University of Idaho's International Jazz Collections Announces Debut of Leonard Feather Collection


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MOSCOW, Idaho - The smoky voice of Billie Holiday croons a new rendition of “Good Morning Heartache" as Tony Scott joins in with clarinet and jazz critic Leonard Feather accompanies on the piano. The 1956 recording is just one of numerous unreleased jazz recordings and documents recently digitized and now available to the public through the University of Idaho's International Jazz Collections, a component of Special Collections and Archives in the University Library.

The IJC, through Safe Sound Archive in Philadelphia, has completed digitization of the audio portion of the Leonard Feather collection of jazz memorabilia. Last year, the GRAMMY Foundation gave the university a $36,000 grant to preserve and digitize Feather's unique and historically significant audio tapes and recordings.

Feather, a renowned jazz critic, composer, pianist, journalist and producer, frequented the university's Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival for a number of years prior to his death in 1994. His collection was given to the university to complement the donated collection of his great friend - Lionel Hampton.

“We have hundreds of interviews he taped, including about 50 of Leonard's blindfold tests," said Michael Tarabulski, an archivist with the IJC.

In his blindfold tests, Feather would blindfold interviewees and ask them to evaluate jazz music. Without being able to see who was performing or any other identifying information, he was able to get more unbiased opinions.

Tarabulski said that the interviews have some surprises. “When taping the interviews, Leonard was taking notes for a story; he wasn't thinking about saving the interviews," said Tarabulski. “He taped over many of the conversations, so sometimes when listening to an interview with one famous musician, we come across a partial interview with another famous musician."

In addition to the numerous audio files - which contain not only the interviews, but also many rarely or never-before publicly heard performances by the pioneers of jazz - Feather's collection includes scrapbooks ranging from 1933 to 1994, his personal library and music collections, and many autographed photos of jazz greats. Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Henry Mancini, the King Cole Trio, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Joni Mitchell are among the hundreds of artists captured in Feather's collection.

In addition to its entertainment value for jazz connoisseurs, the jazz artifacts in Feather's collection serve as research materials. Tarabulski said he received a request for one of Feather's jazz columns from 1949. “This individual knew Leonard was at a concert in New Orleans at the time, and wanted some details about the performance," he said. “We were able to find the column and provide the information he was looking for."

Tarabulski said he receives similar requests for information monthly, signifying the collection's importance to audiences beyond the university community.

Many of the items that are in digital format are available online at www.ijc.uidaho.edu/Exhibits/exhibit2/vexmain2.htm or in the reading room of the University of Idaho library. The IJC is seeking a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete digitization of scrapbooks and other correspondence, something Tarabulski calls a “worthwhile investment."

Feather's collection was appraised shortly after it was turned over to the university, and has an estimated value in excess of $500,000.

The International Jazz Collections will be open to the public during the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival Feb. 20-23, 2008. For more information about the IJC, visit www.ijc.uidaho.edu or call (208) 885-7951.

About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state's flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university's student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

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