Jazz at Lincoln Center Acquires Legendary Frank Driggs Collection
For Immediate Release: April 5, 2013
JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ACQUIRES LEGENDARY FRANK DRIGGS COLLECTION
NEW YORK, NY – April 4, 2013 – Today Jazz at Lincoln Center announced a donation from the estate of Frank Driggs of the legendary Frank Driggs Collection. It is the greatest archive of jazz photographs in the world and also contains a stunning and sizeable array of posters, sheet music, records, and Driggs' personal papers. Though focused on jazz, the Frank Driggs Collection is unsurpassed in its scale and diversity. The Collection provides a profoundly important view into the bloodlines of American culture.
Frank Driggs was born on January 29, 1930, the son of a jazz musician. Mr. Driggs was himself an amateur jazz trumpeter who attended Princeton and majored in Political Science. After graduating, he moved to New York City working as an NBC page but was compelled to return to jazz. He began acquiring his first images in the early 1950s, but during the second half of the decade he started to collect artifacts in earnest. For the next half-century he focused with a singularity of purpose to build his magnificent collection, bringing a dogged intensity, keen intellect, deep knowledge, and canny instincts to his love of the music and the people who created it. Mr. Driggs became an executive at Columbia Records (which was becoming the largest record company in the world) and later, worked for RCA Victor. His specialty was jazz reissue projects that included Count Basie, Bix Beiderbecke, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Fletcher Henderson and Lester Young. During the 1960s, Mr. Driggs exhibited the same producing talent for blues reissues and brought Robert Johnson’s music to a mass market for the first time. He won a Grammy® when the Robert Johnson recordings were remastered and “re”-reissued in 1991. From 1977 forward, administering the Frank Driggs Collection became his primary occupation. Mr. Driggs was still at it when he died on September 20, 2011.
During this last part of Mr. Driggs’ career, he became involved with Jazz at Lincoln Center. The organization relied on Mr. Driggs for materials to use in its education publications and especially its Duke Ellington events, including the year-round high school band program Essentially Ellington. Photographs and posters from the Frank Driggs Collection have been featured in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s offices, public events, and publications since the 1990s. Because Jazz at Lincoln Center and Mr. Driggs worked so well together, the organization is a logical repository for his collection.
“Many institutions sought The Driggs Collection,” said Harris Lewine, Executor of the Driggs Estate. “Jazz at Lincoln Center has a deep and nuanced understanding of the importance and relevance of the Collection, and they shared a unique vision about how they will make it available, accessible, and relevant. Jazz at Lincoln Center is the premier global advocacy institution for jazz, and Frank’s life work is in loving and creative hands.”
Harris Lewine, a man of letters and wizard of many fields, is a long-standing jazz enthusiast and was a close associate of Mr. Driggs. In 1982, their book Black Beauty, White Heat: A Pictorial History of Classic Jazz (1920-1950) was published. As with the Driggs Collection, their outstanding effort received world-wide acclaim. Now the famed photos and research is housed at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The Driggs Collection has achieved world-wide recognition as the premiere jazz picture library, and its images are regularly licensed for use in books, newspapers, magazines, documentary films (such as extensive use for the Ken Burns “Jazz” series, among others), television, and CD reissues. Images from the Frank Driggs Collection are often on loan for major exhibitions around the world. With this acquisition, Jazz at Lincoln Center becomes the licensor for these images, and is committed to making them available for scholars, for museum exhibitions and for commercial use. In time, Jazz at Lincoln Center will dedicate a portion of its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City, as a permanent, free public display for exhibitions of images and objects in the Collection.
“This is an important day for Jazz at Lincoln Center. With this landmark gift, we take stewardship of an historical treasure that complements and supports our education and advocacy,” said Gabrielle Armand, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship for Jazz at Lincoln Center. “The collection is staggering in its size, diversity and quality. We are honored to protect it for future generations while making it available in new and creative ways.”
Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis put it this way, “When I want to play jazz, I pick up my horn. But when I want to see jazz, I look at those unbelievable photographs from Frank. They’re beautiful, inspiring, and a reminder of where it started – not just the ‘famous’ faces, but all those other cats who day in, day out, traveled the country and brought jazz from the bandstand to people here in America … and then all around the world.”
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About Jazz at Lincoln Center
The mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for Jazz through performance, education and advocacy.
We believe that Jazz is a metaphor for Democracy:
- Because jazz is improvisational, it celebrates personal freedom and encourages individual expression;
- Because jazz is swinging, it dedicates that freedom to finding and maintaining common ground with others; and
- Because jazz is rooted in the blues, it inspires us to face adversity with persistent optimism.
With the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and guest artists spanning genres and generations, Jazz at Lincoln Center produces thousands of performance, education, and broadcast events each season in its home in New York City (Frederick P. Rose Hall, “The House of Swing”) and around the world, for people of all ages. Jazz at Lincoln Center is led by Chairman Robert J. Appel, Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, and Executive Director Greg Scholl. Please visit us at jalc.org.