CJI’s collection consists of 5 full/complete collections (approximately 35% of the collection includes original material) of nearly 200 manuscripts, photographs, recordings, and ephemera; 50 oral histories of over 50 hours including 25 10-20 minute public program excerpts; video of 6 public program series since 2003 of over 40 hours; 500+ photographs of CJI’s public programs since 2003; biographies of 60 musicians; a comprehensive bibliography of 150 books and articles; 30 single items of music recordings and audio/videotapes of interviews (half of these recordings are original material); 10 single items of original works including music scores and artwork; and 50 single manuscript documents and other memorabilia (approximately one-quarter of these is original material). Original material including oral histories, video recordings and photographs of CJI’s programs constitute over one-half of the collection. Non-original materials are copies of photographs donors did not want to part with, out-of-print material, rare photographs and other items.
Though small in size (total linear feet is undetermined at this point), CJI’s collection represents, to our knowledge, the only active and singularly-focused attempt of collecting source material on jazz and its musicians in Charleston. The ensemble musicians, past and present, represented in the collection span the early 1890’s through today. The present dates are just as significant as the historic time period as they document Charleston’s living jazz history. The collection also contains content and materials that uncover the talent of Charleston’s ensemble musicians and documents their musical and familial relationships with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Erskine Hawkins and other bandleaders who stocked their bands with Charleston and South Carolina brass players – the very ensemble musicians who, often by the bandleader’s own accounts, helped to create their big band sounds. CJI’s oral history collection is the only documentation of its kind that exists of Charleston’s jazz scene. It includes many well-known Charlestonians such as master blacksmith and 95-year old, Philip Simmons who describes the influence of the Jenkins Orphanage Bands as well as those of several National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters including Jimmy Heath, Gerald Wilson and Dan Morgenstern.