Harvey Lang (1929-1998)

Lang in Indianapolis, IN, 1949 [photographer unknown]

The meticulously annotated collection of memoirs maintained by Harvey Lang and generously donated by his family to the Chicago Jazz Archive provides a narrative of jazz history through the eyes of a man who made a career out of performing as both sideman and leader for over 50 years. Performers such as Lang, who made their living playing club gigs regularly, are often overlooked in jazz histories that emphasize large-scale stylistic trends or biographical accounts of jazz superstars. Yet it is those career jazz musicians like Lang who maintain and promote the art of jazz, not only by bringing the music to the public on a regular basis, but also by supporting touring musicians when they make local stops.

To excel in such a career, as Lang did, requires a high degree of musical versatility, sensitivity to other players, and the mastery of a wide variety of styles, since touring musicians often rely upon 'locals' to back them up when in town. The spontaneity of musical dialog between musicians in often-unrehearsed numbers is, of course, one of the most salient features of jazz. The interaction between performers (who may have never even met each other beforehand) is predicated on the one hand, a shared, communal knowledge of the history of the music, and on the other hand, individualized approaches to that music. It is the symbiosis of these two ends of the spectrum-- the communal and the individual-- that make jazz such a living and dynamic art form.

Lang was a favorite drummer of many influential musicians, including Louis Prima, Clark Terry, and Red Norvo. In this multimedia version of the Lang collection we have included items of interest ranging from photos of performances with Billy Taylor, Sonny Stitt, and Laurindo Almeida to Christmas cards sent to Lang from Duke Ellington. Through the Chicago Jazz Archive Harvey Lang Collection and this multimedia presentation, we hope to provide a glimpse into a life in jazz.

Inside the Online Archive:

 Documentary . . . . . . . .

a brief multimedia excursus through the milestones of Lang's career

 Performing Career . . . .

a collection of photos and correspondences with and from Lang's colleagues

 Early Years . . . . . . . . . . .

evidence of early musical promise

 Artwork . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

samples of Lang's visual artwork


The Special Collections Research Center, home of the Chicago Jazz Archive, acknowledges the generosity of the Harvey Lang Family for its donation of the Harvey Lang papers. The collection serves as a wonderful resource for research and teaching.

The Harvey Lang Collection site was written and generated by archive assistant Rich Jankowsky, graduate student in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.

A Note about the Photographs

© Chicago Jazz Archive, 1999-2000. All rights reserved.