The Watkinson Library’s exhibition “Jump & Jive: Music of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s” is currently on display. It features over 5000 sound recording, gifted by the Bennett Rubenstein collection. In the exhibition, you can find original recordings from Columbia Records, Okeh Records, Victor Records, Brunswick Records, Melotone Records, and Decca Records.
Some of the artists include Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Gene Krupa, Carl Hoff, Charlie Spivak, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Ozzie Nelson, Andre Kostelanetz, Bobby Hackett, and Bing and Bob Crosby.
Under Columbia Records, there are original recordings from Benny Goodman, including “Tiger Rag,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “Shine,” and “She’s Funny That Way.” Benny Goodman also recorded “How Long Has This Been Going On!” and “Let’s Do It” with Okeh records. Benny Goodman and his band were the first to play jazz music in Carnegie Hall in 1938.
The exhibition also features music by Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw, under Victor Records. Glenn Miller’s music included “Pennsylvania Six-Five Thousand,” Tuxedo Junction,” Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and “In The Mood.” Artie Shaw was known for his talents playing the clarinet. He was also one of the first white band leaders to hire African American singers. One of those hires was Billie Holiday. Recordings from Ozzie Nelson can be found under Melotone Records. Nelson’s “Rigamarole,” written by Harold Mooney, was the first recording that credits Harriet Hilliard to assist with vocals. Also in the Watkinson are recordings by Andre Kostelanetz, including “Tiger Rag” and “The Man of The Flying Trapeze.”
Bobby Hackett’s music, recorded under Vocalion Records, includes “Ain’t Misbehavin’” which was written by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, and Andy Razaf writing lyrics. In his career, Bobby Hackett also played with Glenn Miller and The Benny Goodman Quintet.
The British label Decca Records was brought to America by Jack Kapp, who signed Bing Crosby. Bing Crosby’s recording of “With Every Breath I Take” can be found in The Watkinson, along with record buttons to clean records. During World War II, the government created the War Department. Many artists were creating recordings to be sent overseas. Records were previously shellac, but these recordings were early vinyl. They were called the Victory Discs, or V-Discs. Whereas the shellac was bitter, fragile, and heavy, the vinyl recordings were flexible, durable, and light. Over 6 years, and estimated 900 V-Discs holding 3000 recordings were made. These vinyl discs would record more or longer performances. However, the discs were damaged by the steel needles or by the weight of reproducers pressing needles onto the surface. As a result, many V-Discs were damaged. After the war, most V-Discs were destroyed under direction of the government because of rights issues. For this reason, V-Discs are very hard to find. One such disc is in the Watkinson Library. Bing Crosby’s “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra (That’s An Irish Lullaby)” is one such disc on display.
The entire collection was gifted to the Watkinson by the Bennett Rubenstein collection in January 2013. Bennett “Bud” Rubenstein lived from 1917 until 2000. He was a music enthusiast in many aspects. He played piano, and enjoyed listening to jazz and swing music. He was often hired to deejay parties in his time. He studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York for one year to explore music on his own.
A veteran of World War II, Rubenstein handled the operations of a family woolen mill in Connecticut. His family’s business, as well as his own real estate career, halted his aspirations of creating his own band. Yet this did not deter Rubenstein from collecting music. He attended performances by his favorite bands, led by persons such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. It is his collection that is on display at the Watkinson. Students and others can currently see a sampling of the extensive collection on display until Dec. 6th, 2013.
The exhibition opening will be this Friday, Sept. 20th, 2013 from 4:30p.m. until 6:30p.m.. All members of the Trinity College community are invited to the main library atrium and the Watkinson Library to hear jazz and other music being played on Victrolas, exactly as it was heard in the 20s. There will also be a dance display and swing dance lesson for all interested on Friday, from 5:30p.m. until 6:30p.m.. Swing dance instructor Javier Johnson and his partner My Janixia (from the Hartford Underground) will be conducting the lesson. All are encouraged to stop by for the exhibition opening and accompanying events.