Welcome to the first installment of Music Mondays, when I feature people and places relating to music history. Today I introduce you to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
To learn a little about the museum and the history of jazz, I interviewed Marissa Baum, the museum’s Director of Development and Communication:
Melissa, what does your job entail?
I am the Director of Development and Communications, so my job includes everything from managing press releases and PR, social media, graphic design and ads, to web development, memberships and major gifts, annual fund campaigns, grant writing, and more!
What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the museum?
I think sometimes jazz feels a bit inaccessible, in that there's something you're supposed to "get" and if you don't, you can't appreciate it. But there is such a beauty in the history of jazz and how it developed (and continues to develop!) as an American art form, that anyone can enjoy and appreciate it.
What is the most popular item on exhibit?
Easily the most popular item on exhibit is Charlie Parker's plastic Grafton alto saxophone. Played in the famous Jazz at Massey Hall concert in Toronto, Canada, this saxophone was a part of a monumental moment in jazz history: It was the last time that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach played together as a quintet. And while some of these musicians had recorded with one another in small combos, Jazz at Massey Hall was the very first time that all five musicians recorded together. The performance took place only two years before Parker's death and is regarded by many as one of the final great performances of his career.
What is YOUR favorite item on exhibit?
Personally, I adore a film from our John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection called Pie, Pie Blackbird. It's a 1932 Vitaphone pre-Code short comedy film released by Warner Brothers on June 4, 1932, starring African American musicians Nina Mae McKinney, the Nicholas Brothers, Eubie Blake, and Noble Sissle. Pie, Pie Blackbird is the Nicholas Brothers’ first film and Fayard (Nicholas) was 18 and Harold (Nicholas) was 11 at the time of release. Their acrobatic infused tap dancing is just awe inspiring, and their talent is unparalleled.
The American Jazz Museum is located at 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108. For more information, visit the museum’s website at https://americanjazzmuseum.org.