[Memry Midgett papers, MS 163, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.]
During the month of April the African American Museum and Library at Oakland hosted Jazz Classics in Perspective. The three week class showcased the earliest origins of West Coast jazz. On Saturday, April 20th we received a surprise guest, artist, composer, and saxophonist John Handy. Born in 1933, Handy at the age of 13 taught himself to play the clarinet. By age 15 he was playing professionally.
As a professional, Mr. Handy has performed throughout America in places such as Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Opera House and the Monterey Jazz Festival. He has also played internationally in Japan, Germany, France and countless other locations.
A jazz historian, Handy has also taught at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2006, San Francisco State inducted him into the Alumni Hall of Fame. He was nominated for a Grammy for his performance and composition of Spanish Lady and If Only We Knew on the album Recorded Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The Archives at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland contains collections that focus on jazz appreciation. The Michael Twomey Music Collection contains over 200 live recordings of various jazz musicians to perform throughout the San Francisco Bay Area over 20 years. Those musicians include the likes of Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Count Basie, and John Lee Hooker.
Phillip E. Jenkins papers, MS 52, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Phillip Jenkins’ career in music dates back to his childhood days as part of his families group the Junior Concert Orchestra which performed throughout the Sacramento area. As an adult he began playing for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton and the Dick Jurgens Orchestra until a hand injury derailed his career. His love of jazz led him to become active in jazz preservation and the establishment of the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society followed by a career hosting a weekly jazz radio show, Sacramento Classic Jazz for over 20 years.
Jazz musician and pianist Memry Florence Midgett saw a brief career as a professional musician in the 1950s performing as the opening act for legendary artists Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie in night clubs throughout San Francisco. She was discovered by legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday who asked her to play piano with her on tour throughout 1954-1955. This tour included a 1954 stop at Carnegie Hall.
For more information on these and other jazz artist check out their collections and more on the African American Museum and Library at Oakland’s Online Archive of California.
Guide to the Phillip E. Jenkins papers:
Guide to the Memry Midgett Papers:
Guide to the Michael Twomey Music Collection