Throughout 2017, Pepper has joined the musical world in celebrating 100 years of recorded jazz. An integral part of our national history, jazz music is ingrained in the American DNA, leaving its mark on our culture in a way that few other art forms ever have.
One of the best ways to explore jazz history is to do it in person. Luckily, much of this past has been maintained and curated for the public to visit and learn about. The former homes of many famous jazz musicians are dedicated to their memory with plaques and signs; some are even on the National Register of Historic Places. Though many are privately owned and occupied, some are fully curated museums. Here are just a few of these great locations:
- The John Coltrane House – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Dizzy Gillespie Homesite Park – Cheraw, South Carolina
- Nat King Cole Home – Montgomery, Alabama
- Bix Beiderbecke House and the Bix Beiderbecke Museum & Archive – Davenport, Iowa
- Eubie Blake Cultural Center – Baltimore, Maryland
- Louis Armstrong House Museum – Queens, New York
- Duke Ellington House – New York, New York
- The Charlie Parker Residence – New York, New York
You probably noticed the last three homes are all in New York City. A vibrant center of jazz culture, New York drew many of the top jazz musicians; much of the history still stands in the form of famous concert halls and significant locations:
- Village Vanguard
- Apollo Theater
- Miles Davis Way
- Harlem 1958 – Art Kane’s historic portrait of 57 jazz icons, subject of the 1994 documentary A Great Day in Harlem
While there are many great sites in New York, any jazz enthusiast will tell you that New Orleans is the true birthplace of jazz. A melting pot of African, Hispanic, and European culture, New Orleans was the perfect location for the development of this truly American art form. Here’s a few places to visit if you are in the Big Easy:
Jazz spread from epicenters in New Orleans, Kansas City, and Chicago to take the nation by storm. Now, 100 years after the first jazz recording, the entire country celebrates jazz as a key part of our national identity. There are a number of national sites honoring its place in American history:
- National Jazz Museum in Harlem – New York, New York
- American Jazz Museum – Kansas City, Missouri
- National Museum of American History – Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C.
There is truly no better way to enjoy our nation’s history than in person – but if you don’t have time to visit these locations, you can experience jazz history from the comfort of your own home. Pepper has been conducting in-depth interviews with a number of jazz greats in conjunction with both our Jazz 100 and Jazz with Pepper series.
Jazz is a living art form, and history is being made in clubs around the country every day. What’s your favorite jazz spot or historic location? Please share it in the comments!