The nation's attic continues to do valuable work on several musical fronts. In a joint venture with Oberlin College, the Smithsonian Institution has set a target of $1.3 million to publish Jazz Masterworks Editions, authentic musical editions of recorded masterworks by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Jimmie Lunceford, Artie Shaw and other important band leaders, composers and orchestrators whose works are not generally available, certainly not in comparison with their classical compatriots. So far $100,000 has been raised through the Rockefeller Foundation, Xerox Corp., Ronald McDonald's Children's Charities, the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Foundation and the King of Thailand (a Goodman fanatic).
The first three of a dozen projected volumes will include classic '30s works by Ellington, Basie and Henderson, both study-scores (to be published by Smithsonian Institution Press), and performance parts and conductor's scores for jazz orchestra (by Oberlin). John Edward Hasse, curator of American music at the Museum of American History and one of the founders of Jazz Masterworks Editions, says that "transcribers across the United States and Europe have been taking music off the records and writing it down, which is the most difficult task in all of music, particularly with Duke Ellington, where the voicings are so complex and unusual that sometimes a chord or set of chords can bedevil transcribers for decades."
The task has been made somewhat easier because of the museum's acquisition two years ago of the Duke Ellington Collection, which overflows with original scores and orchestra parts. "The scores in most cases don't agree entirely with the recordings," Hasse notes, "but the two together make for a very thorough and accurate result."
The Jazz Masterworks Editions should stimulate the development of jazz repertory orchestras throughout the United States and abroad. "The lack of published music has greatly held back the study and performance of jazz and, as a result, its valuing as America's greatest music," says Hasse. "This project will make it possible for every major university and city to have an orchestra performing classic jazz music in the American tradition."
Smithsonian Institution Press has recently published a two-volume set, "The Music of Stephen C. Foster," the first title in its Smithsonian Library of American Music series; it's the first critical edition of Foster's works, with reproductions not only of his popular songs, but of his children's hymns, piano pieces and instrumental music, in the order Foster wrote them. Editors Steven Saunders and Deane L. Root provide critical analysis of each piece, as well as historical overviews.
An earlier SIP book, "The Collected Piano Music of 'Jelly Roll' Morton," will spring to life Saturday at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater when its editor, James Dapogny, presents a program of Mortonia with his Chicago Jazz Band. Dapogny also recorded "Piano Music of Jelly Roll Morton" for the Smithsonian Collection label; and to further the Smithsonian connection, Saturday's concert kicks off a series of repertory jazz performances organized by critic and historian Martin Williams, former director of the Smithsonian's jazz program. Williams, now on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, will provide narration at the concerts (the 7:30 show is sold out, but tickets are still available for the 10:30 program).
Speaking of performances, the Smithsonian recently announced the creation of a $5 million permanent endowment honoring the late John Hammond. Income from the endowment will support free concerts at the Museum of American History celebrating the diversity and artistry of America's music traditions. Early contributors include the Recording Industry Association of America; the Hard Rock Cafe, which hosted a New York function in conjunction with the PBS showing of a Hammond documentary; and Bruce Springsteen, a Hammond signee to Columbia Records who quietly donated $250,000 to the fund.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, another Hammond recruit, contributed a dollar from every ticket sold at a summer concert in Manchester, N.H., and had intended to do the same with other concerts before his death in a helicopter crash last month. Vaughan had also planned a free performance on the Mall to publicize the fund and honor Hammond, also responsible for signing Bessie Smith, Count Basie, the Bennys Goodman and Carter, and Bob Dylan. The concerts will feature jazz, blues, gospel and folk (though probably no hard rock). According to Marilyn Lyons, director of external affairs at the Museum of American History, "this plan grew out of our awareness that we needed a better way to teach people about the roots and history of American music than a lineup of significant instruments."