Written by Donna Emert
For 43 years at the University of Idaho, the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival has brought jazz masters together with elementary, junior high, high school and college students to share and celebrate this truly American art form. It has featured hundreds of musicians from around the world, including China, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Peru, as well as students from Canada, Japan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
Each year as part of the festival, the University of Idaho Library creates an exhibit featuring artifacts from its International Jazz Collections, one of the eminent jazz collections in the world.
Archivist Laura Guedes created the 2010 exhibit with the goals of highlighting the IJC’s value, honoring the nation’s groundbreaking, status-quo shaking music, and clarifying jazz musicians’ unique and vital role in American history.
The exhibit serves as a snapshot, one that strongly suggests the bigger picture.
I wanted to point to the importance of the collections as a source for the study and understanding of the history of jazz,
For example, items from the Dizzy Gillespie Collection are now on loan at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
I wanted also to note some aspects of Al Grey’s life not as well known to the public as is his unique plunger mute style. That is, Al Grey’s Great Lakes experience: he joined the Navy in 1942 as a musician, which was a new experience for African Americans. Prior to that date, African Americans were relegated to employment as mess attendants or stewards. These black musicians were dispatched to various bases across the country. Al Grey went to Grosse Isle Naval Air Station in Grosse Point, Mich. The African American bands gained fame as Ambassadors of Goodwill, in that they helped to break down racial barriers.
The Al Grey/Rosalie Soladar Memorial Collection was established in 2000 by Grey and Soladar, his friend and companion. The collection grew by about 40 cubic feet last year, through a generous donation by Ailene Eberhard, Soladar’s daughter. Soladar is remembered as a cherished, long time friend of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. She attended the 2009 event just months before her death, said Guedes. Al Grey was a festival favorite from 1987 to 2000, missing only one festival, in 1994, during that time. Grey died in 2000.
Iconic bassist Ray Brown performed and led clinics at the festival for 17 years, until his death in 2002.
The IJC enriches jazz scholars and inquisitive people around the world. When the library received the collection in 2007, they created a virtual museum at http://www.ijc.uidaho.edu
providing an access point to IJC resources for the international community. The site received nearly a million hits in the first half of 2009 and continues to receive a significant number of visits each month.
According to Lynn Baird, University of Idaho dean of Library Services:
The purpose of the International Jazz Collections are not only to archive the music, but also to preserve this unique facet of our cultural history.’ The library exhibit that coincides with the festival is an educational tool, and a gesture to honor the relationship between these world-class musicians and the University.
We are grateful that musicians of international stature, including Al Grey, have lent their names, their time and their expertise to the Jazz Festival, and to students of all age. And we are grateful that their family members and dear friends, like Rosalie and Ailene, have made these significant collections available. The library exhibit, and the International Jazz Collections, are products of that rich legacy and human connection.
The University of Idaho’s International Jazz Collections include the collections of Lionel Hampton, jazz critic Leonard Feather and trombonist Al Grey, as well as items from the collections of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Conte and Pete Candoli, and many others.
To donate to the IJC, contact Lynn Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 885-6534.
The 2010 Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival will take place Feb. 24-27, 2010. For more information, visit www.uidaho.edu/jazzfest.