Guide to the William Russo Music and Personal Papers
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0845
Creators:
Strayhorn, Billy (William Thomas), 1915-1967
Claxton, William
Kenton, Stan
Leonard, Herman, 1923-2010
Mulligan, Gerry
Russo, William, 1928-2003
Dates:
1920-2002
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
87 Cubic feet
188 boxes
Repository:
Papers and audiovisual materials documenting Russo's career in music.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection includes Russo's original and published music scores, parts and arrangements; audiovisual materials including recordings of broadcasts of Russo's radio show, performances of Russo's compositions, including performances by Duke Ellington, and film and video recordings of Russo's productions in theater and opera; and personal papers such as correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, publicity files, contracts, etc. Among the most significant items in the collection are experimental jazz arrangements for Stan Kenton in the late 1940s-early 1950s, undated arrangements for Gerry Mulligan, Russo's original arrangement of Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert, scores to his first and second symphonies, and scores and libretti to several early rock operas. The photographs include images of persons such as Ellington, Kenton, and Billy Strayhorn, and photographs by jazz photographers Herman Leonard and William Claxton. 2007 addendum includes correspondence, mostly between Russo and his family; eighteen diaries for 1946-1967 (not all years are present) with sparse entries, some in Italian; and additional music manuscripts, parts, scores and libretti.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into nine series.
Series 1: William Russo's Music
Series 2: Teaching Notes
Series 3: Correspondence
Series 4: Publicity, Programs, and Reviews
Series 5: Posters and Artwork
Series 6: Photographs
Series 7: Books and Lecture Notebooks
Series 8: Memorabilia
Series 9: Audiovisual Materials

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
William Russo, renowned American jazz composer, arranger, and founder of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, had a music career that spanned five decades and included performance, conducting and composition. During his career he worked with such diverse talents as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Leonard Bernstein, Cannonball Adderly, Yehuidi Menuhin, Dizzy Gillespie, Seiji Ozawa, and Billie Holiday. Although critics acknowledged Russo mainly for his pioneering contributions to the big-band jazz canon, his talents extended to a far wider range of musical styles, creating groundbreaking jazz scores, rock operas, classical works, film scores, and educational textbooks on jazz orchestration and arrangement. In all, he composed over 200 pieces for jazz orchestra with more than 25 recordings of his work. In 1990, Russo received a Lifetime Achievement award from NARAS, the organization that presents the Grammy Awards.
As a young trombonist, Russo studied with Lennie Tristano, the pianist and theorist who became a leader in the progressive jazz movement. During the late 1940s, Russo led the revolutionary Experiment in Jazz band. At age 21, he became one of the chief composers/arrangers for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, one of the most innovative and influential jazz orchestras of the postwar era. In his four years with Kenton, Russo penned such classic Kenton works as "23° North – 82° West," and "Frank Speaking."
Russo made several major jazz recordings under his own name before his classical "Symphony No. 2 in C (TITANS)" received a Koussevitsky award in 1959; it was performed by the New York Philharmonic that same year under Leonard Bernstein, who had commissioned the work. This award marked Russo's "official" entry into the world of classical music. Russo continued to write major symphonic works throughout his career, including his 1992 grand opera, "Dubrovsky."
After his tenure with Kenton, in the early 1950s, Russo led his own successful bands, The Russo Orchestra in New York, and the London Jazz Orchestra, before returning to Chicago to form the Chicago Jazz Ensemble in 1065. With the Ensemble, he presented Duke Ellington's "First Concert of Sacred Music" in 1967. This was one of the rare times when Ellington allowed one of his compositions to be arranged and performed by a jazz orchestra other than his own, and was a reflection of Ellington's respect for Russo. Shortly after this performance, Russo composed a rock cantata, "The Civil War," that led him into the field of rock opera. After concentrating on classical music again in the 1970s, in the late 1980s, Russo began to re-explore the history of jazz through his revived Chicago Jazz Ensemble. In 1995, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble made history with the first-ever complete live performance of Gil Evans' and Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" in its original form. Recent Russo works that premiered in Chicago included "Chicago Suite No. 1," and "Chicago Suite No. 2," a recording that was published posthumously in the spring of 2003.

Administration
Processing Information
Collection processed by Daniel Alonzo, Charlotte Gray, Peiling Li, Adrienne Mullins, Sarah Winnan, interns, supervised by Scott Schwartz, archivist, 2003.
Author
Daniel Alonzo, Charlotte Gray, Peiling Li, Adrienne Mullins, Sarah Winnan, and Scott Schwartz
Immediate Source of Acquisiton
Bequeathed to the Smithsonian by William Russo. Papers collected after Russo's death in 2003. The 2007 addendum sent by Russo's sister and daughter were also part of the bequest.

Digital Content

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
Collection is open for research by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Preferred Citation
William Russo Music and Personal Papers, 1920s-2002, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center
William Russo Transcription and Arrangement of Duke Ellington's First Concert of Sacred Music, 1967-1968 (AC0406)

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Motion pictures (visual works) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Music -- Manuscripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Business records -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Librettos Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Awards Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Posters -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Programs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scores Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Composers -- 20th century Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Opera Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jazz musicians -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jazz Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Music -- 20th century Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lecture notes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chicago Jazz Ensemble Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives