Philadelphia and its surrounding region have played a critically important role in the evolution of jazz, and jazz has played a memorable role in the city's life. In 2007, The Philadelphia Jazz Heritage Project was established to honor, promote, and document Philadelphia jazz. There is a pressing need to increase recognition of jazz in Philadelphia and for a central locus of knowledge, information, and documentation of this profound and ongoing legacy. More than a collection of facts, the Project consists of a multimedia multidimensional hub for diverse recordings, books, journalism, scholarship, photographs, archives, collectibles, and memorabilia about jazz in Philadelphia and vicinity from its earliest beginnings to the present time and beyond. The Project also sponsors concerts, lectures, and other events pertinent to Philadelphia jazz history and the current scene.
The Importance of Jazz in the Life of Philadelphia
From the ringing of the Liberty Bell and the pennywhistle songs of the colonial army, music has been an integral part of Philadelphia life. When jazz and the blues came north from New Orleans, talented musicians like Joe Venuti and Charlie Ventura latched onto it, and, combined with show and dance music, there began a strong and rich jazz activity in the Philadelphia area. Some all-time great jazz musicians, like Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, the Heath Brothers, Pat Martino, Christian McBride, Mickey Roker, and McCoy Tyner were born and/or came up here; and many other greats from Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker came through the city. In addition, great teachers of jazz like Dennis Sandole and Bernard Peiffer lived and worked here and influenced several generations of jazz musicians. In addition, The University of the Arts and The Esther Boyer School of Music at Temple University provide the finest in jazz education. Philadelphia remains a lively city for jazz, and the music keeps evolving in creative new directions.
History as a Living Dialogue between Past, Present and Future
While the initial impulse might be to collect the facts and nothing but the facts, such information is only the beginning. Jazz is the most living, dynamic, interactive art form of all time. It is made up of a multitude of instants which immediately become history and influence each musical moment thereafter. So too, the Jazz Heritage Project is creatively alive and interactive. Concerts, lectures, exhibits, and a web presence bring an air of excitement and dialogue between the past, present, and future of the Philadelphia jazz heritage.