| 03.18.2018

Archiving jazz


The workshop “Hamp’s Legacy: The International Jazz Collections at UI” is the brainchild of two men, Garth Reese and Barry Bilderback. 

Illustration by Alejandra Soto | Argonaut

Illustration by Alejandra Soto | Argonaut

Reese, head of Special Collections and Archives for the University of Idaho library and Bilderback, assistant professor at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, have a fairly long history of collaboration related to the Jazz Collections.

“I offer a grad course, Music Bibliography and Research. One segment of the class is source acquisition. I bring them down here with Garth, not just to focus on jazz, but because where collections are located tell a story,” Bilderback said.

Both said the collaboration brings added depth to the information being presented in the workshop.

“I can only say so much as an archivist, not being a musician,” Reese said. “Working with Barry adds the musical aspect. While I talk about the archival process, Barry talks about how field research gets done.”

The collaboration process was similar to the spirit of jazz composition, Bilderback said.

“Part of it was structured, part of it was improvised and it went a little bit over the top, but we landed together in cadence,” he said. “After working together the last few years, we dance well together.”

The collections presented a variety of topics for Bilderback and Reese to focus on in their workshop.

“We’ve met often, brainstorming, trying to figure out an angle,” Reese said. “There’s a thousand different ways you could approach this event. We wanted to put together something that would highlight the collections but also tie into the Jazz Festival.”

Many different researchers make use of the Jazz Collections, including music historians, graduate students and scholars from across the nation because of the size and variety of content the collections possess, Reese said.

“We get a lot of requests for photos and scans of programs and posters for publicity and retrospectives. There are also a number of inquiries for people who have played with Hampton for events we have recordings of,” he said.

One time, Bilderback said Reese brought a corsage, hat and shoes belonging to jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald for the students to see.

“That was really inspiring,” Bilderback said.

Both men stressed the importance of the physical object over replicas or reprints.

The pair is keeping specific subjects covered by the workshop fairly quiet, but the presentation will build on the history of jazz as a music form and the men and women involved in it.

“We don’t want to give too much away because of the angle we are giving,” Bilderback said. “We are building on the past and the legacy of the Special Collections and Lionel Hampton, but looking at the bigger picture. I think the audience will find it as interesting and entertaining as we did.”

The event will be at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on the first floor of the library.

Derek Kowatsch can be reached at arg-news @uidaho.edu


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