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Jazz documentarian donates massive collection to UNLV’s Popular Music Research Center

Soon we’ll be able to check out a signed copy of Duke Ellington at Newport at UNLV.
Photo: AP

“I’d rather go to places where lesser-known musicians are so I can give somebody a leg up,” Arnold J. Smith says. The jazz writer, educator and documentarian recently applied that philosophy to philanthropy, passing up the Smithsonian and other prominent archive institutions to donate a massive jazz collection to the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center at UNLV, where it will be made available to the public.

The collection, which includes 10,000 LPs, concert posters and other memorabilia, is currently making its way here from Smith’s Brooklyn home. We tapped him to discuss a few of its gems.

Live interview recordings. Smith says the real highlights are recordings from his 26-year series at the New School, which featured musicians and producers.

Signed albums, including Duke Ellington at Newport (signed by the entire band) and albums by Gene Krupa, Oscar Peterson and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Jazz albums of Broadway shows, including West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Funny Girl and several interpretations of My Fair Lady.

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