America’s Music, an innovative series of 25 library events exploring uniquely American musical genres, launches this week at Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., Oak Park. Covering blues and gospel, Broadway, jazz, bluegrass and country, rock n’ roll, mambo and hip hop, the innovative series features films, lectures, concerts, art and evenings especially for teens. It collectively examines popular music's deep connections to the history, culture, and geography. Older and younger music lovers alike will have the chance to recognize how our current cultural landscape has been created by popular music.
Three evening events introduce local audiences to the two-month series:
• “From the roots to the fruits: The Musical and Racial Legacy of Memphis and the Mississippi Delta,” 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 7, Main Library Veterans Room. Explore the musical and racial legacy of the Mississippi Delta with Dominican University Professor Janice Monti, creator of the Annual Blues Symposium at Dominican University. Through words and pictures, “From the Roots to the Fruits” explores the relationship between racial identity and American music; in particular, Gospel, Blues and R&B.
• After-hours Big Band Concert with the Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble, Saturday, Feb. 9, Main Library Veterans Room, 21+ with cash bar. The Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble is a 16-piece big band that features the music of Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton, Chuck Mangione, Gordon Goodwin, and more. Music begins at 7 pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm, onsite garage parking is free.
• Through February, Nancy Rose Ortenberg will share photographs in the Main Library Art Gallery from her travels to Mississippi Delta where she started by photographing blues musicians and their environments in the 1980s. Join us for an artist reception on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 3-5 pm in the Main Library Art Gallery.
• “In the Belly of the Blues,” 7 pm Monday, Feb. 11, Main Library Veterans Room. Terry Abrahamson, author and photographer of “In the Belly of the Blues: Chicago to Boston to L.A. 1969 to 1983. A Memoir” will share photos and stories of his years taking photos of blues musicians Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor and more. Presented in collaboration with the Oak Park Photography Club.
At the core of “America’s Music” are carefully selected documentary films, spanning genres from Blues to Hip-Hop. Each film will be introduced by George Bailey, Columbia professor, Jazz musician, and long-time Oak Park resident, who serves as the resident scholar on this project. Bailey will lead discussions following each of the documentary films, shown at 7 pm Tuesdays. All films shown, including full sets of the documentary series featured, will be available for check-out. Dates, films and details follow.
Feb. 12: The Blues and Gospel Music
• Martin Scorsese presents the Blues: Episode 1, Feel Like Going Home: Using archival Library of Congress recordings and footage gathered by John and Alan Lomax in the 1930s and 40s, this film explores the birth of the blues out of the hard time experiences of black farmers and cotton workers in the Mississippi Delta.
• Say Amen, Somebody: This cinéma vérité classic features three pioneers of the Golden Age of Gospel Music: Willie Mae Ford Smith, Thomas A. Dorsey and Sallie Martin.
Feb. 19: Broadway and Tin Pan Alley
• The American Musical, Episode 2: Syncopated City (1919-1933): Narrated by Julie Andrews, this film focuses on the 1920s, Broadway’s most prolific era. It features on-camera commentary by historians as well as performers, writers and critics.
Feb. 26: Swing Jazz
• Ken Burns’ Jazz: Episode 6: Swing, the Velocity of Celebration: As the Depression deepened, Swing Jazz survived. In 1936, Count Basie arrived in New York City, bringing his signature up tempo, blues-influenced sound he developed playing clubs in Kansas City.
• International Sweethearts of Rhythm: This award-winning documentary tells the little-known story of a multi-racial, all-women swing band that became a sensation in the 1940s.
March 5: Country and Bluegrass
• High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music: Weaving haunting archival footage and photographs from the 1930s and 40s with toe-tapping live performances, this film traces the origins of bluegrass music from the Kentucky hills of Appalachia through the innovations which shaped its current form.
March 12: Rock
• The History of Rock n Roll: Episode 6, Plugging In: This episode from the comprehensive 10-part series on rock and roll centers on the reinvention of rock in the 1960s, including a fateful meeting between Bob Dylan and the Beatles in London.
March 19: Latin Rhythms from Mambo to Hip Hop
• Latin Music USA, Episode One: Bridges Narrated by Jimmy Smits, Bridges explores mambo, the Cuban hybrid of traditional dance infused with syncopated Afro-Caribbean rhythms that migrated to New York City from Havana in the 1940s.
• From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale: Hip hop was created and performed first by Jamaican and African American youth, and then Latinos, in abandoned parks and burned-out buildings in the South Bronx as an alternative to gang violence.
For complete details on all 25 events, visit http://oppl.org/americas-music  or pick up copies of America’s Music schedules at any Oak Park Public Library location.
The Oak Park Public Library is one of 50 sites nationwide selected to host this program series, created by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint and the Society for American Music. America’s Music has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.