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Jazz Resources in the Music & Recorded Sound Division...and Beyond: Archival collections

Circulating, non-circulating, and online resources related to jazz. Created by Jessica Wood, Assistant Curator of Music & Recorded Sound

Manuscript collections

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(Above) Jimmie Lunceford and his orchestra at the Cotton Club, 1934. From the Sy Oliver Papers. Available in Digital Collections.

The Music & Recorded Sound Division holds numerous archival collections that document the careers of jazz musicians, as well as the inner workings of the jazz music industry, the nightclub circuit, and the craft of improvisation. We also have several notable collections of jazz arrangements, such as of Benny Goodman and Don Ellis. Below is a list of archival collections containing significant documentation of jazz, all of which can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room. Several of these collections contain significant audiovisual components, which can be accessed at one of the general research terminals on our third floor.

Clicking on a link will take you to the finding aid for that collection.

Please note that some of these collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance of your visit.

Photography and artwork collections

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(Above) W.C. Handy and Duke Ellington at the Carnival of Swing, 1938. From the Otto Hess Photographs.

The Music & Recorded Sound Division has collections of prominent photographers and artists who focused on jazz performers as their subjects. These collections are available to view in the Special Collections Reading Room on the 3rd floor of the Library for the Performing Arts. 

Clicking on the links below will take you to the finding aid for each collection.

Please note that some of these collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance of your visit.

Single items of note

The Music & Recorded Sound Division owns handwritten works by Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. 

Additionally, the division owns a rare, 1970 published score of Ornette Coleman's Skies of America: for symphony orchestra.​

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(Above) Excerpt from Charles Mingus' Epitaph Suite. Available in Digital Collections.

Clippings and Programs

Music & Recorded Sound has several large collections of clippings and concert programs that contain files relevant to jazz musicians, bands, venues, festivals, and other topics. When visiting the Music & Recorded Sound reference desk on the third floor, the librarian will help you fill out a call slip to request these materials.

  • M-Clippings (Names). Most of the clippings files for individual musicians are not in the online catalog. To determine whether a file exists for a particular person, search this pdf document, using "control + F" to search for the person's name.
  • M-Clippings (Subjects). Clippings files for ensembles, venues, festivals, sub-genres, or musical instruments are searchable in the online catalog.
  • *L-CLP (Recorded Sound clippings). Also searchable via the online catalog are clippings files specific to recorded sound, such as for performers and ensembles with careers as recording artists. Also included are files for most major record labels, including those with a jazz emphasis. 
  • *MBD (uncat) (Music programs). We have a large collection of concert and event programs, filed under performer name, ensemble name, venue name, or festival name. Most of these files are not in the online catalog. To determine whether a file exists, search this pdf document, using "control + F" to search for a particular entity.

Iconography files

Our Iconography Files contain photographs, prints, postcards, and other visual materials for particular musicians, ensembles, and venues. While these are not searchable through our online catalog, you may fill out a call slip for your desired subject. If a file exists, this will be brought to the Special Collections Reading Room. 

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(Above) Billie Holiday. From Music Iconography Files.

Archival audio and moving image materials

In addition to audiovisual materials contained in the manuscript collections listed above, we have several audiovisual-only collections pertaining to jazz performance. These collections have been digitized very recently, and are not yet available for streaming access. If you are interested in items from one of these collections, feel free to reach out to us at recordedsound@nypl.org.

Archival collections at the Schomburg Center

The NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture also has significant holdings related to jazz musicians. These collections must be viewed in the Schomburg building at Malcolm X Blvd and 135th Street.

Below are some notable jazz-related collections held at the Schomburg Center:

Ron Carter papers, 1954-1997 ---  Nat King Cole papers, 1910-1996 --- W.C. Handy collection, 1914-1954 --- New York Jazz Museum records, 1960-1987 (bulk 1961-1977) --- Don Redman papers, 1906-1980 --- James Reese Europe collection, 1847-1996 --- Sonny Rollins papers --- Maxine Sullivan papers, 1936-1987 (bulk 1970-1987) --- Fats Waller collection, 1932-1943 --- Sam Wooding papers, 1921-1986