The Charles H. Wright Museum and All That Jazz  

These days, there’s a bit of jazz in the air at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, or better said, a bit of jazz on the walls at The Wright.  One of the world’s oldest independent African American museums, The Wright proudly presents two riveting jazz exhibits running through Black History Month (Feb.28, 2023).  

One exhibit is “Jazz Greats:  Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection.”  The collection features 31 photographs of legendary jazz singers and musicians who brought jazz to national and international ears, minds, and hearts through recordings and live performances.  The pure work of 14 photographers, the images were taken from the 1920s to the 1980s, capturing jazz icons such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Detroiter Alice Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Eric Dolphy, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie. The black-and-white photos define key moments of cultural transformation in America across social, economic, and political realms.   

Among the prolific photographers whose work is on display is the late Chuck Stewart, an African American who gained notoriety for his hundreds of thousands of photographs taken of jazz artists on and off the stage for more than six decades.  Stewart, who died in 2017 at 89, was famous for photographing jazz album covers, the interior and exterior of jazz clubs,  and recording studios.  Reliable sources in jazz circles said Stewart’s photography appeared on at least 2,000 album covers.  

The Jazz Greats exhibit is made possible by the Bank of America’s Art in Our Communities initiative.  The initiative is believed to be the only corporate program in the nation that allows museums and nonprofit galleries to borrow art exhibits, such as jazz, at no cost.   

“Bank of America believes in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding,” said Matt Elliott, President, Bank of America Michigan.  “Furthering our partnership with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History not only provides an opportunity for Detroiters to celebrate jazz as a unique American art form but deepens the bank’s overall commitment to the arts.” 

“The Wright Museum is proud to partner with our longtime supporter Bank of America, to present the Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection,” said Neil A. Barclay, President and CEO of The Wright Museum.  “Bank of America understands the importance of bringing these photographs to our community given its long legacy of producing some of the greatest jazz artists of our time.”  

In addition to Jazz Greats, The Wright Museum is displaying “Detroit Jazz:  The Legacy Continues.”  The exhibit highlights Detroit jazz musicians who have made valuable contributions to broadening the jazz scene locally, nationally, and internationally.  The exhibit also highlights some of Detroit’s many venues that put the city on the jazz map with genres such as ragtime, swing, boogie-woogie, bebop, and big band music.  While Detroit is typically known for the creation of the Motown Sound, built by Berry Gordy in the 1950s, jazz in the city had deep roots dating back to the early 1920s.  Many of Motown’s top musicians were first jazz stars and recruited by Gordy to play on Motown’s hundreds of hits records or at live performances.     

”As a companion to the exhibition Jazz Greats, The Wright curatorial staff has augmented the exhibition with images focusing on the Detroit jazz artists who have lived and worked among us. ” said Barclay.  

“Both exhibits are captivating,” said native Detroiter Alfred C. Marlton.  “If you love jazz or are just curious about learning more about jazz and its pioneering legends, both exhibits are must-see.   And it’s difficult to experience the true footprints of jazz without appreciating the pathways made possible by so many Detroiters for more than 100 years.  The Detroit exhibit can’t feature all of this city’s jazz greats because there are hundreds, but the Charles H. Wright Museum features captivating images and contributions of some of the jazz musicians, who at one time or another called Detroit home.”     

For more information about the two jazz exhibitions or other displays, upcoming events and programs at the Charles H. Wright Museum, log on to 


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