After three years of fundraising and planning, Savannah Jazz has set the grand opening date for its Savannah Jazz History and Hall of Fame exhibit for September 17 at the Savannah History Museum.
Raising over $140,000 for the project, not including in-kind donations, the organization brings Savannah’s rich jazz history to life.
The event will feature the Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame Band, a ribbon cutting, tour and reception.
Savannah Jazz Executive Director Paula Fogarty said, “Our city’s jazz history is as old and important as New Orleans’, but the story has yet to be told. This exhibit will not only be a legacy project for our organization, but for the city of Savannah itself. It will serve as the keystone of our educational programs enlightening neophytes and aficionados of this history. We are delighted to partner with the Coastal Heritage Society and the Savannah History Museum.
“40 years ago, it was the revival of jazz in Savannah. Ben Tucker and Teddy Adams would be among the biggest icons of this revival and this movement. Then we go to the Savannah Jazz Festivals, which have been happening for 40 years, and we highlight the Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame,” Fogarty said. “We have about 48 incredible, world-renowned stars who had roots and ties to Savannah, were born here, lived here or played here.”
Design firm Riggs-Ward was contracted to help create the exhibit; they were selected based on their excellent work for the Library of Congress, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center, and the Smithsonian. The content was developed in consultation with jazz historian Dr. Charles Elmore and with Teddy Adams and Dr. Otis Johnson.
Like New Orleans, Savannah has been one of the birthplaces of jazz and has been one of the main centers of this art form thanks to its renowned composers, performers, venues, festivals, media and businesses since the 1920s. .
Deeply rooted in African traditions, Savannah jazz has evolved through brass bands, vaudeville, blues, big band, combos and orchestras to take its place in our nation’s jazz pantheon. After its near demise in 1960 as a result of the ascendancy of rhythm ‘n blues and rock ‘n roll, Savannah jazz was reborn in the late 1970s through the efforts of Teddy Adams and the legendary Ben Tucker.
“It’s interesting because the origins of jazz in Savannah and New Orleans were parallel, they happened at the same time, but in different ways. New Orleans had more of a European population, a Creole, French and Spanish population, and so on. Savannah had more Gullah Geechee and Sea Island, African population,” Fogarty said. “So the sounds are completely different. So our interactive components are also going to introduce people a bit to those sounds. We want to educate people. »
The Coastal Jazz Association, now known as Savannah Jazz, was founded in 1982 and continues today to be the guardian of Savannah’s jazz heritage with the annual Savannah Jazz Festival, monthly concerts, the Ben Tucker memorial concert and educational programs.
Using a combination of artifacts, displays and interactive multimedia, the exhibit will illustrate Savannah’s jazz history from its inception to the present day.
A key component is the Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame, which now has 45 inductees who represent a who’s who in the jazz world. Biographies, visuals about their lives, music and contributions to jazz will clearly establish Savannah’s place as a major center for the art form. From Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s mentor, to Johnny Mercer, the famous composer and singer of Savannah, passing by the famous bassist and composer Ben Tucker, who led the jazz revival from the 70s, the Jazz Hall of Fame will allow visitors to understand the jazz legends of Savannah.
The evolution of jazz in Savannah, from its earliest incarnations to the present day, will be the focus of the exhibit.
Visuals and stories from the bustling scene of old West Broad Street (now MLK Blvd.) will illustrate the importance of this once-great jazz mecca.
Images of Tybrisa Pavilion, Tybee Island’s legendary dance hall that hosted the best big bands of the time, in black and white, will bring this big band scene to life.
Artifacts on display will include Ben Tucker’s historic bass violin, Johnny Mercer’s Oscar for ‘Moon River’ and other memorabilia, artifacts from the estate of James Moody including his favorite horn, photos and posters from the Savannah Jazz Festival and acclaimed concerts with the best jazz artists from around the world, plus recordings and videos of legends who have performed in Savannah.
Tickets are available at savannahjazz.org.
– Staff reports