million dollars for development of the Museum. An executive director, Loren Schoenberg, was hired and many politicians were on board. Schoenberg was a teenager when he came to volunteer at the New York Jazz Museum in 1974 when we were preparing the Benny Goodman Exhibit. In an article in October 2002, discussing his new venture, he says No one remembers about this, but there was a New York Jazz Museum from 1972 to the late 1970s.... Most people have forgotten about that Museum. The article was written by Robert John Brown and published by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on its web site.

They are now saying Harlem is in the midst of a new renaissance of culture, commerce and tourism...and right now there is a large tourist trade in Harlem. Things are changing in Harlem. (Schoenberg article). So by the time this is published that museum might be open.

Also, At the time I am writing this the Lincoln Center jazz performance facility is nearing completion at Columbus Circle in New York City. It will also contain the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame.

The story of the New York Jazz Museum, its history, accomplishments, contributions to the cultural life of New York City, the nation and the world, together with its somewhat sordid infighting will be detailed in these pages. It is important that the Museum not be forgotten like so many talented jazz artists.

Chapter 1

The Genesis of the

New York Hot Jazz Society

Responsible for this nirvana of

jazz buffs is the five-year-old

New York Hot Jazz Society . . . The

Operating core of the society

and the museum are theatrical

lawyer Howard Fischer and Jack

Bradley,indefatigable jazz hist-

orian, photographer and omnivorous

collector of all things pertain-

ing to jazz.

(Playboy, September, 1972)

Despite my early love for jazz, I never considered making jazz part of my career plans. Instead, my adult life took a different track. I studied to become a lawyer. After I passed the bar exam, I worked as a lawyer for a finance company for a few months and then a law firm for a little more than a year before I set up my own law practice. It was quite a struggle. Nobody told me how to get clients. While trying to figure it out, on March 9, 1967, I answered a classified advertisement in New York City’s Village Voice newspaper, placed by a man who wanted to start a jazz society. My interest was immediately aroused: I thought that this might be a good way to meet people and possibly get some clients for my law practice while at the same time expanding my interest in jazz.

The simple act of calling and meeting with Frank Bristol would change the entire direction of my life. Frank Bristol was a pleasant, middle-aged man who worked for a printing company. He was a jazz fan and saw a need to meet other jazz fans. We discussed our mutual jazz interests, our ideas and innocently decided to try to organize a group of jazz lovers in order to arrange various jazz related activities.

At that time in New York City there was very little live jazz activity. The city was in an economic slide that eventually led to a threat of bankruptcy in the 1970s. The Times Square area was a crime-and drug-ridden, red light district. Urban blight predominated in the East Village and Harlem. Many buildings there were merely shells. However, there were a few jazz clubs operating in Manhattan. Arthur’s Tavern on Grove Street in Greenwich Village may have been the oldest. They featured Dixieland or New Orleans or traditional jazz.

Another popular and long-running jazz club was the Half Note at Hudson and Spring Streets near the Holland Tunnel in lower Manhattan. It featured many of the current and older jazz artists such as Zoot Sims, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, James Moody, Anita O’Day, Lee Konitz and Jimmy Rushing. In the early 1970s it moved to West 54th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues next door to Jimmy Ryan’s, another venerable jazz club featuring traditional jazz. Some of the hotels in the midtown area also featured jazz. The Plaza Hotel on Central Park South and the St. Regis Hotel on 53rd Street off 5th Avenue were popular jazz spots for tourists.

We knew that many of the great jazz musicians still lived in the area so we decided to arrange some live concerts. However, to test the waters we decided to organize a rare record listening session and some other unique, but less costly events. Frank and I made plans to find out what resources we had to draw upon – names and addresses of musicians, record stores with jazz specialties, radio programs featuring jazz, magazines and other jazz societies and individuals interested in our project. It was to be strictly an avocation. Neither of us had ever done anything like it before. But it would be fun and would not cost us very much.

Unfortunately, after a few more lunches, new ideas, information and resources, my new friend took ill. Frank’s condition worsened and he passed away a short time later. It was very disheartening, but I decided to continue alone.

I picked September 29, 1967 as the date for a Rare Record Listening Session. Prior to that date I had gone to the Jazz Record Center on West 47th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway to see if I could hold the event there. This was a record store specializing in jazz. The owner agreed and said he would help me promote the event by using his mailing list to attract an audience. He was willing to provide the space free because the jazz fans attending would probably buy some records from his store. Also, the publicity we would garner would also help his business. He suggested that I contact Jack Bradley, a jazz fan and collector, who could help me.

Jack was a laconic, slow-speaking, burly, mustachioed man in his 30s. He had grown up in Massachusetts and was a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy. He had amassed a huge collection of jazz materials with a dominant focus on his hero, Louis Armstrong. He had mostly records and photographs of Armstrong, many of which he had taken over the years at clubs, concerts and parties. Also, Jack had even become friendly with Louis and his wife Lucille. It has been written that Louis Armstrong once described