December 1, 2015

Jazz Is Alive

Library receives vibrant cultural collection

Think of the thrill you feel when you hear a great piece of music for the first time. It is with that sense of excitement that the UMass Amherst libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives has received the records of the Boston Jazz Society—artifacts that tell us about  some of the most innovative composers and performers of all time—donated to the library by the group’s founding member and longtime president Aureldon Edward Henderson.

The collection includes taped recordings, candid photographs, correspondence, videos, publications, concert posters, and more.

Performance History: The Collection highlights the Boston roots of many international musicians.

Founded in 1973, the Boston Jazz Society expanded from a group of aficionados gathering in a living room to a thriving organization that kept jazz alive by granting artists means and venues to perform on the road. To ensure the continuation of this most American art form, the BJS even funded a scholarship program for music students to study jazz.

Henderson, searching for an institution to curate the legacy of the BJS, was attracted by UMass Amherst's tradition of jazz, which began in the 1970s when Chancellor Randolph Bromery, Music and Dance chair Philip Bezanson, and in particular, music faculty member Frederick Tillis, paved the way to bring such cultural icons as Max Roach and Archie Shepp (and later in the 1980s Billy Taylor and Yusef Lateef) to campus to teach in the Afro-American Music and Jazz Studies and Afro-American Studies programs.

An important component of the gift is the collection of photographs by music enthusiast Bernie Moss, a fixture of the Boston jazz scene. Moss began taking photographs in the early 1960s of musicians on stage and after hours in the clubs, often inviting them to his apartment for a place to stay and a home-cooked meal. Moss’s generosity to musicians inspired Dexter Gordon to compose a song in his honor, and journalist Nat Hentoff to document him in the memoir Boston Boy. The Bernie Moss Photograph Collection consists of color photos taken from the 1960s through the late 1970s. Moss’s candid style brings to life some of the most important years of modern jazz, showing artists such as Alan Dawson, Roy Haynes, John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Yusef Lateef, and Herbie Hancock at the height of their powers, in informal settings.

Items from the collection are on view on the 25th floor and the lower level of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library through January 20, 2016.