Celebrating Jazz Legends 

Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month
by VERGE Staff | Music and Culture | Tuesday, April 14, 2015


smithsonian big-jazz-painting-2004leroyneiman

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History launched the celebration with a special announcement of the LeRoy Neiman Foundation's donation of a $2.5 million endowment towards the expansion of jazz programming.

Artist LeRoy Neiman (1921–2012) was best known for colorful paintings and illustrations that presented scenes of sports and entertainment. Among his work is a distinctive body of paintings of American jazz legends and music of the 1950s to 1960s. He established the LeRoy Neiman Foundation in 1986 and donated more than $20 million to art institutions, and his legacy continues with financial support to the museum's jazz programming. 

In addition, the foundation is donating Neiman's painting, "Big Band," an epic jazz painting he considered as one of the greatest in his career. The painting is 9-by-13 feet and features 18 iconic jazz musicians, and it will be unveiled just inside of the museum's Constitution Avenue entrance.

On the site of this new installation, the museum will develop the LeRoy Neiman Jazz Cafe on the first floor of the museum by the Constitution Avenue entrance. Designed to be a permanent space to celebrate the museum's jazz collections, visitors will be welcomed by Neiman's "Big Band," as they enter. A second phase of renovations, slated to open this fall, will include a newly redesigned interior and iconic jazz visuals from the museum's jazz collections.

The museum will also receive several other significant acquisitions, including the upright bass and archives of jazz musician and double bassist, Ray Brown, who is known for his work with Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and others. In addition, the museum will receive the complete collection of the prodigious jazz photographer, Duncan Schiedt, as well as a print of the iconic Ella in Flight poster, also by Neiman.

The National Museum of American History is home to unparalleled jazz collections, including 100,000 pages of Ellington's unpublished music, John Coltrane's saxophone, and Fitzgerald's famous red dress. The 17-member SJMO, led by conductor and artistic director Charlie Young, explores the jazz masters who shaped the development of American jazz and defined its character. 

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. For more information, visit: http://americanhistory.si.edu and www.sjmo.org.

Photo caption: Smithsonian Announces $2.5 Million Jazz Endowment by LeRoy Neiman Foundation and Installation of Neiman's "Big Band" Painting.
Photo credit:
 Smithsonian's National Museum of American History


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