So this afternoon I popped up to visit the National Jazz Museum on 129th St. I heard its curator on the radio on Friday talking about Ella Fitzgerald’s career on the 100th anniversary of her birth. He sounded informative so I figured the museum would be too.
Not really to be honest. It’s modest in size (one room with lots of chairs in it) and scope I thought. They have two significant collections of jazz recordings which you can listen to on the computer and a few pictures and some books and the odd bit of memorabilia. But mostly it’s an intimate performance space for contemporary artists. That’s great and I applaud them keeping jazz live and relevant.
But that makes it a club with a bit of historical stuff to me, not a serious museum set in the heart of the area where the music was booming in the 20s and 30s with clubs all over the locale and the greatest names playing here. There was one cartoon image on the wall which highlighted this…
But as far as I can tell that’s all the info they had. I’d have loved to learn more about where exactly these famous clubs like Smalls and the original Cotton Club were and who played there, with images and any film footage of the performances. Blimey they could even organise tours of the various locations and develop a merchandise range around it. But they didn’t. There was one blown up wall image of some original sheet music written by Duke Ellington which was rather neat
but why not more of this iconic stuff? It’d make a cool wall poster for example. But what do I know?
There was a live performance taking place inside an hour but there just wasn’t enough stuff around to keep me interested for that long. So I left thinking that my $10 suggested entrance fee was a bit steep. Ah well. I mooched on down to The Apollo theatre to see if I could hook up with a tour of the venue but I’d missed today’s. They do it on an irregular basis when they get more than 20 people committed and pre-booked. The guy who actually does the tour, Billy Mitchell, was actually in the foyer and I was tempted to go over and do my keen English jazz/soul history fan in NY for just one day routine and blag an impromptu personal guided tour. But he was occupied in a long chat with some Otis Redding fans. They wouldn’t shut up firing questions and I couldn’t think of anything else to ask the girl serving behind the merchandise bar, so I thanked her, spun on my heels and headed home a bit fed up; my blagging skills having been frustrated. I’ll book a tour online like everyone else.
Some days you just can’t get no satisfaction.