State of Sound

The origins of Jazz are heard in Louis Armstrong, who brought his liberating sound to Chicago from New Orleans in 1922. Armstrong’s free-spirited phrasing on the coronet/trumpet and tight combination of melody and rhythm allowed him to become the first Jazz soloist. Everyone else followed.

Armstrong was also regarded as Jazz’s first scat singer and the Blues he carried with him from the Storyville section of New Orleans played well in the urban North. Jazz musicians heard adventure in improvisation, ranging from horn to vocals. Jazz became a viable commercial pathway. Armstrong is not only an avatar for the genre of Jazz, but his keen energy can be heard in Blues, Hip-Hop, and Rock music. For example, Armstrong recorded with Blues singer Bessie Smith, who was a major influence on Janis Joplin.

Jazz is full of possibilities, like America itself.


Featured Artist:
Miles Davis

Play the Biography

 Biography Transcript

Miles Davis

Miles Dewey Davis III was born in Alton, IL in 1926. Shortly after his birth his family moved to East St. Louis. It was here that Miles was given his first trumpet and joined the marching band at Lincoln High School. 

Desperate to move to New York City Davis enrolled at Juilliard, but spent more time hanging out in 52nd Street nightclubs, where a new sound called “be-bop” was incubating. After sitting in with several bands Davis eventually replaced Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker’s band.

Unlike most performers, Davis never played to an audience, sometimes even turning his back on the crowd. He shifted direction musically more than any other jazz musician of his time and appealed to several different generations of music lovers. He often avoided using the word jazz to describe his music, but from his involvement in the birth of bop to the synthesized Latin rhythms and Afro soul, Davis was undeniably a jazzman.

Although his off stage moods and habits often overshadowed his musical genius, Miles Davis broadened the appeal of modern jazz more than any other performer until his passing in 1991 at the age of 65. 

Artists of the Sound

Louis Armstrong
Benny Goodman
Gene Krupa
Lionel Hampton
Herbie Hancock
Kurt Elling


Jacket Worn by Herbie Hancock in Round Midnight

Jazz mastermind Herbie Hancock’s nearly six-decade career has defied classification. Hancock wore this jacket in the 1986 film, Round Midnight, in which he played Eddie Wayne. Hancock also won a Best Original Score Academy Award for the film.  

Courtesy of Herbie Hancock

Keyboard Used by Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock wrote, recorded, and performed with this Korg OASYS workstation keyboard synthesizer starting in 2007 for a period of ten years. His consistent integration of technology into his music has been a hallmark of his career. 

Courtesy of Herbie Hancock

Custom made trumpet for Miles Davis

This Martin Committee red custom trumpet and mouthpiece was made for jazz legend Miles Davis and he used it for concert performances throughout the 1980s which turned out to be the last phase of his nearly 50-year career. The iconic jazz empresario recorded and release seven records during this experimental period.

Courtesy of Miles Davis Properties, LLC

Gene Krupa Drumsticks c. 1947

Jazz drumming superstar Gene Krupa came from humble beginnings starting in the late 1920s. Through his career, he played with all the greats and led his own band. He was even the subject of a biopic, The Gene Krupa Story. These sticks are Gene’s signature model, which he used in the 1940s.

Courtesy of Brooks Tegler

Collection of Backstage Passes from Kurt Elling Performances

Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling is a ten-time, Grammy-nominated and Grammy-Award-winning Jazz artist, who was born in Chicago and raised in Rockford, Illinois. A regular at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill, in 1995 he signed to historic Jazz label, Blue Note Records. Theses passes commemorate some of Elling’s most prestigious performances.

Courtesy of Kurt Elling

Ramsey Lewis Piano Performance Score and Other Materials

Jazz titan Ramsey Lewis created a show-stopping production of Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem Toast to Abraham Lincoln, which premiered at Ravinia in Chicago in 2009. This piano performance score is accompanied by a production notebook, DVD, and program.

Courtesy of Ramsey and Jan Lewis

Clarinet and Cleaning Cloth Owned by Benny Goodman

Born into humble beginnings in Chicago, Benny Goodman rose to be the “King of Swing” and singlehandedly made the clarinet cool. In the late 1920s he moved to New York and became the premier Jazz bandleader of his era.

Courtesy of Benjie Lasseau,
daughter of Benny Goodman

Memorial Program for Benny Goodman, 1986

Benny Goodman the “King of Swing” died in 1986 at the age of 77 in New York. This is a program from “An Evening in Memory of Benny Goodman” dated November 8, 1986 where a gathering of dignitaries assembled at the Century Club in New York to share stories of Goodman’s life and music. Goodman’s clarinet reeds were used as bookmarks in the program.

Courtesy of Benjie Lasseau,
daughter of Benny Goodman

DownBeat Magazine, August 1937

DownBeat Magazine was founded in 1934 in Chicago. This issue from August 1937 features Benny Goodman.

Courtesy of
DownBeat Magazine

DownBeat Magazine, December 1967

DownBeat Magazine began as a modestly circulated periodical about the newest music sensation, “Jazz.” This issue from December 1967 features Miles Davis. 

Courtesy of
DownBeat Magazine

DownBeat Magazine, October 1974

Over the years, DownBeat Magazine has become an international standard in publishing features and reviews. This issue from October 1974 features Herbie Hancock. 

Courtesy of
DownBeat Magazine

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